South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
WALWYN, D.R.. A comparison of the cost of research in South Africa's public research and higher education institutions. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2008, vol.104, n.11-12, pp. 431-435. ISSN 1996-7489.
Despite the importance of labour and overhead costs to both funders and performers of research in South Africa, there is little published information on the remuneration structures for researchers, technician and research support staff. Moreover, there are widely different pricing practices and perceptions within the public research and higher education institutions, which in some cases do not reflect the underlying costs to the institution or the inherent value of the research. In this article, data from the 2004/5 Research and Development Survey have been used to generate comparative information on the cost of research in various performance sectors. It is shown that this cost is lowest in the higher education institutions, and highest in the business sector, although the differences in direct labour and overheads are not as large as may have been expected. The calculated cost of research is then compared with the gazetted rates for engineers, scientists and auditors performing work on behalf of the public sector, which in all cases are higher than the research sector. This analysis emphasizes the need within the public research and higher education institutions for the development of a common pricing policy and for an annual salary survey, in order to dispel some of the myths around the relative costs of research, the relative levels of overhead ratios and the apparent disparity in remuneration levels.