Budget Justification

A budget justification is a narrative that explains how the PI plans to spend grant funds. Not all sponsors require one; guidelines specify whether one is needed. Typically, they are organized using the same categories used in the sponsor’s budget form and include enough detail to enable the sponsor to determine how the budget amounts were derived.

Some sponsors, such as NSF and NIH, have specific requirements.

NSF expects dollar amounts and wants to know how you derived them and why each line item is needed for the project. Explain the source of each cost (your annual base salary, number of months, the percentage of annual increments, the fringe rate, the College’s F&A rate, the basis for travel and conference estimates, the basis for daily subsistence rates, etc.). Lab supplies needn’t be itemized exhaustively; they can be listed by category (e.g., “consumables”).  Do not include anything that could be construed as “implied cost share.” Avoid saying, for example, that the PI or the College will provide time, materials, students, funding, transportation, or any other project need that would normally be charged to the grant. Put any wording of this kind into the Facilities and Other Resources section.

NIH divides budget justification into three categories:

  • Personnel Justification: NIH cares only about the effort you will devote to the project and how much of this effort you want to be paid for. Do not include dollar amounts, or pay or fringe rates. List the person-months you plan to devote, both overall (total effort) and the portion for which you want to be paid (salary requested effort). You are allowed to include effort (such as your academic-year effort and student work for credit) that will not be paid from the grant.
  • Additional Narrative Justification: List everything else: equipment, supplies, travel, services, etc. If you are requesting a different number of modules in some budget years, explain the discrepancy in the Additional Narrative Justification.
  • Consortium Justification: Use only if you are applying as part of a consortium and a subaward is involved.

Unlike NSF, NIH doesn't absolutely prohibit implied cost share, but this is changing. Avoid such wording in the Budget Justification; instead, put it in the Facilities and Other Resources section.