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Federal officials yesterday began investigating Harvard Medical School's indirect research costs as part of their extensive review of the research spending practices at several colleges, including the University. Harvard is the first university to be investigated by the federal government since a Congressional subcommittee uncovered vast misspending of federal research funds at Stanford University last month. The subcommittee will extend its review to the University, the University of Southern California, the University of California at Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. University Comptroller Alfred Beers said this week the University has not yet received official notification of the impending review. He added he does not know when or if the University will receive notification. The investigations center around indirect overhead costs that universities charge to the federal government for maintenance expenses related to federally-funded research. Schools charge a certain percentage for overhead from every research grant awarded to a university researcher. At Stanford University, the administration charged the government $74 overhead for every $100 grant before the investigation started. The university has reduced its rate to 70 percent after allegations that administrators overcharged the government by as much as $200 million. Harvard's overhead charge is 88 percent, and the University has a 65 percent overhead rate. The Congressional committee revealed that Stanford officials used indirect research funds for illicit purposes such as refurbishing the university's yacht and constructing the school's shopping center. Harvard administrators met with a representative from the U.S. Government General Accounting Office yesterday to discuss the guidelines of the investigation, which officials said will last three to four months. Jan Goldstein, a regional manager for the GAO in Boston, said yesterday Harvard is being investigated because it has a high overhead research percentage. "Do they just have higher rates because this is Boston and costs are higher here, or are they mischarging something?" he asked.

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