Effort and Compensation on Sponsored Projects


In the past few years, the federal government has been paying more attention to how faculty spend their time when they are being paid from grants. Audits have been conducted at several institutions and substantial penalties have been imposed for unallowable salary transactions. As a condition of receiving sponsored grants and contracts, the university must assure our sponsors that:

  • Work on a sponsored project justifies the salary charged to that project.
  • Actual time spent on the project is consistent with what we originally proposed.

To conform to federal uniform guidance and audit findings, we must align payroll records on sponsored projects with the time period in which the work is performed, and apply a consistent definition of base salary when charging salary to grants and contracts.

View the Policy in the Campus Administrative Manual

Key Components

A key requirement of the policy is that payroll records (for those paid on sponsored funds) must reflect the effort actually spent on sponsored projects during the pay period. Faculty and research staff salary that is paid from sponsored projects should correspond to work that they do, during the period that they actually do it.

The definition of Institutional Base Salary includes academic year salary and academic year professorship stipends, but not administrative stipends. As required by federal uniform guidance, the principles of IBS apply to the calculation of summer salary for all employees, regardless of the source of funds.

Most researchers participate in activities that are not allowed to be charged to sponsored funds1. To address this, a faculty or staff member shall not charge more than 95% of his/her university effort to sponsored projects during any given appointment period2. This policy requires accurate accounting and distribution of effort funded by sponsored projects and will mitigate the risk of financial penalties in the future.

The principal investigator continues to be responsible for confirming that reporting on actual sponsored effort for his/her research team is accurate.

1Unallowable activities in this context include general administrative work, proposal development, committee service, teaching, and teaching preparation.
2Research staff may in some cases be appointed 100% if their positions are narrowly defined and do not include unallowable activities.

Peer Institutions

Other universities have implemented similar policies to achieve these goals, for example: