Learning patterns/university laboratory research accounting
What problem does this solve?
University student research on and about Wikipedia is important for bringing academic expertise into Wikipedia and developing ongoing relationships with universities. However, university students often do research in cohorts, where a class of students divides itself into groups and each group does one project. In these circumstances, if one group does a Wikipedia project and the other groups do projects unrelated to Wikipedia, yet all groups are sharing a common pool of resources, the group doing a Wikipedia project may find it challenging to meet the usual Wikipedia standards of accounting because all of the money and resources for the entire group are mixed. For small amounts of money, producing accounting about the research could become an excessive expense in comparison to the cost of the research itself, and consequently, exact and normal accounting may not make sense given the size of the a small budget in the context of other research expenses.
What is the solution?
Wikipedia is an adaptable community. Make guesses about research expenses, do not spend too much time justifying everything, and write an explanation of why the research group is doing things this way.
Things to consider
Whenever reasonable publish the exact budget for a project.
When accounting itself would be inaccurate or become a major project expenditure, then try starting by sharing whatever information is available then getting opinions about whether that is sufficient in the circumstance.
When to use
Example circumstance: A university hosts a graduate student research program. 50 students break into groups of 2-3 students and will do research with a client for a school year of 8 months. At the end of the year, they publish their results.
Clients purchase this research. In the United States in 2019, typical costs to buy graduate student time in technical fields is US$15,000 for commercial projects and $5000 for nonprofit projects. Students will work on the projects 10-20 hours weekly, so if 2 students do this for 8 months, that is 30 weeks * 2 students * 15 hours = 900 hours of labor into the project. These kinds of projects also consume resources including extra faculty and staff time beyond the courses, laboratory fees, field experiment costs, computation costs, and library costs. It is customary in the United States that research somehow raise funds to cover some of these fees, and also typical that the funds raised offset costs rather than cover them entirely.
Doing an exact accounting of how each group of students in a cohort actually spends their research budget is often an excessive labor burden for accounting. While corporate sponsors typically do not ask for accounting, nonprofit partners might. The Wikipedia community might also. In this case, just estimate the budget as best as possible and report the best available information.