Office of Sponsored Programs - 900.01 - Research Service Centers


Office of Sponsored Programs - 900.01 - Research Service Centers


Research Service Centers (RSCs), also known as cores, core facilities, recharge or service centers, support the research enterprise by providing researchers and scientists with access to infrastructure, scientific technologies, and services that are normally beyond the technical or financial capability of individual Principal Investigators (PIs). Universities that perform Federally-funded research are required to have costing policies that comply with 2 CFR §200 Subpart E. This document describes the process for creating RSCs that will provide services to sponsored projects and gives guidance for fiscal operations and administrative procedures.

Regulatory Information

Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) regulations referenced in 2 CFR §200 Subpart E apply to RSCs that charge sponsored projects. Cost Accounting Standards address consistency in estimating, accumulating, and reporting costs, as well as consistency in allocating costs incurred for the same purpose. Federal auditors may review procedures for establishing and monitoring RSC rates to ensure that proper accounting procedures are in place. If procedures are not observed, reimbursements may be disallowed and may result in repayment, fines, and other adverse consequences.

Policy Statement

The University administers RSCs according to Federal costing standards, as well as State and University policies. RSCs are created, operated, and administered by University business units with Cost Analysis and Compliance (CAC) in the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) responsible for central review and oversight. RSCs may also be subject to additional policies and procedures at the discretion of the business units’ school or college. This operating standard provides institutional guidance and procedures for rate-setting methodology, equipment replacement and upgrades, University subsidies, treatment of unallowable costs, use of cash reserves, and equipment depreciation.

I. Responsibility Hierarchy

Academic and Research Business Units

These campus units are responsible for determining appropriate billing rates and operations, submitting rate proposals to OSP for rate reviews at least once every two (2) years, fiscal accountability, and subsidies as required. Ultimate responsibility for operational oversight rests with the dean, director, or department head. The school or college may provide additional supplemental guidance, policies, and procedures pursuant to this oversight so long as those guidelines do not conflict with this operating standard.

Office of Sponsored Programs

OSP provides institutional oversight by approval of operating and reserve account requests, rates, and rate-setting methodology. It also performs periodic rate reviews, monitors charge-back operations, and reviews fund balances. OSP provides consultation on rate-setting methodologies and financial compliance.

University Internal Audit

RSCs are subject to selection by University Internal Audit in its work plan to ensure compliance with University policies.

II. Guidelines for Cost Recovery


  • RSCs are separately budgeted and accounted for in the University’s financial accounting system
  • RSCs should recover operating costs over an operating cycle, generally a single fiscal year
  • RSCs should apply a break-even costing concept to develop rates for Federally sponsored projects
    • Operating at break-even means there is no significant profit or loss resulting from charging for usage in an operating cycle, and zero profit or loss over the long-term as any excess surpluses and deficits are eliminated by adjusting future rates.
    • All usage must be included in the break-even rate calculation and charged out or subsidized in accordance with the OSP-approved rate schedule.


  • OSP performs the institutional review, approval, and oversight function that allows RSCs to charge fees for services
  • Departmental management must submit proposals to OSP for periodic rates and financial compliance review every two (2) years and more often if applicable
  • OSP-approved rate schedule should be applied consistently to all sponsored projects and departmental users and rates may not discriminate against Federally-funded projects to the benefit of other users
  • Federal government must not subsidize other RSC users through rates that do not reflect all RSC usage. RSCs may elect not to charge a University user, but this usage must be subsidized by internal University sources


  • Services provided by RSCs must not be incurred after the end date of the sponsored project being charged
  • RSCs must exclude unallowable costs from their Federal billing rates and may not charge Federal sponsored agreements in advance of the performance of any services (advance charges or pre-billings)
  • RSCs should bill customers on a monthly basis since charges are unallowable on a sponsored award if not billed promptly
    • Charges incurred during the performance period of an ending project must be billed within 60 days of the end date of a project.
    • If the RSC has not billed its customers promptly, the department that owns the sponsored project will not be responsible for the charges.
    • The lost revenue related to the unallowable charge must be covered by the RSC’s owning department.
  • Direct material costs can be billed to RSC customers as a pass-through expense as a separate line item on the applicable invoice. Receipts and invoices documenting the direct material expenditures must be maintained in accordance with University record retention guidelines.


Research Service Center: RSCs provide specialized services for University users for a predetermined fee. The costs are separately accounted for and recovered on a break-even basis by charging a fee to users in proportion to services rendered. The RSC’s primary purpose is to support University researchers; however, services may also be provided to external users. Examples of RSCs include instrumentation, scientific equipment, and computing centers, and educational media services. RSCs vary in size, complexity, and rate structures. Services provided may not be readily available from external sources or be subject to external market forces.

Related Requirements

Unit Policies, Standards, & Procedures

Contact Information

For questions regarding this operating standard and its related procedure, please contact

For questions regarding Pre-Award management or Post-Award administration, please contact the assigned Sponsored Projects Specialist (SPS).

For invoicing, reporting and other financial matters, please contact the assigned Sponsored Projects Accountant. OSP Staff assignments are found in RAMSeS or on the OSP website.


History Table
Date Revision
07/01/2022 Revised to reflect new office name.
12/04/2020 Revised to clarify billing instructions for pass-through expenses of direct material costs.
05/15/2018 Revised to coincide with the release of the new OSP Website.
10/30/2017 Revised procedure to align with operating standard updates that reflect updated Guidelines for Cost Recovery and Contacts.
04/27/2010 Policy updated to reflect revised Guidelines for Cost Recovery.

The operating standards in the Office of Sponsored Programs Operating Standards & Procedures Manual supersede any OSP operating standards, procedures and appendices previously included in the University Business Manual, a publication of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Division of Finance.

100% helpful - 1 review
Print Article


Article ID: 132339
Thu 4/8/21 9:29 PM
Fri 1/19/24 12:21 PM
Responsible Unit
School, Department, or other organizational unit issuing this document.
Research-Office of Sponsored Programs
Issuing Officer
Name of the document Issuing Officer. This is the individual whose organizational authority covers the policy scope and who is primarily responsible for the policy.
Issuing Officer Title
Title of the person who is primarily responsible for issuing this policy.
Vice Chancellor
Next Review
Date on which the next document review is due.
01/19/2025 12:00 AM
Last Review
Date on which the most recent document review was completed.
01/19/2024 12:00 AM
Last Revised
Date on which the most recent changes to this document were approved.
07/01/2022 12:00 AM
Effective Date
If the date on which this document became/becomes enforceable differs from the Origination or Last Revision, this attribute reflects the date on which it is/was enforcable.
07/01/2022 12:00 AM
Date on which the original version of this document was first made official.
02/10/2003 11:00 PM