2/13/23 Virtual Office Hours Recap: How to Write a Great Budget

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) held its latest Virtual Office Hour on February 13, 2023. Program Officers were joined by representatives from the Division for Grants and Agreements where they discussed tips and tricks for writing a great budget. We host these office hours 1-2pm EST on the 2nd Monday of every month. There is a designated theme each time, but attendees are welcome to ask about other NSF-related topics. Program Officers (POs) from different research areas are present at each Virtual Office Hour, so a wide range of scientific perspectives are represented.

The presentation and other documents are available here:

Slides (PDF)

PAPPG 23-1 

If you were unable to attend, here are some of the questions asked during the Q & A section:

Is the level of detail in budget justifications a matter for institutional policy/practice? How closely  are budgets considered during the review process?

The budget justification should provide enough information in order to illustrate how the amount was determined as well as that the funds are considered necessary, reasonable, allocable, and allowable under the solicitation. The PAPPG is specific about trying to estimate costs for travel, and the grantees and PIs must adhere to travel policies as written and specific to the institution, as well as federal policy.  Please remember that the closer the estimate, the better the program can plan to fund your costs if your proposal is recommended. Budgets are reviewed as part of the review process especially if funds are allocated for international collaboration.

Does the NSF offer any additional training for small institutions for how to manage budgets if the institution does not have a defined Sponsored Research Office?

There are resources available on the Office of Budget, Finance and Award Management website including the Prospective New Awardee Guide as well as the PAPPG to provide you with additional guidance. There are training, tools, and resources sections and webinars where we provide information on managing your award  step by step to understand what is expected of the grantee. Additionally, the Division of Grants and Agreements partners with NSF Cost Analysis and Pre-Award Branch where they will provide business assistant visits to check suitability and provide feedback on policies and procedures.

Is it possible to request more than two months of support to be able to buy out some teaching?

This is an institutional call to determine if the support is needed to ensure that the PI has enough time and resources to complete the project aims.

Is there a particular form for the budget justification? I have been looking online in the NSF Document Library, but I haven’t found anything.

There is no form for the budget justification.

In the Mid-Career Advancement (MCA) program (NSF 22-603), the solicitation allows for up to $100K in direct, non-salary costs to support the PI’s project. It also allows subawards. Normally, the subaward’s indirect costs are considered part of the lead institution’s direct cost. For the NSF MCA solicitation, should subaward indirect costs be excluded when calculating that $100K direct cost cap?

This would depend on the grantee’s current written negotiated indirect cost rate agreement (NICRA). Reach out to your Sponsored Research Office to find out.

For Participant Support Costs, do we put the field study and transportation under Participants Support Costs? And if the proposal includes field trips to museums and chaperones/project director need to attend, where do we put the faculty chaperone’s entrance fee or per diem?

This category can be a challenge to characterize because grantees describe and define things differently. Take a look at the PAPPG: (v) Participant Support (Line F on the Proposal Budget).

This budget category refers to direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with NSF-sponsored conferences or training projects. (See also Chapter II.F.7.) Speakers and trainers generally are not considered participants and should not be included in this section of the budget. However, if the primary purpose of the individual’s attendance at the conference is learning and receiving training as a participant, then the costs may be included under participant support. If the primary purpose is to speak or assist with management of the conference, then such costs should be budgeted in appropriate categories other than participant support. 

Field study costs and transportation costs will probably be placed and described under G6 other, travel (if applicable).  Chaperones will probably be under G6 because technically they are not participants, but other types of temporary employees.  The organization should follow established procedures on how these costs can be added to the budget appropriately.

Can you explain what the Participant Support Costs stipend consists of? If we give participants money to cover their travel expenses, will that be a stipend? If we pay for their travel expenses, will that just be under Other Participant Support Costs?

Each institution should have internal policies and procedures as it relates to this cost category. Please follow the internal policies when preparing the budget.

Please reach out to a PO if you have any questions about the proposal submission and review process in DEB programs. NSF has suggested 5 tips on working with Program Officers as part of the NSF 101 series on our Science Matters blog.

Check out the upcoming office hour topics below and be sure to check back here or on the NSF Events Page for information on how to register. Our next virtual office hour will be held March 13, 2023, from 1-2pm Eastern Time where we will be discussing the new Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) and how it shapes funding opportunities.

Upcoming Office Hours and Topics:                   

March 13: PAPPG: Cracking the code – Understanding NSF policies and procedures that shape your funding opportunities

April 10: Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUI)

May 8: CAREER Solicitation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s