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Direct Costs

Basic Tenets
  • All costs need to be reasonable.
  • All costs must be allowable.  
  • All costs must be allocable.

These basic tenets are based in Federal Cost Accounting Standards 

Budgetary Considerations

In completing the budget, it is necessary to review the elements of the project as well as the sponsor guidelines. It is also important to be cognizant of any sponsor restrictions regarding specific budgetary allowances or disallowances (e.g., one sponsor may allow the PI to charge salary, another may not). 

Common Budgetary Categories
Personnel Costs 
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  • Salaries and Wages

    All SBU staff who are serving in any paid capacity on a project must be listed as project personnel, along with the proposed effort of every person, or position, for which salary is requested. In general an employee is someone whose primary employment is as a New York State or RF employee. Effort may be described either in terms of academic, summer, or calendar-year months depending on the type of appointment the person holds. Others want effort described by appointment type and percentages. If the amount of salary requested does not represent the percentage of effort, an explanation should be included on the budget justification.. Note that effort for all SBU personnel must be recorded in myResearch (Investigator/Key Person screen) and in the myResearch proposal form.

    Requested salaries must be supported by basic salary information. However, generally speaking, a strong justification will focus on how the project will be accomplished with the proposed personnel.

    Only SBU personnel may appear as salaried persons in a project budget. Those not on the SBU payroll may be consultants, recipients of honorarium, or affiliated with an institution which will be receiving a subaward from RFSUNY/SBU if the project is funded.

    If personnel are contributing effort to the project for which they do not expect to be reimbursed, they should still be listed as project personnel. Their effort should be described just as the effort of paid personnel, and their contributions clearly described in the budget justification.  This is known as voluntary committed cost share .

  • Faculty Members

    Depending on their appointment type, faculty members may request calendar year salary support, academic year salary support or supplement their nine-month salary with up to three months of summer support. For each summer month, they may seek funding for one/ninth of their nine-month salary based upon the salary of the academic year. 

    If a faculty member is working on several sponsored projects, care must be taken to ensure that no more than 100% of effort is committed to the aggregate of all projects and other university responsibilities.

    NOTE: Some agencies place restrictions on the amount of time they will support a faculty member during a given year or on the amount of salary they will pay. For example, generally, NSF will only support two months total in an academic year and summer and  NIH caps[AS12]  the total salary a faculty member may receive.

  • Post-doctoral Associates

    Post-doctoral associates may be hired on research grants on a full-time or part-time basis.

  •  Professional and Technical Staff

    Other professionals such as technicians or programmers may be hired on a full or part-time basis.

  • Graduate Students

    Graduate students may be compensated for 100% of their effort from research grants. The compensation of graduate students on a research project must reflect an employer-employee relationship. Consequently, all payments are considered wages and are taxable income.

    Fellowships and Training Projects: as stipulated by the sponsor, stipends, tuition, and fees may be requested.

    NOTE:  NIH guidelines restrict payments to graduate students to an amount equal to the maximum amount allowed for a first-year postdoctoral employee at the same institution performing comparable work.

  • Undergraduate Students

    Undergraduate students may work on grants and are usually hired as bi-weekly employees. Undergraduate workloads are necessarily limited to less than 20 hours per week and effort is usually described in hours.

  • Administrative and Clerical Staff

    Administrative and Clerical Staff may be supported by sponsored projects but only under very limited circumstances. Ordinarily administrative support for grants is considered to be part of the F&A costs in the budget.

    If you intend to include clerical staff on your budget for a federal sponsor, one of the following reasons, or one similar in nature, must be included in your justification.  These examples are not exhaustive nor are they intended to imply that charging of administrative or clerical salaries would always be appropriate for the situations illustrated:

    • Large, complex programs, such as General Clinical Research Centers, primate centers, program projects, environmental research centers, engineering research centers, and other grants and contracts that entail assembling and managing teams of investigators from a number of institutions.

    Projects that involve extensive data accumulation, analysis and entry, surveying, tabulation, cataloging, searching literature, and reporting, such as epidemiological studies, clinical trials, and retrospective clinical records studies. 

    Projects that require making travel and meeting arrangements for large numbers of participants, such as conferences and seminars. 

    Projects where the principal focus is the preparation and production of manuals and large reports, books and monographs (excluding routine progress and technical reports).

    Projects that are geographically inaccessible to normal departmental administrative services, such as seagoing research vessels, radio astronomy projects, and other research field sites that are remote from the campus.

    Individual projects requiring significant amounts of project-specific database management; individualized graphics or manuscript preparation; human or animal protocol, IRB preparations and/or other project-specific regulatory protocols; and multiple project-related investigator coordination and communications.

  • Fringe Benefits

    Unless specifically called “stipends” by the sponsor (as in most fellowships), all salaries must be accompanied by fringe benefits, whether the individuals are working full or part time on the project.  The most current fringe benefit rates can be found here.  Please note that there are different rates for Research Foundation employees, State employees, graduate students, undergraduate students and summer only appointments. Carefully consider the time frame of the project. This will allow you to determine which fringe benefit rate to use. Do not undersell this value. When an award is made, the fringe benefit rates in place at the time the expenditure occurs will be assessed. So regardless of how you initially budget a project, the current rate will apply, therefore it is in your best interest to use the projected fringe rates.

 Other Than Personnel Costs 
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  • Equipment Costs

    The federal definition of Equipment is something with a useful life of at least one year or more and with a unit cost of $5,000 or more.  Items not meeting this definition are considered supplies. Some sponsors may have their own criteria for equipment which needs to be used. These cost are exempt from the MTDC base. Items with a lower cost, including computers, should be included in the materials and supplies budget line. If you have any questions, please contact your OSP representative.

  • Travel

    Conference and research travel are common aspects of many sponsored awards. Domestic and foreign travel should be listed as two line items, unless specified otherwise by the sponsor.  The purpose of the trips, the destinations, and number of travelers, number of trips and other costs should be discussed in the budget justification. The RF cannot reimburse above the Federal per diem rates unless there is acceptable written justification showing how the award benefits from this additional cost. 

     For example, if a conference is being hosted at a hotel and there is a published, negotiated conference rate (higher than the per diem), the RF can reimburse at the conference rate with documentation.

  • Participant Support Costs

    For programs relating to conferences, symposia, meetings, training activities or workshops, include costs of transportation, per diem, stipends and other related costs for participants or trainees. These costs are exempt from the MTDC base. 

  • Patient Care Costs

    Routine medical costs that would normally have taken place and are now within the scope of the research, i.e., x-rays, blood tests, EKG, travel costs associated with diagnostic testing, personnel cost for medical procedures (i.e, technician or nurse).  These costs are exempt from the MTDC base. Payments made to the Subject for study participation are not exempt from the MTDC base and should be budgeted under “Other”.

  • Alterations and Renovations

    Alterations and renovations required for project performance and having a cost of $15,000 or more per alteration or renovation are exempt from the MTDC base. 

  • Materials and Supplies

    The costs of materials or supplies needed for the project. Office supplies that are normally used in the general administrative support of a project should not be included in the budget. Office supplies that are used exclusively for project-specific activities may continue to be included in the budget. Succinct descriptions of not only the cost but what is necessary will ultimately make your efforts successful. 

  • Publication Costs

    Publication costs include the costs of printing, distribution, promotion, mailing, and general handling. Costs for typing, editing, graphics materials, tables, reprints, and other costs incurred prior to printing are not costs of publication and should be budgeted in other appropriate categories.

  • Consultants

    Consultant or lecturer fees, travel, and subsistence may generally be included in a budget, provided the particular sponsor doesn't disallow such charges. List the name and daily amount for each consultant.  Any travel for the consultant is listed in this category. Some federal sponsors have established daily rates. SBU faculty cannot be paid as consultants on a SBU proposal. They are considered collaborators.    Read more about consultants (independent contractors) 

  • Computer Services

    Costs of computer time and related support services, calculated according to an approved rate schedule for the facility concerned.

  • Subawards

    Costs for performance and completion of a designated portion of project objectives executed by an organization other than Stony Brook.  The total amount (direct and indirect costs) of the subcontractor budget are listed as direct costs on the Stony Brook budget. The amount is to be documented by the subcontractor's institutionally endorsed Subrecipient commitment form (provide link to form here), scope of work, and budget with justification. Additional resources on subawards can be found here .

  • Tuition

    Unless prohibited by sponsor policy, all proposals which include budget support for a graduate student must also budget tuition for each academic year.  The policy, rates, information and instructions can be found on The Graduate School website. These cost are exempt from the MTDC base.  

  • Other

    This category is used for items that are not suitable for any other category.  A detailed list should be included in the budget justification. Examples of "Other Direct Costs" which may be included in proposal budgets include:   photocopying, communication costs such as long-distance telephone and facsimiles, fees for shared resources, incentives for human subjects.