Major categories of expense

All major categories of cost should be justified, starting with the largest expense categories (ordinarily Personnel costs) while following to sponsor’s guidelines.  Your budget justification should include the key points below.  Sample budget justifications for NSF and NIH are also available on the OSP website.  These documents should be modified to fit the application. Special attention should be paid to including items that are typically unallowable as direct costs, including administrative costs such as administrative/ clerical staff; office supplies, communication costs, or general purpose equipment or instrumentation such as computers, laptops or iPads.  These items should be expressly identified and the essentiality as a direct charge and why they are not for routine use clearly explained.


  • For key personnel – Describe the individual’s
    • role (PI, co-PI, co-Inv, etc);
    • effort committed to the project  (Academic Year and/or Summer, or Calendar) in person months or percent as per sponsor’s guidelines; and
      • NOTE:  Faculty should present both AY and Summer effort separately.  Include a statement that SU faculty have 8.5 month appointments
    • responsibilities and activities to be performed in support of the project
  • For non-key personnel – Describe the individual’s
    • role;
    • effort
      • NOTE:  individual’s with less than 1.0 FTE appointments should disclose the nature of the appointment  e.g. Graduate students (0.5 FTE, 100% effort)
    • responsibilities and duties to be performed in support of the project.

Salary & wage escalation. Indicate that salaries/wages have been escalated by 3% per year in each out year.

  • Fringe Benefits
    • Present the rate applicable to the employee category (e.g. faculty summer, regular staff). State that costs are charged according to rates negotiated with DHHS (provide date of rate agreement; changes annually), as applicable to employee category.
    • Note that current rates are used for budgeting purposes and actual rates in place at time of expense will be charged.


  • Describe what laboratory materials are essential to conduct the project – list major categories and cost subtotals for each including: gases; plasticware; chemicals/reagents; cell culture media; restriction enzymes; radioactive reagents, electronic components, etc.
  • Describe any desktop or laptop computers that are essential to conduct the research – must clearly demonstrate exclusively or predominantly used for the research or project-related purpose, essential to meet the project objectives and well justified; or describe how the cost is reasonably allocated to different funding sources, in direct proportion to the computing device usage for each funding source.
    • Predominate use is considered 75% use on the sponsored project or greater, and would be charged in full to the sponsored project.
  • Describe any instrumentation that will be required to conduct the research (‘equipment-like’ items that cost less than $5,000, unless otherwise specified by sponsor), e.g., digital recorders, digital cameras, GPS devices, etc.
  • Describe what animals, if any, are required to conduct the research and list their per diem costs – you must have IACUC approval before you can acquire and use animals or animal products.
  • Justify the cost for Materials & Supplies at the proposal stage by consulting current vendor pricing, or utilizing recent historical cost pricing that may be readily available. There should be a documented methodology for how the Materials & Supplies costs were obtained.


  • Describe why the equipment is essential for project and why comparable equipment available on or near campus is inadequate for project needs.
  • Clearly describe allocobility of cost – i.e. the item for exclusive / predominant use of the project (if item will not be for exclusive use of the project –the total cost of the item cannot be charged to the sponsor).
  • Justify cost (e.g. provide quotes and attach to proposal).
  • Justify sole-source acquisition if applicable (i.e. specific brand from unique distributor).
  • Remember to include installation and space renovation costs to make equipment fully functional (e.g. air conditioning).


  • Describe why the travel is essential (e.g. attend sponsor-mandated conferences, disseminate project results, etc.)
  • Justify cost:
    • Number of travelers
    • Location (city, state, country) and trip duration (days)
    • Airfare or ground transportation costs per trip. (Remember – Federal sponsors must comply with Fly America Act)
    • Lodging and sustenance
    • Registration fees
  • Remember, while SU travel policy does not use government per diem, however these rates (CONUS) can be consulted to assess the reasonableness of costs proposed.


  • Describe page costs, PubMedCentral fees, copyright fees, etc.

SUBRECIPIENTS  (also called subawardees or consortium members)

  • Describe the institution, the personnel involved and what they will do.
  • Their budget detail and justification is typically required using sponsor’s forms.
    • REMINDER:  OSP requires permission of authorized institutional representative (OSP equivalent) to include subcontractor’s name in application.
    • Use of the Subrecipient Commitment form is highly recommended.


  • Describe services to be provided.
  • Provide rate per day, and number of days of service and whether travel will be included (where to present travel can vary with sponsor).
    • REMINDER:  OSP requires written permission of individual named to include consultant’s name in application.


  • Describe the vendor, services to be obtained, the unit cost, number of units, and total cost.
  • NOTE:  rates for analytical services performed by academic institutions should be based on published rates or certified by an institutional official of that organization.


  • Describe the amount of payment per subject 
  • Describe the type, number and per diem cost