Facilities and administrative (F&A) funding provides institutions with critical resources needed to cover some of the infrastructural and operational costs associated with conducting research. Yet chief research officers (CROs) and their teams frequently struggle to explain F&A to stakeholders because it is such a complex and abstract concept. This leads to persistent misperceptions about F&A and its importance to the research enterprise.
One creative strategy that CROs and their teams can use to make F&A more easily understandable is to create a concise and shareable visual depiction. Read on to learn how to build your own infographic—and see how one institution put the steps into practice.
Step 1: Identify a problem and/or gap in current F&A understanding
CROs and their teams should begin by reviewing the most common questions they receive about F&A and their existing F&A educational materials. This will help them pinpoint concepts to address in the infographic and ensure that the infographic complements—rather than duplicates—existing F&A collateral.
- What is missing from our current F&A collateral?
- What F&A concepts are particularly confusing for stakeholders?
- Information about a recent increase in the institution’s F&A rate that has faculty concerned
- Staff are struggling to correctly identify direct versus F&A costs
Step 2: Assess the viability and potential value of creating an infographic
While an infographic can help CROs more clearly explain some complicated F&A concepts, not all aspects of F&A are suitable for a graphic depiction. Before moving forward in the infographic creation process, CROs should evaluate whether the problem or gap identified in Step 1 could be better addressed through a different medium.
- Can the desired content be depicted graphically?
- Is the investment worthwhile given
the time frame and range of potential uses?
- An infographic focused narrowly on a one-time F&A rate increase wouldn’t be worth the investment
- An infographic could provide a simple solution to the evergreen issue of faculty and staff having to look up what constitutes direct and F&A costs
Step 3: Customize the information and degree of specificity based on audience and goals
An infographic allows CROs and their teams to explain F&A in a simple and accessible way—but that requires trade-offs. To determine which details to forego and which to prioritize, CROs and their teams ought to consider the most likely users and uses of the infographic.
- How much detail is needed given the target audience and scope?
- What information is critical to include? What could be excluded?
- Use high-level, one-sentence summaries for broad infographics to educate the general public
- For faculty-focused infographics, include institution-specific information, data, and examples
Step 4: Strategically deploy the infographic to maximize value
The investment required to create an F&A infographic is only worthwhile if CROs develop a clear strategy for when and how to share it with stakeholders.
- How and when should we distribute the infographic?
- What channels can we use to share this infographic? Which are best for our target audience?
- Distribute during new faculty orientation and/or staff onboarding
- Distribute copies to deans, department chairs, and grants administrators
For example, the University of Minnesota created an F&A infographic in response to the proposed 10% cap on F&A in 2017. The infographic provides a “snapshot” of F&A that the research office can use to introduce a broad audience of internal and/or external stakeholders to F&A.
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