Research Service Centers


Accounting Services ensures research service centers (also referred to as “service centers”) are in compliance with applicable governmental regulations and sound accounting principles. The office responsibilities include:

  • Oversight of existing service centers regarding rate calculations and financial operations related to providing goods and/or services to users.
  • Reviewing and approving all requests to establish new service centers.
  • Maintaining an inventory of services and rates.
  • Reviewing and approving rate forms submitted by service centers, confirming compliance with Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.

What is a service center?

The characterization of a research service center is complex, technical, and highly regulated by the federal government. Service centers are specialized research facilities, animal research facilities, and other specialized technical facilities structured to provide specific goods and/or services to support internal users of the University. Service centers may provide goods and/or services to external users on a limited and incidental basis, subject to applicable law and University constraints including but, not limited to the Umstead Act and bond covenants limiting private use of facilities constructed with the proceeds of certain types of bonds. Service centers are available to users who need access to infrastructure, technologies, and services that are often beyond the technical or financial capability of individual investigators. Service center activity differs from that of research in that research is the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusion; whereas, service centers provide specific goods and/or services to support research.


Research service centers charge the costs of goods and/or services directly to users based on (1) established billing rates, as reviewed and approved by Financial Services, and (2) the actual usage of the goods and/or services. For internal users, rates charged for goods and/or services are based on actual direct costs, are consistently applied, and do not discriminate as to the type of sponsored funding. Research service centers must charge all users for goods and/or services provided. A research service center may establish tiered rates for users external to the University; however, tiered charge rates must equal or exceed the total cost (direct & indirect costs) to provide the service. Financial Services will conduct a review of the research service center rates annually for adjustments or sustainability.

Fees or rates may not be established solely for generating discretionary departmental income. Research service centers must recover costs on a breakeven basis while accounting separately for revenue generated and the costs to provide the goods and/or services. The academic home department administering the research service center generally will transfer relevant direct expenses (labor/supplies) to the service center to operate and administer the service center. The process may free up home department budgeted funds for repurposing by the home department. If a research service center charges sponsored projects or external federal users, the activity is subject to federal regulation as described in Title 2 Code of Federal Regulations Part 200 Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.

Policy, Rule, and Regulation

All service centers must comply with REG07.30.07 Research Service Centers which provides a comprehensive reference for uniform interpretation of the conditions under which East Carolina University may establish a service center, develop user rates, and ensure compliance with sound accounting principles and governmental regulations.

Standard Operating Procedures

The Research Service Center Standard Operating Procedures Manual (PDF) is available to new and existing service centers. The manual includes topics such as establishing a new service center, federal compliance regulation, business plans, roles and responsibilities, rate setting and utilization, allowable and unallowable costs, billing and accounting best practices, operation reserve balances, record retention, and ECU contacts.

Roles and Responsibilities

Service Center Departmental Administrator

  • Contact Financial Services for initiating establishment of a service center. Submit request to establish a fund to account for the revenues and expenditures of the service center.
  • Meet with Financial Services for assistance with user rate development and subsequent review and approval on a routine basis. Meet at least annually, or sooner, when a material event occurs that will create a material deficit or surplus.
  • Use the Research Service Center Standard Operating Procedures Manual for the fiscal operations and compliance with sound accounting principles and governmental regulations.

Department Chair and Dean or Associate Dean, and Vice Chancellor or Associate Vice Chancellor

  • Review and approve the establishment of a new service center prior to submission to Financial Services.
  • Departmental Chairs and Associate Deans review and approve new rates and periodic rate changes.