Indirect Costs

Federally Negotiated Rates

These are also commonly referred to as Overhead, Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A), IDC, or Indirects. Overhead rates are typically negotiated with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) every 4-5 years.

As of the most recent rate agreement (approved by the DHHS and dated March 13, 2015), University-area indirect rates are as follows:

Project Type Rate
On Campus Research 69%
Off Campus Research 26%
Other Sponsored Activities 34%

Details of federally negotiated rates and copies of the agreements  are posted on OSP's F&A Cost Rates pages.

FAS Guidance on On-Campus vs. Off-Campus Indirect Cost Rates

If you are applying for federal funding and believe that your project is eligible for the Off-Campus rate, be sure to review the OSP Policy Page for On-Campus or Off-Campus Indirect Cost Rates. In accordance with the policy, a project is considered on-campus or off-campus based on where the preponderance of time and effort will be expended, NOT where the majority of dollars will be spent.  If 50% or more of Harvard-budgeted effort is off-campus, the entire project may be considered off-campus and the off-campus rate may be used.  The same rate must be used over the entire project lifespan, as our federally negotiated indirect cost rate states that “each contract or grant is assigned only one indirect cost rate.” (i.e. one year cannot be off-campus and another year on-campus.)

If there is no Harvard-budgeted effort, then the considerations below may be taken into account.  Each point will be considered over the entire lifespan of the project to determine whether the preponderance of work performed is on or off campus.

  1. Harvard faculty time in the field
  2. Location for which Harvard’s direct costs, excluding capital equipment and subawards, will be spent
  3. Field work expenses, such as rent and per diems
  4. Non-PI personnel time in the field

Please note that the final determination on On-Campus versus Off-Campus is to be made by the RAS Sponsored Research Administrator. 

In order to prevent last-minute budget changes, please consult with RAS before moving forward on a budget containing either the Off-Campus or Other Sponsored Activities rates.

Other Sponsored Activities

Not all grants are for research. Some provide support for other sponsored activities: a conference or symposium, editing a series of papers, building a database, maintaining a collection of scientific specimens, etc.  These projects are eligible for the 34% Other Sponsored Activities rate.  Please note contracts and grants must each be assigned only one indirect cost rate, per our federally negotiated rate agreement. Proposal budgets may not utilize multiple rates under any circumstances.



FAS practice is to accept a non-federal sponsor’s published indirect cost rate.   The school may also look to the University’s past history with a sponsor.  

If it is a non-federal, non-industry sponsor that does NOT have a published rate, FAS practice is to use an overhead rate which is at a minimum equivalent to the gift assessment rate (currently 15%) of total direct costs (i.e. without exclusions).  In order to prevent last-minute budget changes, please consult with RAS before moving forward on a budget with no indirects budgeted.

Industry sponsored projects should use our federally negotiated overhead cost rate.  This should also be applied on a total direct cost basis whenever possible.

For more details on University guidelines, see also Principles for Indirect Costs on Non-Federal Awards.

Overhead waivers

Only the FAS Dean has the authority to waive or reduce overhead.  Departments should consult with their RAS Sponsored Research Administrator before requesting a waiver.