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Federally sponsored budgets

Need assistance with federally sponsored budgets?

When developing the budget and budget justification for a federally sponsored proposal, investigators and grants and contracts administrators should work together on two key aspects. First, ensure that all costs to conduct the research are included, and secondary, comply with any limitations or restrictions for the specific funding opportunity.

Budget and cost considerations

Access the Develop the budget and justification page for the various types of costs that should be included in a proposal for funding.

Direct costs

Direct costs are costs that can be identified as pertaining specifically to a particular sponsored project, or that can be directly assigned to such activity easily with a high degree of accuracy. These include, but are not limited to: salaries and fringe benefits, travel, supplies specific to project completion, equipment, consultants, patient care costs or participant support, and subrecipients. Use the "Related Resources" on this page for specific policies and guidance for incorporating direct costs into your budget.

Indirect costs

Indirect costs (also called facilities and administrative or F&A) are costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives, and therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or another institutional activity. Utilize the "Related Resources" on this page for specific policies and guidance for incorporating indirect costs into your budget.

Other uncovered costs

Along with identifying what costs the grant will cover, it is sometimes even more important to identify in advance the costs NOT covered by the grant, and to ensure that appropriate funding is lined up in advance to cover those should the grant be awarded. Examples of uncovered costs include but are not limited to:

  • Unallowable fringe
  • Unallowable tuition remission
  • Uncovered stipend and tuition
  • 100% effort requirements with insufficient funding 

Refer to the funding opportunity announcement for uncovered costs specific to that mechanism. 


Types of budgets

Two types of budgets will generally be used when preparing an application budget for submission:

  • Detailed budget - A detailed budget is the most common type of budget when submitting to federal, state, or private/non-profit organizations. This requires line-by-line budget information for salary / fringe, supplies, travel, publication costs, subaward / consultant costs, etc.
  • Modular budget - A modular budget is an NIH specific budget that is required for new, competing continuation (also known as renewal), resubmission (also known as amended), and competing supplements (also known as revisions) that request up to a total of $250,000 in direct costs (less consortium F&A) for select funding mechanisms. Duke requires a high level detailed budget in SPS for modular submissions.

Refer to the specific funding opportunity to which you are applying to determine which type of budget is required for your application.


Budget justifications

The budget justification is a detailed explanation of the budget in narrative form. The justification needs to carefully justify all expenses that are included in the budget to show that each item is necessary for the successful completion of the project. Investigators, grants and contracts administrators, and research team members that may implement the project should work together to develop the budget justification.

Important considerations:

  • Refer to the funding opportunity announcement for any budgetary restrictions or requirements
  • Ensure that cost descriptions are accurate and that the justification complies with all restrictions and requirements 
  • Relate each cost item back to the scope of work for the proposed project
  • Ensures that the budget justification matches the budget.

Access sample budget justifications. Budget justification templates for various federal funding agencies and mechanisms can be found within the toolkits on the following pages: