Preparing a Full Proposal: Budget Request and Justification

This is one in a series of blog entries with tips for preparing a full proposal for the upcoming August 5, 2016 deadline for the IOS core programs track. It is not intended to be a complete set of instructions, rather to provide some tips about common issues and useful additional information. Please consult the current Grant Proposal Guide and the current IOS Core Programs solicitation (NSF 16-505) for complete instructions. As always, if you have questions contact your friendly program director!

Many PIs are surprised to find out that the IOS solicitation does not specify a limit for the budget request. The expectation is that PIs should request what they need to do the research without padding the budget or undercutting their ability to complete the project.  All reviewers are active scientists and have a good sense of what things should cost, so may comment on overly padded or underfunded budgets. Program Directors can also distinguish a reasonable request from an inflated one. The philosophy in the Directorate for Biological Sciences for core/investigator-driven programs is to fund the full cost of the work whenever possible, but the expectation is that the budget request will be appropriate.

The goal of the budget justification is to provide a rationale for the itemized expenses in the budget. There is not a budget justification form; the PIs should create a document that is organized to reflect the sections that are on the budget pages. For example, section A on the budget page is Senior Personnel and so this should be the first section of the budget justification. Someone should be able to read the budget justification, match it to the cumulative budget, and understand the rationale for each part of the request.

This is especially important for section G if line 6 is marked “Other.” Universities often put graduate student tuition in section G, which is fine, but Principal Investigators sometimes describe graduate student-related expenses in earlier parts of the justification where they talk about graduate students, which is not ideal. Instead, PIs should include this information in the budget justification in a section reflecting section G of the budget pages. When PIs follow the budget page categories in their justification, it helps the reviewers, Program Directors, and staff at the NSF’s Division of Grants and Agreements to issue the awards that are made.

Read the next post in this series…

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  1. Pingback: Preparing a Full Proposal: Proposal Classification Form | IOS in Focus

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