Some terms have very specific meanings in the context of a proposal budget, and often these meanings are different from their definitions in common speech. Below, we have defined common terms as they are used in the context of sponsored award budgeting.
This is an explanation of the factors used to determine the costs of each proposal budget line item. The primary purpose of a justification is to provide support for the funds requested to ensure adequate funding from the sponsor. If there are no forms or specific instructions included in the sponsor's guidelines, the justification should include a detailed explanation for each budget category.
Some sponsors request a letter of support or a letter of commitment from individuals or institutions that will be sharing costs, serving as consultants or participants or collaborating on a sponsored award. Commitment/intent letters should list the proposal/project title, sponsor name and all partners or collaborators involved in the proposed project, provide a clear statement of the roles and responsibilities to which the collaborator is committing and include their hourly/daily rate, travel costs or project costs and any other required or pertinent information.
A consultant is identified as a person who has a particular skill or a particular profession who is not an employee of SCRF or USC and whose expertise is necessary for the performance of the proposed project. Consultants are not subject to all project compliance so USC's awarded terms and conditions will need to be vetted to determine what flows down to the individual consultant. Some federal sponsors have limits on daily rates that can be charged by consultants.
Cost sharing or cost match are funds which are contributed to the project by an applicant or another party. These funds may also be contributed to the project in order to accomplish the stated goals (i.e. the funding limit by the sponsor is not sufficient to accomplish the goals). Sponsors will indicate in their guidelines if cost share is required, prohibited, and what may or may not be used as cost share. Cost share should not be contributed if it is not a stated requirement of the sponsor.
Equipment is typically defined as any item with an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit, and a useful life of more than one year. However, there may be agreement and/or sponsor variations in the definition that have to be addressed and followed.
Fringe benefits are expenses directly associated with employment, including workers compensation, Social Security, health insurance, retirement benefits, etc. Fringe benefits must be included for each individual with salary listed as project personnel in a sponsored award budget. USC does not have a negotiated fringe rate, but instead uses the actual costs paid for the expenses listed in the previous sentence. It is important to charge an appropriate level of fringe benefits for each employee included in a sponsored award proposal. Graduate students working on a project should receive worker's compensation fringe benefits if they are working while enrolled in classes. For a listing of current fringe benefits rates for all employee/student types, please see the fringe benefits page of our website.
A graduate assistant is a graduate student who has a personnel appointment as a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA), is currently enrolled in one or more courses and works on a sponsored award at least 10 but no more than 20 hours per week. In a sponsored award budget, a GRA should be assigned a salary, appropriate fringe benefits and tuition. If a graduate research assistant is not enrolled in a course while working on a sponsored project, he or she must be paid as a temporary employee (salary and fringe benefits).
These are expenses essential to the conduct of sponsored research activities that cannot be readily attributed and directly charged to specific individual projects. Costs like utilities, administrative personnel costs, office supplies and laboratory maintenance are examples of indirect costs. These costs and others are used in the negotiation of USC's indirect cost rate. The University of South Carolina has a federally negotiated rate with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Different rates are applied to different types of sponsored project activities; for a listing of these rates, visit the Facilities & Administrative Costs page.
The other direct costs (or other costs) category includes those miscellaneous costs that are not appropriate to include in other cost categories (personnel, travel, equipment or participant support costs. Examples include animal per diem costs (the cost of animals should be listed as a supply), human subject honoraria, publication charges, subawards, consultants, fees, computer time, maintenance and other service agreements/charges, patient care costs, space rental, alterations or renovations, equipment rental, etc.
Participant support costs are those costs paid to (or on behalf of) participants in meetings, conferences, symposia, training activities, workshops and similar events. A participant is any person—students, visiting scholars, private sector representatives, etc.—not employed by the university who participate in a sponsored project event. Participants perform no work and provide no service as part of the project, and are not required to provide any deliverable. Participant support costs can include direct costs for items such as stipends, subsistence allowances, travel and/or registration fees paid to participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with a sponsored project's meetings, conferences, symposia or training projects. No indirect costs should be charged to this line item in the budget.
In a sponsored award proposal budget, personnel are any individuals, including faculty, staff, graduate assistants or postdoctoral scholars who are employees of USC (temporary or permanent) who will receive salary and fringe benefits from the sponsored award.
USC has been granted an exemption to the South Carolina Consolidated Procurement Code for procuring grant-specified and approved contractual services, major equipment, subcontracts/subawards and consultant services. To take advantage of this exemption on a sponsored award, researchers must complete a Procurement Exemption Certification form for each vendor when developing a proposal.
When another institution or organization (rather than an individual) is paid by USC to conduct a significant portion of a sponsored award project, it is known as a subrecipient or subcontractor, and the legal agreement is known as a subaward or subcontract. The subrecipient faculty member will collaborate with USC's investigator to contribute to the scholarly or scientific conduct of the project and the subrecipient's effort requires judgment, unique expertise and original thought. The subrecipient does not provide identical services to others as its primary business. Subrecipients must adhere to applicable federal compliance requirements, so USC's conditions of the award are flowed down to the subrecipient and will be part of the subaward agreement.
In federal sponsored award terms, project-specific supplies and materials are expendable items with a unit cost less than $5,000. Typically the cost of a computer/laptop should be included under the Supplies section of the budget. Please note that office supplies are generally not allowed as direct costs in federal sponsored awards. (They are incorporated into the calculations performed by US DHHS when USC's indirect cost rate is negotiated every four years.)
Domestic or foreign travel costs associated with a sponsored project can generally be included in the proposal budgets. Sponsor regulations may differ from university travel policy, and when that happens, USC's travel policy [pdf] takes precedence. Refer to the sponsor guidelines to determine how travel is to be presented in the proposal. Generally it is recorded as a line item within the budget with details provided in the budget justification.
Tuition is included in a sponsored award proposal budget when one or more graduate assistants will have an appointment as a Graduate Research Assistant on the project. Graduate assistants who will work on a sponsored award project should receive salary, fringe benefits and tuition assistance as part of the award budget per USC policy [pdf] [pdf].
The University of South Carolina Electronic Research Administration system, known as USCeRA, is USC’s central research administration software system. Researchers use USCeRA to create electronic grant proposals and route proposals and budgets for approval by the Chair, Dean and SAM. Faculty may alsomaintain their academic and research profiles in this system.