Accounting transparency

Background

Our research is funded by a mix of public and private organisations. We are hugely grateful to all those who contribute, directly (e.g. companies) and indirectly (e.g. taxpayers) as without such funding, the breadth and quality of research we aim for would be impossible.

We believe that we have a moral duty to spend the money we are given wisely. In order to demonstrate that this is so, we make information about how we spend money public. We believe that this transparency will help funders gain confidence in the way we work and provide a continual reminder to us that all our activities must be justifiable in the court of public opinion.

At the time of writing, we are not aware of other research groups publishing expenses online, though we hope this will change in the future. Because of this, we are, by necessity, pioneers of sorts. We will make mistakes, small and large, while we feel our way towards a good solution, and we ask for a degree of patience in this process. We welcome all comments on how we publish our expenses.

How funds are organised

University research funding is organised in ways that sometimes baffle even those of us who are in control of it. We therefore simplify things somewhat into two main cases.

The first case - and the most common - is that funds are given for a project of a defined duration (e.g. 3 years). Typically such funds are split into 3 main pots:

  • Overheads and indirect costs. This is money which is taken by the University and put into a central(ish) pot. We do not see any of this money directly nor do we have any control over it.
  • Salaries. Research Associate (RA) salaries, for example, are wholly paid by project funds. Funds for salaries include tax, pension contributions, annual increases, and so on. Apart from small adjustments to a new recruit's initial salary to reflect their expertise, we have no control over salary spend.
  • Discretionary spending. This is typically broken up into sub-categories (e.g. travel, equipment), with some restrictions on how money in any given sub-category is spent. Apart from those restrictions, this money is entirely under our control.

Since we have no control over overheads, indirect costs, or salaries, there is nothing to itemise under these categories. However, we provide a full itemised breakdown for all discretionary spending, which we abbreviate to expenses.

The second case is what we call general funds, which are not assigned to any specific project. These funds are typically small and come from a variety of sources, such as underspend on completed projects. Such money can be spent in the same manner as expenses can on a project.

How to read the expenses

Individual project expenses funds are generally broken into sub-categories: we refer to these as budgets. In general, each budget has some restrictions on what money in it can be spent on, though in some cases money can be moved between budgets over time. Expenses can span more than one budget (i.e. part will be paid from one budget, part from another) and can span more than one project. Inevitably, some expenses are slightly hard to categorise, and could be partitioned in more than one way: we caution against interpreting the budget names too literally.

Last statement should match the amount currently stored in the University system as recorded in the last monthly statement (which is, by definition, often somewhat out of date). Current balance is the most accurate figure we know (including expenses incurred but not yet repaid).

Where to find itemised expenses

  • For individual project expenses, go to the projects page, click on a project, and then click on the expenses link.
  • The expenses for the general funds are available here.