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- Develop a Proposal
The budget should list all cost details for the year or another appropriate period of time. It should include any applicable salaries & wages, fringe benefits, services, supplies, equipment, publications, travel, other direct expenses, and any facility and administrative costs. A brief outline for developing a budget is included in Michigan Tech's policies and procedures manual .
Sample budgets are available for Michigan Tech researchers in the RD Toolkit .
You can download a budget worksheet (Excel) to help you with this process. Refer to the Guidelines for Budget Development for additional calculation help and information.
Follow these cost considerations when developing your budget:
- Direct Costs — Costs that can be specifically linked to your project.
- Fringe Benefits — Compensation made to an employee beyond the regular benefit of payment for work. Fringe benefits are charged using a negotiated rate approved by the federal government in accordance with Michigan Tech’s fringe benefit rate agreement.
- Indirect costs / F&A / Overhead (these are all the same thing) — Costs that cannot be attributed to a particular project. Examples include utilities, facilities maintenance, library support and general departmental and university administration. These costs are covered in the Current Rate Agreement . Indirect costs may be limited by the sponsor. Be sure to check for this in the solicitation.
- Cost Sharing and Matching — Cash or in-kind support provided by Michigan Tech or a source other than the main sponsor. Cost-sharing or matching can be prohibited or required by the sponsor. Check for this in the solicitation.
- Allowable and Unallowable Costs — Allowable costs can be budgeted and expensed under a sponsored agreement, while some costs are simply unallowable. Cost allowability is determined in accordance with federal guidelines and Michigan Tech policy.
- Subawards / Subcontracts / Vendors — Costs for payment to an organization outside of Michigan Tech to conduct a portion of the sponsored project activity. There are different use cases for these different categories, and with each comes implications in the budget. Subawards and subcontracts have the applicable indirect cost rate applied to the first $25,000. Vendors have indirect cost rate applied on the entire amount. See this Subaward, Consultant, and Service page for more in-depth info.
- Employees / Independent Contractors — Costs for individuals who are not paid with salary lines in the personnel section of the budget. There is a helpful questionnaire to determine whether someone should be paid as an employee or independent contractor .
- Student and Postdoc Support — Costs for supporting students can vary by type of student (undergrad, masters, PhD, postdoc) and by department. See the current rates for tuition, stipends, and salary or hourly wages in the “Resources” section of this page. Supporting students may be limited or required by the sponsor. Check for this in the solicitation.
Review information on developing proposal budgets.
Budget approvals, sage budget, proposals to foreign sponsors, budgeting direct costs, salaries and salary considerations, employee benefits, other direct costs.
Facilities & Administrative Costs (F&A)
Subaward Budget Development and F&A Calculations
Budget Justification Cost Share Clinical Trial Budget Resources Animal Research Considerations Human Subjects Research Considerations Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Considerations
A budget is a detailed statement outlining estimated project costs that support a sponsored project . It should include all Direct Costs, as well as the calculated Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs required to carry out the project objectives. The proposal budget should be derived directly from the project description and serves as the financial expression of the project.
Follow sponsor guidelines on requirements, allowability, and format. Be aware of specific purchase restrictions such as the Telecommunications Purchase Restrictions on federal awards.
Before making purchases with new vendors for procurement purchases under $35k, verify they are not listed within the SAM.gov exclusions list.
Plan for requirements in federal contracts that impact your budget.
Costing principles in GIM 23 and the Uniform Guidance apply to all sponsored programs at UW.
Sponsor and UW budget categories sometimes don’t match. Review UW Budget categories and try to map them to the sponsor categories when preparing your budget.
The System to Administer Grants Electronically (SAGE) is the UW approval routing system for sponsored program proposals. Associated departments review and approve the entire proposal including related budgets via eGC1 forms .
SAGE Budget is the UW recommended tool for preparing proposal budgets. It provides streamlined, efficient entry with reliable calculations leveraged from institutional data (UW salaries, benefits, and F&A rates). Budgets created using this tool also provide an easy-to-read summary for reviewers and Principal Investigators. SAGE Budgets can be connected to eGC1s for easy reference, and can also be used in Grant Runner to populate budget data on a federal RR budget form.
The UW prefers to be paid in U.S. Dollars, not foreign currency. Exchange rates fluctuate on a daily basis. If awarded in foreign currency, the value of sponsor payments can vary throughout the life of an award.
If the sponsor insists the proposal budget be expressed in foreign currency (and will pay in foreign currency), use an online currency converter to calculate the budget amounts on the eGC1 from U.S. dollars (USD) into the sponsor’s currency.
When sponsors make award payments in foreign currencies, the PI and department need to review the award amount and provide a budget using the current exchange rate. This is used to estimate the award amount in USD to set up the sponsored program budget. It is the PI’s responsibility to monitor spending and currency fluctuations closely throughout the award. Whenever converting foreign currency to USD for use in official budget documents, attach a screenshot that shows the date of the currency conversion in SAGE.
Note: The PI and department are responsible for resolving deficits , including those that may arise from currency fluctuation.
- Setup Awards from Foreign Sponsors Made in Foreign Currency
- More information and examples from Grant & Contract Accounting on Awards Paid in Foreign Currency
When costs will benefit more than one project, they need to be allocated in proportion to how they will benefit each award. Document the allocation methodology used to budget the cost in your budget justification and in your award file. Make sure that methodology is consistently applied across like circumstances.
Acceptable Allocation Method Examples:
- Number of experiments, hours, clients or employees/FTE on the project
- Square footage
Costs that will only benefit one award should only be budgeted for that award. Costs may not be allocated to more than one project based on budgetary convenience.
Direct costs are expenses specifically associated with a particular sponsored project or activity or that can be directly assigned to that project or activity with a high degree of accuracy (e.g. supplies allocation).
Personnel Salaries and Benefits are typically the largest categories of expenses. Review UW Human Resources compensation information .
- Names and titles of personnel committing effort to this project.
- Effort each will devote to the sponsored activity, expressed as a percentage or calendar/academic months
- Institutional Base Salary (IBS)
Salary costs must be:
- Appropriate for the effort expended
- Consistent with the appointment of the individual
- Supported by documentation of the expense
- Included in the proposal and approved by the sponsor or within re-budgeting authority
Review examples of unallowable direct salary costs on a sponsored program
Compensation for teaching costs unless the sponsored program activity type is for Instruction or Research training, consultation or other non-University activity, excess compensation charges not included in Institutional Base Salary (IBS), and administrative or clerical salaries, unless justified and approved by the sponsor.
Some sponsors impose salary limitations, also sometimes known as salary caps e.g.: National Institutes of Health (NIH) salary caps .
Review guidance for Documenting Salary Caps on Proposal Budgets .
Faculty with 9-month appointments
- The UW limits Summer salary to 2.5 months
- When allowed by sponsors, summer salary should be budgeted as separate line items from academic year salary.
Approved supplements are available in the payroll system and reflected in the Institutional Base Salary .
Anticipated Salary Increases
When allowed by the sponsor, these increases should be included in the budget calculation. Increases must be reasonable and justified in the proposal.
- Cost of Living Allowances (COLA) are not set in UW policy. Some sponsors do not allow or impose limits on COLA.
- Classified staff mandatory step increases according to HR compensation guidance .
- Classified staff
- Professional staff
Administrative and Clerical Salaries
Salaries of administrative and clerical staff are normally treated as F&A costs.
Administrative and clerical costs may be proposed as direct costs if all four of these criteria exist:
- Integral to the project or activity,
- Identified specifically with the project or activity,
- Explicitly included in the budget or have prior written approval of Federal awarding agency and,
- Not also recovered as indirect costs.
If these costs are budgeted as direct costs, you must provide justification in the proposal.
Examples of potentially allowable direct charged administrative and clerical staff costs:
- Organizing a conference as a component of a larger project
- Managing travel for a large number of participants
- Organizing large datasets
- Managing complex projects with multiple sites, especially if there are multiple subawards.
If questioned, PI must justify expenses to the sponsor and auditors and will be responsible for paying back any unallowable expenses, if required.
Faculty with Veteran Affairs (VA) Appointments
For faculty who have a VA appointment (up to 40 hours or “8/8th”) and up to a full-time appointment with the UW, use the UW IBS to calculate effort and salary compensation.
Dr. Y has a full-time salary rate of $100,000 has a 50% UW appointment and is requesting 10% salary support. The commitment on the proposal represents 10% of the 50% appointment.
- Salary: 10% of the 50% salary, $5,000 ($100,000 x 50% x 10%)
- Person Months: 10% of 50% time = 0.6 person months.
- Percent Effort: 10% of 50% time, or 5%
Graduate Student Compensation
Graduate student appointments (GSA) are considered full-time at 50% FTE during the academic year and 100% during summer. When including Graduate assistants, budget for salaries, fringe benefits and tuition remission.
Use the average first-year postdoc compensation level in the respective school/college, or in the absence of a policy, consult the UW Academic Resources salary rates and minimums schedule . Budget for full actual costs.
NIH Awards: The maximum amount awarded by NIH for graduate students supported on research grants or cooperative agreements is tied to the zero level National Research Service Award (NRSA) postdoctoral stipend in effect at the time the grant award is issued.
Employee Benefits (i.e., fringe) are a direct cost charged as a percentage of salary. The rates are reviewed and approved by the federal government and apply to all sponsored projects.
Use the active rates for the applicable time period, and use the preliminary/proposed rates (if available) for all future years.
Current and Preliminary Benefit Rates
Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Costs
Before including APL personnel or locations in your budget, contact the appropriate APL department administrator . They will help ensure all applicable APL Prorated Direct Costs, APL Fixed Fee and budget justifications are included in your proposal budget.
APL’s sole purpose is research, and its operating expenses are an allowable direct cost (2 CFR Part §200.413) on projects where APL personnel or locations are involved. APL operating expenses are recovered through the application of the APL Prorated Direct Costs (PDC) rate.
Personal Service Contracts
Individual people or entities participating in a sponsored program as a non-employee.
- Participation of persons as research subjects
- Implementation of computer systems
- Contracts to conduct and provide survey results, environmental studies, and assessments
- POD training
- Professional consultants
Review a full list of UW personal service categories .
Consult sponsor guidance for including consultants in your budget, requirements vary.
Independent contractors, who are:
- Typically experts in the field
- Not UW employees and,
- Don’t have a faculty appointment (e.g. VA, Children’s, etc.)
Include a letter of collaboration with dates of service, rate of pay, other miscellaneous expenses, and deliverables.
Collaborators at other higher education institutions who plan to use institutional resources are considered subrecipients and will need a formal subaward set up.
Review guidance for determining Subrecipient, Vendor, or Consultant?
Participant Support Costs
Direct costs for stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences or training projects.
Participant support costs are allowable if the project includes an education or outreach component, the costs are separately budgeted, and the agency approves the cost. Include the following in budget justification: “The inclusion of the participant support costs in the budget and the subsequent award by the agency will be considered prior agency approval.”
More information from Post Award Fiscal Compliance on Participant Support .
Other Contractual Services
Vendors or Suppliers who provide routine services for a fee , (e.g. Consultant Travel, Advertising, Shipping, Rent, Inpatient and outpatient hospital charges, Laboratory Fees).
Is it a Sponsored Program or a Service?
Review guidance for preparing proposals with subawards and the UW policy for Sponsored Program Subaward Administration . Each subaward should be listed separately, using the UW sub-object code 03-62 (subcontract). Calculate F&A on subawards following GIM 13 guidelines.
Review subaward budget development and F&A calculations .
What if subrecipient doesn’t have a negotiated rate?
If a prime sponsor has a published F&A rate policy, the subrecipient should propose its F&A in accordance with this policy.
For example, the NIH limits F&A on Grants to Foreign and International Organizations to 8% with a few exceptions.
If the originating sponsor is silent on F&A, the F&A rate subrecipient should use is 10% Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC).
Include estimated travel costs according to UW travel policies for:
- itemized transportation costs (e.g. airfare, ground transportation, etc.),
- number of days per diem,
- number and estimated cost of trips
- on federal awards, justify how each person’s travel is necessary to the award.
- If the exact location is not known, include the general location.
Most sponsors require that you justify and retain documentation for travel expenses including how they benefit the project.
Review Post Award Fiscal Compliance travel guidance .
- Global Operations Support Essential information for travel planning and risk awareness
- Global Travel Information for UW travelers
- Global Research Single Points of Contact
- Review Export Compliance Measures
- Global Support: Student International Travel Policy
Supplies and Materials
List supplies by major type , (e.g., publication costs, glassware, chemicals). Include the estimated cost of each type and how estimates were calculated, e.g. publications costs: list number of pages and cost per page.
Describe the allocation rationale for supplies and materials between different proposals/awards in your budget justification.
Prior year accounting records or other documentation may be used to support estimates. Retain documentation in your award file.
Considerations for Supplies and Materials
- Food, meals, and refreshments: Awards must specify and allow food purchases if they are included in the budget. Review UW food purchase guidance.
- Office Supplies: generally unallowable as a direct cost under federal awards.
- Review Administrative and Clerical Staff Salary budget preparation guidance .
- Avoid “Miscellaneous” and “Contingency” categories.
- Genomic Assays (GA) are budgeted as supply costs, however, NIH only pays F&A on the first $50,000 of GA costs each year.
- NIH Policy Statement – F&A Costs .
Review your sponsor guidelines on equipment fabrication, rental or purchases. Review Equipment Inventory Office guidance on Government Furnished Equipment .
The UW Equipment capitalization threshold is $5000. Equipment is excluded from F&A.
- If equipment needs are not definite, probable choices may be listed on a separate sheet and an estimated total shown on the budget page.
- Include related costs like shipping and insurance in the equipment costs if allowed by your sponsor.
- Sales Tax Exemption – Equipment purchased may qualify for the Machinery and Equipment Tax Exemption or “M&E Exemption”.
Review more information from the Equipment Inventory Office on Acquisitions .
Describe the equipment that will be fabricated along with a list of items that go into fabrication (e.g. materials, cost center services, salary, etc.). Review Equipment Inventory Office information on Fabrication . F&A is not applied on costs involved in fabricating equipment unless the equipment will be transferred to the sponsor or external entity for use at the end of the project.
Each piece of rented equipment should be listed by type, model number, and manufacturer along with the current rental rate of each item. Equipment rental is considered a “service” charge and F&A should be calculated.
Include associated tuition charges for graduate students employed in a 50% FTE appointment for full payroll quarters. Review Current Tuition and Fees from the Office of Planning and Budgeting. Tuition costs are exempt from F&A.
Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A)
F&A costs are expenses that cannot be specifically identified with a particular project or activity. Also known as “indirect costs” or “overhead,” these costs are for buildings, utilities, services of administrative offices such as purchasing, accounting, payroll, and personnel offices, and other expenses necessary for operations of the institution. Review GIM 13 for more information.
What you need to know to select the correct F&A rate:
- How to Determine the Correct Rate
- Policy Circumstances
- Activity Types
- Activity Locations
- List each anticipated outgoing subaward separately
- Each subaward budget should include its direct and F&A costs
- Indicate each subawards in the UW budget using the sub-object code 03-62
- Calculate UW F&A on the first $25,000 of each subawards total costs
Review Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Services covered under F&A costs
In limited situations, the Director of Sponsored Programs may waive F&A. To request a waiver, include the completed F&A waiver form , signed by the PI with Dean and Chair concurrence, in the eGC1 with your proposal materials to the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) .
The University does not waive F&A for for-profit entities.
Budget Justifications are sometimes called budget narratives or budget details and are an important part of the review process (internally and externally) and details how the sponsor’s funds will be spent. Justify budget costs in detail according to the sponsor instructions. Sponsor scientific reviewers may do a preliminary cost analysis using the budget justification to determine if the science justifies the budgeted cost.
Review the budget justification primer for examples.
Explain estimates or unusual circumstances in your budget justification. Retain supporting documentation, rationales, and sources for estimates, allocation or unusual circumstances along with vendor catalogs or written quotes as support documentation in your local award file.
Example estimation tools, methods, and resources include:
- SAGE Budget Module
- Payroll system
- Anticipated merit increase
- Cost of living increase
- Travel per diems and other travel cost information
- State, federal and international tax information
- Vendor and supplier purchasing
- Relevant University policy information such as GIM 13 – F&A Rate Agreement or GIM 35 – Institutional Based Salary etc.
- Approved & preliminary fringe benefit rates
- Sponsor policy
- Federal guidelines
If a sponsor does not allow certain costs as a direct cost, they may not be included in the budget.
For example, administrative/clerical costs are not allowed as a direct cost on a federal grant. If you believe your program qualifies for an exception, you must describe how the four criteria for direct charging administrative/clerical costs are met.
OSP’s approval of the eGC1 or the sponsor making an award based on your proposal where the criteria for direct charging administrative/clerical costs were met, does not mean those costs cannot be questioned later.
Cost share is the costs of a sponsored project that the sponsor does NOT pay for.
A sponsor can require cost share and must state this requirement in the funding opportunity. A cost share commitment also occurs when a proposal includes allowable expenses or quantifiable contributions that will not be charged to the sponsor (e.g. effort level of personnel listed with no commensurate request for salary).
Cost share is not expected by federal sponsors if the agency does not include a cost share requirement in the funding opportunity. When not mandatory, the inclusion of a cost share commitment may not be used as a factor in merit review. Voluntary cost share, therefore, should not be presented in the proposal.
Cost sharing is discouraged and leads to:
- lower Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rates,
- increased administrative burden,
- redirection of University resources from other University activities.
When cost share is submitted in a proposal and accepted by the sponsor it becomes a binding commitment. The department/PI is required to provide, monitor and report on the committed resources during the project.
Sponsor approval is required to claim waived F&A as cost share . When direct costs are contributed as cost share, the associated F&A is also considered cost share.
Approvals from other UW units contributing cost share must be on the eGC1 or otherwise documented.
Clinical Trial Budget Resources
- Clinical Research Budget and Billing (CRBB)
- Clinical Research Handbook
- Industry Clinical Trials
Animal Research Considerations
Costs and budget issues to consider include:
- Animal housing costs ( per diems )
- Special lab equipment, specialized housing arrangements, or specialized services
- Timing considerations: approvals prior to animal acquisition, quarantine, training requirements
The following services are covered under F&A costs:
- Training in animal use and handling
- Protocol review
- Grant/protocol congruence review
- Protocol development assistance
- Standard veterinary care
- Standard animal husbandry
Human Subjects Research Considerations
Consider whether you will need to hire staff, or contract with UW’s Institute for Translational Health Services (ITHS) for staff. Decide whether you will need a staff person to serve as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) liaison because the UW will be the lead for collaborative or multi-site research that is being reviewed by a single IRB.
Subject payment or reimbursement
Include any subject payments or reimbursement of subjects’ expenses. If subjects’ health insurance will be charged for research-related clinical items and services; consider whether the grant will pay for co-pays and deductibles.
IRB review fees
The UW IRBs do not currently charge review fees though this may change for the review of non-UW sites. However, if the research will be reviewed by a non-UW (external) IRB, the external IRB may charge fees. You may need to include IRB review fees in the budget in the following situations:
- The UW is the lead site for collaborative or multi-site research and a non-UW single IRB will be used for all sites or institutions involved in the research. For NIH grants, see this NIH Guidance . HSD can also provide guidance on how to identify and estimate costs.
- The study is industry-initiated and industry-funded and the sponsor will not pay the fees directly.
Human Subjects Division (HSD) administrative fee
If your research is industry-initiated and industry-funded, you must send the study to an independent IRB (for example WCG IRB or Advarra) for IRB approval instead of the UW IRB. The industry sponsor will pay the IRB review fees charged by the independent IRB, but they are also required to pay HSD an administrative fee of $1500. This administrative fee should be included in your budget. See HSD’s information on the HSD Administrative Fee .
Emergency medicine research
Emergency medicine research that requires the special Exception to Informed Consent must conduct community consultation before beginning the study, which requires funds. Consult with HSD for guidance about appropriate activities, based on the nature of the research intervention and the study population. It almost always involves more than public service announcements, news releases and bus placards.
Interpretation and translation
Federal nondiscrimination laws require clinical trials to allow interested and eligible subjects to participate even if they do not speak English. This means that researchers should develop a plan for how translation and interpretation will be provided for interested and eligible subjects. For studies that may have small numbers of these subjects, this may best be handled by including in the budget the cost of retaining an interpretation and translation service that can be called upon as needed.
Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Considerations
If your project includes hazardous materials review the following considerations.
Take into account costing allocation of materials. Review GIM 23 – Distribution of Costs Across Two or More Sponsored Programs and guidance from Post Award Fiscal Compliance on cost allocation .
- Use the Laboratory PPE Assessment Guide to determine the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed.
- Use the Job Hazard Analysis tool to determine required controls to mitigate risk.
- Estimate the cost of ordering PPE and first aid kit through UW Procurement .
- Determine the need for chemical spill kit or mercury spill kit .
- Use the Occupational Health Recommendation . provided by the EH&S Employee Health Center to determine costs for vaccinations and medical surveillance.
- Work with Environmental Health and Safety to accurately calculate and plan for the cost of disposal of biohazardous , chemical , radioactive , and other hazardous waste.
EH&S Services covered under F&A costs
- Training (except First Aid)
- Chemical waste collection and disposal
- Health and safety surveys and monitoring
- Assistance meeting health and safety requirements of grant proposals
- Radiation use authorizations
- Radiation dosimetry and bioassay
- Fire prevention services
- Fume hood testing
- Central SDS library and inventory system
- Indoor Air Quality Investigations
- Occupational exposure assessments
- Respiratory fit-testing
- Hazardous material spill management advice and consultation
EH&S Services not covered under F&A costs
• Radioactive Waste Disposal • Calibration of radiation detection instruments
Forms, Tools, and Resources
- F&A Waiver Request
- Sample Budget Justification
- Academic HR: Supplements and Summer Salary
- GUIDE: SAGE Budget
- Institutional Facts & Rates
- Budget Justification Primer
- PAFC: Proposal Costs
- GCA: Cost Share
- PAFC: Cost Allocation
- PAFC: Requirements to Direct Bill F&A Costs
- Cost of Single IRB Review
- NSF: Sections of an NSF Proposal, The Budget: Part 1
- Subrecipient, Contractor/Vendor, Consultant?
- Grants.gov: Tips for Writing a Budget Narrative
- NIH: Selecting Correct Budget Format
Policy, Regulation, and Guidance
- GIM 35 – Effort Reporting Policy for Sponsored Agreements
- GIM 23 – Sponsored Program Costing Policy
- GIM 21 – Cost Share on Sponsored Programs
- GIM 13 – Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Rates
- GIM 03 – Fringe Benefit Rates and Sponsored Projects
- Guidelines for Collaborative Research Sharing RCR
- Best Practices for Coordination and Set-up of Cost-Shares for Collaborative…
- Travel Office: Travel Policies and Procedures
- National Research Service Award (NRSA) Postdoctoral Stipend
- CORE: Introduction to Sponsored Project Budgets
- CORE: SAGE Budget
- CORE: Direct Billing of F&A Type Costs
- Department of Defense (DoD) Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) FAQs
- How do I document salary cap on proposal budgets?
- How do I handle F&A for charter vessels?
- What are some things to know about budgeting for the…
- Which single F&A rate applies when the Primate Center is…
- Who, What, Why – Searching SAM.gov
OR Support Offices
- Human Subjects Division (HSD)
- Office of Animal Welfare (OAW)
- Office of Research (OR)
- Office of Research Information Services (ORIS)
- Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP)
OR Research Units
- Applied Physics Laboratory (APL-UW)
- WA National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC)
Research Partner Offices
- Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR)
- Enivronmental Health and Safety (EH&S)
- Grant and Contract Accounting (GCA)
- Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS)
- Management Accounting and Analysis (MAA)
- Post Award Fiscal Compliance (PAFC)
- Research Expertise
- Centers and Institutes
- Collaborative Proposal Development Resources
- Research Fact Sheet
- Research Annual Report
- Stats and Rankings
- Honors and Awards
- Office of Research
© 2023 University of Washington | Seattle, WA
The Research Whisperer
Just like the thesis whisperer – but with more money, how to make a simple research budget.
Every research project needs a budget*.
If you are applying for funding, you must say what you are planning to spend that funding on. More than that, you need to show how spending that money will help you to answer your research question .
So, developing the budget is the perfect time to plan your project clearly . A good budget shows the assessors that you have thought about your research in detail and, if it is done well, it can serve as a great, convincing overview of the project.
Here are five steps to create a simple budget for your research project.
1. List your activities
Make a list of everything that you plan to do in the project, and who is going to do it.
Take your methodology and turn it into a step-by-step plan. Have you said that you will interview 50 people? Write it on your list.
Are you performing statistical analysis on your sample? Write it down.
Think through the implications of what you are going to do. Do you need to use a Thingatron? Note down that you will need to buy it, install it, and commission it.
What about travel? Write down each trip separately. Be specific. You can’t just go to ‘South East Asia’ to do fieldwork. You need to go to Kuala Lumpur to interview X number of people over Y weeks, then the same again for Singapore and Jakarta.
Your budget list might look like this:
- I’m going to do 10 interviews in Kuala Lumpur; 10 interviews in Singapore; 10 interviews in Jakarta by me.
- I’ll need teaching release for three months for fieldwork.
- I’ll need Flights to KL, Singapore, Jakarta and back to Melbourne.
- I’ll need Accommodation for a month in each place, plus per diem.
- The transcription service will transcribe the 30 interviews.
- I’ll analysis the transcribed results. (No teaching release required – I’ll do it in my meagre research time allowance.)
- I’ll need a Thingatron X32C to do the trials.
- Thing Inc will need to install the Thingatron. (I wonder how long that will take.)
- The research assistant will do three trials a month with the Thingatron.
- I’ll need to hire a research assistant (1 day per week for a year at Level B1.)
- The research assistant will do the statistical analysis of the Thingatron results.
- I’ll do the writing up in my research allowance time.
By the end, you should feel like you have thought through the entire project in detail. You should be able to walk someone else through the project, so grab a critical friend and read the list to them. If they ask questions, write down the answers.
This will help you to get to the level of specificity you need for the next step.
2. Check the rules again
You’ve already read the funding rules, right? If not, go and read them now – I’ll wait right here until you get back.
Once you’ve listed everything you want to do, go back and read the specific rules for budgets again. What is and isn’t allowed? The funding scheme won’t pay for equipment – you’ll need to fund your Thingatron from somewhere else. Cross it off.
Some schemes won’t fund people. Others won’t fund travel. It is important to know what you need for your project. It is just as important to know what you can include in the application that you are writing right now.
Most funding schemes won’t fund infrastructure (like building costs) and other things that aren’t directly related to the project. Some will, though. If they do, you should include overheads (i.e. the general costs that your organisation needs to keep running). This includes the cost of basics like power and lighting; desks and chairs; and cleaners and security staff. It also includes service areas like the university library. Ask your finance officer for help with this. Often, it is a percentage of the overall cost of the project.
If you are hiring people, don’t forget to use the right salary rate and include salary on-costs. These are the extra costs that an organisation has to pay for an employee, but that doesn’t appear in their pay check. This might include things like superannuation, leave loading, insurance, and payroll tax. Once again, your finance officer can help with this.
Your budget list might now look like this:
- 10 interviews in Kuala Lumpur; 10 interviews in Singapore; 10 interviews in Jakarta by me.
- Teaching release for three months for fieldwork.
- Flights to KL, Singapore, Jakarta and back to Melbourne.
- Accommodation for a month in each place, plus per diem, plus travel insurance (rule 3F).
- Transcription of 30 interviews, by the transcription service.
- Analysis of transcribed results, by me. No teaching release required.
- Purchase and install Thingatron X32C, by Thing Inc . Not allowed by rule 3C . Organise access to Thingatron via partner organistion – this is an in-kind contribution to the project.
- Three trials a month with Thingatron, by research assistant.
- Statistical analysis of Thingatron results, by research assistant.
- Research assistant: 1 day per week for a year at Level B1, plus 25.91% salary on-costs.
- Overheads at 125% of total cash request, as per rule 3H.
3. Cost each item
For each item on your list, find a reasonable cost for it . Are you going to interview the fifty people and do the statistical analysis yourself? If so, do you need time release from teaching? How much time? What is your salary for that period of time, or how much will it cost to hire a replacement? Don’t forget any hidden costs, like salary on-costs.
If you aren’t going to do the work yourself, work out how long you need a research assistant for. Be realistic. Work out what level you want to employ them at, and find out how much that costs.
How much is your Thingatron going to cost? Sometimes, you can just look that stuff up on the web. Other times, you’ll need to ring a supplier, particularly if there are delivery and installation costs.
Jump on a travel website and find reasonable costs for travel to Kuala Lumpur and the other places. Find accommodation costs for the period that you are planning to stay, and work out living expenses. Your university, or your government, may have per diem rates for travel like this.
Make a note of where you got each of your estimates from. This will be handy later, when you write the budget justification.
- 10 interviews in Kuala Lumpur; 10 interviews in Singapore; 10 interviews in Jakarta by me (see below for travel costs).
- Teaching release for three months for fieldwork = $25,342 – advice from finance officer.
- Flights to KL ($775), Singapore ($564), Jakarta ($726), Melbourne ($535) – Blue Sky airlines, return economy.
- Accommodation for a month in each place (KL: $3,500; Sing: $4,245; Jak: $2,750 – long stay, three star accommodation as per TripAdviser).
- Per diem for three months (60 days x $125 per day – University travel rules).
- Travel insurance (rule 3F): $145 – University travel insurance calculator .
- Transcription of 30 interviews, by the transcription service: 30 interviews x 60 minutes per interview x $2.75 per minute – Quote from transcription service, accented voices rate.
- Analysis of transcribed results, by me. No teaching release required. (In-kind contribution of university worth $2,112 for one week of my time – advice from finance officer ).
- Purchase and install Thingatron X32C, by Thing Inc . Not allowed by rule 3C. Organise access to Thingatron via partner organistion – this is an in-kind contribution to the project. ($2,435 in-kind – quote from partner organisation, at ‘favoured client’ rate.)
- Research assistant: 1 day per week for a year at Level B1, plus 25.91% salary on-costs. $12,456 – advice from finance officer.
Things are getting messy, but the next step will tidy it up.
4. Put it in a spreadsheet
Some people work naturally in spreadsheets (like Excel). Others don’t. If you don’t like Excel, tough. You are going to be doing research budgets for the rest of your research life.
When you are working with budgets, a spreadsheet is the right tool for the job, so learn to use it! Learn enough to construct a simple budget – adding things up and multiplying things together will get you through most of it. Go and do a course if you have to.
For a start, your spreadsheet will multiply things like 7 days in Kuala Lumpur at $89.52 per day, and it will also add up all of your sub-totals for you.
If your budget doesn’t add up properly (because, for example, you constructed it as a table in Word), two things will happen. First, you will look foolish. Secondly, and more importantly, people will lose confidence in all your other numbers, too. If your total is wrong, they will start to question the validity of the rest of your budget. You don’t want that.
If you are shy of maths, then Excel is your friend. It will do most of the heavy lifting for you.
For this exercise, the trick is to put each number on a new line. Here is how it might look.
5. Justify it
Accompanying every budget is a budget justification. For each item in your budget, you need to answer two questions:
- Why do you need this money?
- Where did you get your figures from?
The budget justification links your budget to your project plan and back again. Everything item in your budget should be listed in your budget justification, so take the list from your budget and paste it into your budget justification.
For each item, give a short paragraph that says why you need it. Refer back to the project plan and expand on what is there. For example, if you have listed a research assistant in your application, this is a perfect opportunity to say what the research assistant will be doing.
Also, for each item, show where you got your figures from. For a research assistant, this might mean talking about the level of responsibility required, so people can understand why you chose the salary level. For a flight, it might be as easy as saying: “Blue Sky airlines economy return flight.”
Here is an example for just one aspect of the budget:
Fieldwork: Kuala Lumpur
Past experience has shown that one month allows enough time to refine and localise interview questions with research partners at University of Malaya, test interview instrument, recruit participants, conduct ten x one-hour interviews with field notes. In addition, the novel methodology will be presented at CONF2015, to be held in Malaysia in February 2015.
Melbourne – Kuala Lumpur economy airfare is based on current Blue Sky Airlines rates. Note that airfares have been kept to a minimum by travelling from country to country, rather than returning to Australia.
1 month accommodation is based on three star, long stay accommodation rates provided by TripAdvisor.
30 days per diem rate is based on standard university rates for South-East Asia.
Pro tip: Use the same nomenclature everywhere. If you list a Thingatron X32C in your budget, then call it a Thingatron X32C in your budget justification and project plan. In an ideal world, someone should be able to flip from the project plan, to the budget and to the budget justification and back again and always know exactly where they are.
- Project plan: “Doing fieldwork in Malaysia? Whereabouts?” Flips to budget.
- Budget: “A month in Kuala Lumpur – OK. Why a month?” Flips to budget justification.
- Budget justification: “Ah, the field work happens at the same time as the conference. Now I get it. So, what are they presenting at the conference?” Flips back to the project description…
So, there you have it: Make a list; check the rules; cost everything; spreadsheet it; and then justify it. Budget done. Good job, team!
This article builds on several previous articles. I have shamelessly stolen from them.
- Constructing your budget – Jonathan O’Donnell.
- What makes a winning budget ? – Jonathan O’Donnell.
- How NOT to pad your budget – Tseen Khoo.
- Conquer the budget, conquer the project – Tseen Khoo.
- Research on a shoestring – Emily Kothe.
- How to make a simple Gantt chart – Jonathan O’Donnell.
* Actually, there are some grant schemes that give you a fixed amount of money, which I think is a really great idea . However, you will still need to work out what you are going to spend the money on, so you will still need a budget at some stage, even if you don’t need it for the application.
Also in the ‘simple grant’ series:
- How to write a simple research methods section .
- How to make a simple Gantt chart .
This has saved my day!
Happy to help, Malba.
Like Liked by 1 person
[…] you be putting in a bid for funding? Are there costs involved, such as travel or equipment costs? Research Whisperer’s post on research budgets may help you […]
I’ve posted a link to this article of Jonathan’s in the Australasian Research Management Society LinkedIn group as well, as I’m sure lots of other people will want to share this.
This is great! Humorous way to talk explain a serious subject and could be helpful in designing budgets for outreach grants, as well. Thanks!
If you are interested, I have another one on how to do a timeline: https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/gantt-chart/
[…] really useful information regarding budget development can be found on the Research Whisperer Blog here. Any other thoughts and suggestions are welcome – what are your tips to developing a good […]
[…] it gets you to the level of specificity that you need for a detailed methods section. Similarly, working out a budget for your workshops will force you to be specific about how many people will be attending (venue […]
A friend of mine recently commented by e-mail:
I was interested in your blog “How to make a simple research budget”, particularly the statement: “Think through the implications of what you are going to do. Do you need to use a Thingatron? Note down that you will need to buy it, install it, and commission it.”
From my limited experience so far, I’d think you could add:
“Who else is nearby who might share the costs of the Thingatron? If it’s a big capital outlay, and you’re only going to use it to 34% of it’s capacity, sharing can make the new purchase much easier to justify. But how will this fit into your grant? And then it’s got to be maintained – the little old chap who used to just do all that odd mix of electrickery and persuasion to every machine in the lab got retrenched in the last round. You can run it into the ground. But that means you won’t have a reliable, stable Thingatron all ready to run when you apply for the follow-on grant in two years.”
[…] (For more on this process, take a look at How to Write a Simple Project Budget.) […]
[…] Source: How to make a simple research budget […]
This is such a big help! Thank You!
No worries, Claudine. Happy to help.
Would you like to share the link of the article which was wrote about funding rules? I can’t find it. Many thanks!
Hello there – do you mean this post? https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/reading-guidelines
Thank @tseen khoo, very useful tips. I also want to understand more about 3C 3F 3H. What do they stand for? Can you help me find out which posts talk about that. Thank again.
[…] mount up rapidly, even if you are in a remote and developing part of the world. Putting together a half decent budget early on and being aware of funding opportunities can help to avoid financial disaster half way […]
This is so amazing, it really helpful and educative. Happy unread this last week before my proposal was drafted.
Happy to help, Babayomi. Glad you liked it.
really useful! thanks kate
[…] “How to Make a Simple Research Budget,” by Jonathan O’Donnell on The Research Whisperer […]
[…] offering services that ran pretty expensive. until I found this one. It guided me through making a simple budget. The information feels sort of like a university graduate research paper but having analysed […]
[…] Advice on writing research proposals for industry […]
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Let your curiosity lead the way:
- Arts & Sciences
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Creating a Budget
In general, while your research proposal outlines the academic significance of your study, the budget and budget narrative show that you have an understanding of what it will cost for you to be able to perform this research. Your proposed budget should identify all the expenses that are necessary and reasonable for the success of your project—no more and no less. The Office of Undergraduate Research understands that estimates, by definition, are imprecise, yet we encourage students applying for funding to research all aspects of their budgets with honest diligence.
If your research requires you to be in the field or in another city, state, or country, travel expenses may include transportation (airline, train, taxi, etc.), passport and visa fees, as well as fees for any vaccinations you may need to travel. Be sure to include anticipated major incidental expenses, such as printing, copying, fees for accessing archives, etc.
Please note that our funding restrictions prevent us from providing support for lab materials, equipment, software, hardware, etc.
Keep in mind these tips:
Convert all foreign currency figures to U.S. dollars.
Round all figures to whole dollars.
Make sure your budget and your proposal are consistent.
Identify areas where you are making efforts to save money!
Browse through these sample budgets for a better idea of how to outline your expenses and contact us if you have questions!
Sample Budget 1
Sample Budget 2
Sample Budget 3
Sample Budget 4
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University Research Administration
Proposal budget development.
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Proposals (applications) normally include a detailed breakdown of the financial support being requested from a sponsor. A proposal budget is a best estimate of the costs requested to complete a project. Budgets should be prepared with as much detail as possible.
Projects costs are usually broken down into direct and indirect cost categories. Direct costs are those that can be directly attributable to a specific project. Indirect costs are those costs incurred by an institution for facilities and administration of sponsored projects that can not be directly attributable to a specific project. Both are real costs that must be included in a budget.
F & A Rates
Budgets for applications to federal agencies must reflect the appropriate rates as established in the negotiated F & A Rate Agreement . Applications to non-federal entities should reflect appropriate rate.
Written explanations for the inclusion of items such as equipment purchases, travel, and subawards are normally required along with a formatted budget. Budget Justification pages should be as specific as possible. Specific products and potential vendors should be identified whenever possible.
Unless otherwise indicated in an agency’s guidelines, a proposal for a project that is expected to be funded for more than one year should include an itemized budget for each year. One should employ the same format for each year and prepare a cumulative summary budget for the entire proposed project period. The summary page should be in the same format as the annual budget, with all the costs combined. Note that PHS does not require an itemized budget for each year.
Make sure to indicate the dates covered by each budget year at the top of each budget page.
Bumblebee colonies will be obtained from Koppert Biological Systems (MI, USA) and shipped overnight to Nevada. An emerging standard for publication is the utilization of three to five colonies for testing so as to minimize individual colony biases and to acquire a sufficient data set. In order to maintain the colonies I will need pollen to feed them on a daily basis. Additionally I will use the chemical octopamine hydrochloride to explore neuroendocrine relationships between gustatory responsiveness, learning, and octopamine.
I estimated shipping costs to the best of my knowledge.
* Costs are estimated based on average costs of the material; final cost may be slightly different.
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Developing a Budget
- Forms & Policies 6
Based on the guidelines provided by the sponsor, the proposal budget should delineate the entire cost of a project and accurately reflect costs that are necessary to complete the work. The budget should reflect the methodology described within the proposal narrative. Reviewers should be able to determine whether sufficient funds are being requested to complete the project successfully and that those requests are reasonable given the scope of work. Accuracy and detail are essential in this section. PI Principal Investigator View Boston University's policy on... /PDs are encouraged to follow a sponsor’s guidelines exactly and provide information in the precise format as specified. Departmental business office personnel may be available to assist investigators in developing budgets that are consistent with University policy and agency requirements.
Please utilize these useful resources as you develop your budget:
- BU Budget Template
- F&A Rate Descriptions
- Current BU F&A/Fringe Rate Agreement
Direct costs are those costs that can be directly attributed to carrying out the work of the proposed project.
Please see Policy on Charging of Direct Costs to Sponsored Awards and Guidelines for Direct Charging of Administrative & Clerical Salaries to Federally Sponsored Projects
Direct costs may include the following:
Alterations, Renovations, and Construction Costs
Consultants, fringe benefits, graduate students, materials and supplies, other direct costs, patient care costs, personnel costs.
Should include only BU personnel. Collaborators at other institutions should be included either as consultants or within a subaward budget as appropriate. Proposed salaries should be in accordance with approved salary scales and position grades, and the budget should reflect the actual person months or percent effort that is anticipated. In developing multi-year project budgets, salary increases should be considered (consult with Sponsored Programs to determine the appropriate escalation factor). Some sponsors have salary caps, or limitations on the amount of salary that may be charged to a grant. Refer to sponsor guidelines.
Personnel costs included in proposal budgets should be based on institutional base salary Institutional Base Salary, or “IBS,” is annual compensat... More . This is salary paid by BU for work performed in accordance with the faculty’s letter of appointment and excludes clinical bonuses and extra compensation.
Facilities and administration (f&a) costs / indirect costs.
Details about Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs and indirect costs (IDC), including Boston University’s current rate and an explanation of F&A rates, can be found here .
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Modular Budgets
The NIH National Institutes of Health has instituted budgeting guidelines for many of its applications. Unless directed otherwise in funding opportunity announcements, under these guidelines, for application of $250,000 or less of direct costs, no detailed budgets are provided to NIH, although details on personnel and subcontracts are provided in a budget justification. Amounts requested per year cannot (currently) exceed $250,000 in direct costs and funding must be requested in $25,000 increments. PI/PDs should remember to budget for merit increase for personnel salaries up to the NIH cap. NIH provides instructions on how to average costs over the years of the award to provide for such increases, as well as one-time purchases, such as equipment.
Please review the procedure for treatment of cost sharing for sponsored awards .
Below are the forms and policies you will likely need. To quickly find a form or policy in this list please use the Find Function: command+f (mac) or control+f (pc). Or view the full forms and policies libraries under Forms & Policies in the main navigation. Please download and fill out PDFs using Adobe—Acrobat Reader DC is available for free.
- WEB Budgeting and Accounting for Administrative and Clerical Expenses on Federal Sponsored Projects, Guidelines for Updated March 29, 1999
- XLSX Federal Budget Template Updated February 11, 2022
- WEB Grant Cost Transfer Journal Entry Upload Template from General Accounting Updated November 8, 2016
- XLSX Non-Federal Budget Template Updated April 29, 2021
- WEB Procedure on Budgeting Non-Employee Post Doc Fringe Benefits Updated January 1, 2023
- WEB Vacation and Reduction in Force Payouts Process Updated June 14, 2022
If you have questions or need help, please contact one of the specialists. You can email them directly or feel free to call. Office information can be found below.
Department & Research Administrators List
Assistant Vice President and Assistant Provost, Research Development and PhD & Postdoctoral Affairs
Sponsored Programs office
The budget should list all cost details for the year or another appropriate period of time. It should include any applicable salaries & wages
A budget is a detailed statement outlining estimated project costs that support a sponsored project. It should include all Direct Costs, as well as the
How to make a simple research budget · 1. List your activities · 2. Check the rules again · 3. Cost each item · 4. Put it in a spreadsheet · 5.
A budget is a financial proposal that reflects the work proposed. It outlines the expected project costs in detail, and should mirror the project description. A
In general, while your research proposal outlines the academic significance of your study, the budget and budget narrative show that you have an
Proposals (applications) normally include a detailed breakdown of the financial support being requested from a sponsor. A proposal budget is a best estimate
ALL PROPOSAL BUDGETS MUST BE REVIEWED AND APPROVED BY THE OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND SPONSORED PROGRAMS BEFORE BEING SUBMITTED TO THE SPONSOR.
Example 1. Table 1: Example Budget. Project item, Cost, Quantity, Subtotal. Colony of Bombus impatiens, Koppert Biological
In this video, I'll show you how to present the budget for a research proposal. You can do it in Excel, but the quickest and simplest way is
Based on the guidelines provided by the sponsor, the proposal budget should delineate the entire cost of a project and accurately reflect costs that are