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Question: physics research budget

  1. Oct 31, 2014 #1
    I was wondering if anyone happened to know roughly how much does the average university physics professor spend each year on supplies for performing their experiments. I'm assuming that experimentalists would on average be spending a lot more on equipment than theory people who might only be buying computers and software, and that hard condensed matter people would need more money than soft matter people, but what exactly would the costs typically be? This question is assuming that the costs for paying for a grad students salary/tuition, prof. salary, travel/meeting costs and stuff like that are excluded. But that things like the cost for gloves, chemicals, equipment, electricity, etc. are included. It might be best to list the costs on a per grad student basis since many professors have more than one grad student and so they might spend more. Also, how does it vary between each particular research area, for example, superconductor research, plasma research, quantum dot research, liquid crystal research, particle research, etc.?
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  3. Oct 31, 2014 #2


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    There might be some very small, isolated lab experiments where such a cost estimate can be done, but in general I don't think this is possible.

    Electricity is rarely calculated per research group (and what about floor lighting?), equipment is often shared with other groups (especially the expensive items). Equipment can be made specifically for this group (or for a set of groups), without a cost estimate for the working time of the engineers for this specific project. How do you calculate the costs of office space?

    Some research groups need expensive high-end equipment everywhere, while other groups can work with cheaper equipment.
    Some groups don't even have their own experiments, but analyze data coming from somewhere else. How do you include the costs of those experiments in the calculation? Sometimes the groups have to pay for that, sometimes they have to contribute to the experiment, sometimes they get it for free, or various other models.

    In particle physics, salaries and travel costs are the most expensive parts.
  4. Oct 31, 2014 #3
    Yeah I suppose electricity costs would be hard to determine so I guess nix that. Also, regarding shared equipment don't count that such as would be found in a cleanroom unless there are cleanroom fees. I guess I'm mainly curious about just how much a professor typically ends up spending on having a single graduate student do there project each year minus the salary and travel costs in dollars $. I realize its difficult to be exact but I'm just interested in an estimate.
  5. Nov 1, 2014 #4


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    An additional grad student is cheaper than the first one, as some setup will be there already.

    I think you are looking for something much more specific than the first post suggests?
  6. Nov 4, 2014 #5


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    Typically non-time costs for experimental work (i.e. not including the cost of staff or overhead) in a project is 10-15% which in the UK would translate to something like £30-50K per year. The exact amount will of course depend on the work, but this is the range often used by funding agencies etc.
    This also excludes the cost of capital equipment (i.e. pieces of kit that cost more than a few thousand pounds).
  7. Nov 4, 2014 #6

    Andy Resnick

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    I don't know if I'm representative (experimental research), but over a typical year I spend about $30k on consumable items: primarily chemicals and cell culture supplies. Equipment (IIRC, defined as a durable item with per-item cost greater than $5k) is a separate budget line. Likewise, utilities (electricity, water, A/C, LN2, hazardous waste disposal, etc.) are not included.

    By far, the most expensive part of any research is *time*. Student stipends and salaries probably constitute 60-70% of my proposal direct cost budgets.
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