Salaries and wages

In general, the largest portion of the proposed budget will be allocated to salaries and fringe benefits, so it is important to understand how to present this information and to ensure that the numbers are correct. 

The first step is to determine how much effort of various types of employees will be required to complete the project. The budget justification should describe what each employee will be doing on the project. These decisions have implications downstream because proposed effort becomes committed effort which becomes certified effort.

Next, determine how the sponsors require effort to be presented in the budget. Typically this is either in months or percentages. Some funding mechanisms require effort to be presented in hours or daily rates. Because Duke employees are paid either monthly or on a by weekly basis these two approaches are difficult to impossible to address.

After determining the amount of effort needed, the next step is to collect the Institutional Base Salary (IBS) of all project employees.(Employee Salary Request Form)The IBS is the of salary paid to an employee for 100% of the employee’s University Effort: research, instruction, administration, etc.

                                    IBS X % = Requested Salary

PI/PDs, Co-PIs and Key Senior Personnel (faculty members) are almost always identified by name in the budget. Postdocs, Professional/technical staff, students and staff generally are not and can be identified as To Be Determined (TBD). In these cases the budget should include appropriate estimates based on Duke’s established salary ranges as published Human Resources .

Only Duke employees and TBDs may appear in the Salary and Wages section of the proposed budget with the proposed compensation and fringe benefits. Non-Duke personnel may appear in the budgets as consultants, recipients of honoraria, participant support or as a subcontracting entity with a separate budget.

Duke personnel can be included in budgets with effort and zero dollars. This is referred to as Voluntary Committed Cost-Sharing and requires further reviews and approvals. Some sponsors like the NSF prohibit the inclusion of VCCS.

Faculty members

Faculty members may request 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. Summer salary supplements may be paid for work performed in May, June, July, and August.

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. However, a faculty member can have several active submissions that include effort above 100% because many submissions are not funded. If the awards come in, then the faculty member will need to negotiate his effort levels with the sponsors.

NOTE: Some agencies place restrictions on the amount of faculty time they will support during a given year or establish caps on the amount of salary they will cover. For example, generally, NSF will only support two months of effort across all the PI’s grants whereas NIH caps the total salary that they will support.

Post-doctoral associates

Post-doctoral associates may be hired on research grants on a full-time or part-time basis. NIH publishes set rates based on years of experience that are useful for building not only NIH budgets but also budgets for other sponsors as well.

Professional and technical staff

Other professionals such as technicians or programmers may be hired on a full or part-time basis. Technical staff are employees who are providing support functions that are integral to the operations of the lab or directly related to the sponsored project. Examples of support functions include but are not limited to managing lab animals, developing and maintaining protocols for human or animal research, collecting, managing, and securing project specific data, and coordinating research subjects and incentives.

Graduate students

Graduate students may be compensated for up to 100% of their effort from research grants. Graduate student workloads are limited to less than 20 hours per week and effort is usually described in hours. When graduate students work on sponsored research projects they are considered employees of the University. Consequently, all payments are considered wages and are taxable income. Associated Tuition remission costs must be included in the budget using the Graduate School’s Average Rate Basis calculation.

Often students may be included on Fellowships and Training proposals. Many of these types of mechanisms include: sponsor stipulations to allow other costs associated with the student such as, stipends, tuition, and fees.

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 research projects but only under special circumstances. Ordinarily administrative support for grants is considered to be part of the F&A costs in the budget.

Federal regulations state that clerical and administrative salaries should normally be treated as an indirect cost; however it may be appropriate to charge them as direct costs if certain general criteria are met. To qualify the costs must be

  • Integral to the project or activity,
  • Individuals must be specifically identified with the project or activity,
  • Explicitly included in the proposed budget or have the prior approval of the sponsoring agency,
  • Not also recovered as indirect costs.

These requirements do not apply to salaries for technical personnel, graduate students, postdoctoral associates or senior programmatic personnel.