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Budget and manage effort commitments

Need assistance with effort commitments?

As a recipient of external funding, Duke is expected to assign sponsored effort and associated salary and fringe benefit costs to projects in a fair, consistent, accurate, and timely manner. 

When individuals perform a Key role on a sponsored project, their effort commitments must be monitored and maintained to ensure commitments are met and the effort is adequate to complete the scope of work. 

Effort of faculty and research staff must be charged to sponsored projects commensurate with the committed effort expended. Short term (one or two months) fluctuation between activities and projects is appropriate as long as the allocation of effort is:

  1. A reasonable approximation of the activity actually performed; and
  2. The distribution of salaries and wages is reasonable over the longer term (generally over an annual effort reporting period)

Because teaching, research, service, and administrative activities of faculty are often inextricably mingled in an academic setting, precise measurements of effort are not feasible or expected.

At the pre-award stage

Effort commitments and the “Key Person” role are first assigned within an application at the pre-award stage. The Key Person's effort commitment indicated in the application budget is considered a minimum commitment necessary to complete the proposed project aims. Effort commitment levels are described in the project budget in person months (calendar or academic).

If effort commitments of a Key Person are modified or adjusted prior to receipt of the award (at  JIT, or Just-in-Time) or during the course of the project (with prior sponsor approval, if required), this modified effort commitment becomes the new minimum effort commitment. 

At the post-award stage

Managing effort commitments is a major consideration in award management.  While the Principal Investigator (PI) is ultimately responsible for determining who should be compensated from their project(s), at what level and for how long, the grants administrator guides this process from initial award through closeout ensuring that effort is charged appropriately and timely, effort levels are consistent with the award, and any adjustments are made timely and in accordance with Duke and sponsor policy (requesting prior approval, if required). 
Establishing effort at the start of a new project 

Effort (either direct-charged or cost-shared) must reflect actual time spent on a project, whether internally or externally funded.  As soon as project work is commenced, effort must be allocated to that project, either by charging to an established WBSE (if the award has already been received) or by setting up a code in advance (if the award is not yet received). 

Adjusting effort during the course of the project 

Any time effort of project personnel is being adjusted during the course of the project, consult the sponsor guidelines and the terms & conditions of the award to determine if sponsor prior approval is necessary. 

Per Uniform Guidance § 200.308, some examples of prior approval requirements include: 

  1. A 25% or greater reduction of time devoted to the project by the approved project director (PD) or principal investigator (PI) or other named Key Personnel
  2. Any change (addition or removal) in a Key Person specified in the application or the Federal award
  3. Disengagement of PD/PI for 3 months or more (this includes leaves of absence, sabbatical, flexible work arrangements (FWA), or any outside appointment that reduces the investigator’s total available time at Duke to conduct research) 
  4. Reducing the investigator’s Duke Appointment % thereby reducing the total available time at Duke to conduct research 

When requesting sponsor prior approval:

  1. Address the scientific impact of any effort reduction or disengagement on the project; and
  2. (for School of Medicine/School of Nursing only) Submit the request to the Office of Research Administration (ORA) using the Submit a Request feature (MNMC Admin Action) in the top right menu bar in myRESEARCHhome.
Ensuring investigators have adequate time to commit to research

Faculty investigators have a maximum of 12.00 calendar months (or less if the faculty's Duke Appointment % is less than 100%) for all activities associated with their role at Duke (including research); however, effort on research may not exceed 11.4 calendar months annually (or 10.80 calendar months if the investigator has a significant academic administrative role). 

Individuals are expected to commit (and charge – either direct or cost-shared) some level of measurable effort on sponsored projects (both externally and internally funded) on which they are listed as a principal investigator (PI) or key personnel with the exception of equipment and instrumentation grants, doctoral dissertation grants, student supplement grants, and institutional/individual training grants (for faculty mentors).   

It is important to Duke Appointment and any outside activities/appointments into consideration when determining whether effort commitments are adequate and able to be met, especially if the sponsor requires a certain minimum effort level commitment (e.g., NIH K award mechanism). 

Effort requirements

To ensure that the effort of project personnel is appropriate and compliant, consult the sponsor guidelines and the terms and conditions of the specific award. Below is additional guidance related to effort requirements:
Minimum effort

Sponsor minimum effort requirements

Certain externally-sponsored awards have terms and conditions that require the investigator to maintain a minimum effort level (for example, NIH Research Career Development “K” awards or NIH NCI-Funded Awards). The minimum effort must be calculated based on the total professional activities (12 calendar months), not just the Duke available time.

  • Minimum effort requirements described in the Funding Opportunity Announcement, Sponsor Policy, and/or Notice of Award must be followed or prior approval obtained for reducing the minimum effort requirement.
  • When determining whether there is sufficient time available to meet the minimum effort requirement, the Protected Time for Non-Sponsored Activities must also be considered.
  • For more information on minimum effort requirements related to NIH K award mechanisms, access guidance on complying with NIH K award requirements.

School of Medicine (SOM) minimum effort requirements

The School of Medicine requires all individuals who are identified as Key Personnel in sponsored projects to maintain measurable and reportable levels of effort commensurate with the role and responsibilities associated with the sponsored project. This policy applies to all sponsored projects, which are separately budgeted and accounted for, without regard to sponsor type or whether the project is internally or externally funded.

Maximum effort

All faculty engaged on sponsored projects must have and maintain protected time for non-sponsored activities, which may include time for teaching, proposal writing/preparation, service in an academic leadership role such as departmental chair/division head/director, service on university committees, mentoring, developing scholarly publications, and other administrative duties.

Access the Maximum Effort Funding on Sponsored Projects policy for guidelines, exceptions, and additional information. 

School of Medicine (SOM) maximum effort requirements

Faculty protected time must be commensurate with the level of effort required to fulfill professional responsibilities, but not less than:

  • 1.2 person months for those individuals with a formal academic administrative role
  • 0.6 person months for all other individuals

Campus Schools and Provost Area maximum effort requirements

Over the four months, faculty may receive no more than two and a half ninths (2.5 effort months) from federal sources, including federal flow-through projects. Faculty may receive the remaining one-half ninth from institutional or non-federal funds.

Commitment overlap

Commitment overlap occurs when an individual's effort commitments exceed the number of person months available in the individual's Duke appointment, whether or not salary support is requested. Any commitment overlap must be disclosed in an overlap statement in the Other Support or Current & Pending document and be resolved in conjunction with ORA/ORS, the PI, and Sponsor officials before work is commenced on the project.

The overlap statement helps Sponsor officials identify and resolve potential overlap (scientific, budgetary, or commitment). Identifying and resolving overlap ensures: 

  • Sufficient and appropriate effort is committed to project; 
  • There is no duplication of funding for scientific aims, specific budgetary items, or an individual's effort; 
  • Only funds necessary for the conduct of the project are included in the award 

 

Overlap Statement Examples 

When role on the project to be reduced is Sponsor Key (on project # U01-AR052186, in this example): 

If the proposal under consideration is funded, Dr. Teach will request Sponsor approval to reduce his effort from 1.8 to 0.6 calendar months on U01-AR052186. 

 

When role on the project to be reduced is a Key Person (on project # R01-NR010777, in this example): 

If the proposal under consideration is funded, Dr. Teach will reduce his effort from 2.4 to 1.2 calendar months on R01-NR010777. 

 

When roles on projects expire before new effort on proposal under consideration will begin: 

There will not be commitment overlap since R01-AG020162 and R01-CA076016 will both end August 31, 2023 and the pending project would not begin until December 1, 2023. 

Unacceptable practices 

  • Reducing effort just below the threshold (for example, 24.9%) to avoid seeking sponsor prior approval 

  • Rotating charges among sponsored projects or activities without establishing that the rotation schedule reflects the actual benefit to each sponsored project or activity 

  • Allocating effort based only on available sponsored funds, budgets, or to avoid restrictions imposed by law, terms of the sponsored award, or for other reasons of convenience 

  • Charging effort exclusively to sponsored projects when effort supports non-sponsored activities 

  • Assigning effort to sponsored projects or activities in advance of the benefit to the project 

Special considerations

Rebudgeting

When a rebudget is necessary, it is important to review the effort of all Key Personnel to ensure effort commitments remain compliant with the rebudgeted project. 

No Cost Extensions (NCE)

All award terms and conditions and effort commitments remain in effect during a No Cost Extension (NCE) period. If it will require less effort of Key Personnel to continue project activities during the NCE period, effort commitments may be reduced (subject to sponsor prior approval, if applicable).

For School of Medicine (SOM) investigators, measurable effort must be maintained according to the SOM Measurable Effort on Sponsored Projects policy. Access associated guidance to the policy:

12 month appointments in the Duke Appointment Model

Effective July 1, 2022, Duke University School of Medicine and School of Nursing (SOM/SON) transitioned to a Faculty Appointment Model which represents a faculty member’s appointment as a percent of 12 calendar months. 

SOM/SON Faculty will have 100% appointments unless they also have additional professional effort that includes: outside clinical obligations (PDC), VA Appointments, formally approved Flexible Work arrangements, direct-paid DKU Appointments, direct-paid NUS Appointments, or other reduced schedules.

Access guidance and resources about the Duke Appointment Model.

Nine month appointments and summer supplements

Faculty members (with the exception of SOM/SON) on nine-month appointments may receive summer supplements through the Duke payroll system up to a maximum of three-ninths (3/9ths) of their base salary rate for the immediately preceding academic year. Summer supplements may come from a variety of sources (including University and non-federal) and may be paid over the span of the four months designated as outside of the academic year (as summer supplements are calculated for the fiscal year, rather than the calendar year the payments will be for: July, August, May and June).

However, if faculty receive summer supplements as a result of effort expended on federally-sponsored projects, the supplements must be booked and paid under the following conditions:

  1. For any one month, faculty may charge no more than 75% of their effort to federal grants and contracts, including federal flow-through dollars. The distribution of pay should reflect the effort expended.
  2. Over the four months, faculty may receive no more than two and a half ninths (2.5 effort months) from federal sources, including federal flow-through projects. Faculty may receive the remaining one-half ninth from institutional or non-federal funds.

Access the guidance over for nine month appointments and summer supplements for exceptions, implications, and additional information.