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Budget Development

Types of Costs

Budgets generally include two basic categories of costs:

Direct Costs

Costs identified specifically with the sponsored project or that can be relatively easily assigned to it with a high degree of accuracy (e.g.,  salaries, fringe benefits, consultants, equipment, materials and supplies, and travel.) For more about expenses that require special attention in federally sponsored research, visit the ASRSP website.

  • Graduate Student Rates: Rates to be used for Northwestern graduate students on sponsored research project budgets.

Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs

Costs incurred for common or joint objectives and not readily or specifically identified with a particular sponsored project, or any other institutional activity (e.g., building and equipment depreciation, operations and maintenance, costs of University’s libraries, and general supplies.) For more information, refer to Facilities and Administrative Rates and Use of On-campus vs. Off-campus F&A Rates.

Items to Consider When Developing a Budget


Sponsors may impose limitations on a project budget’s total costs (such as a total funds-per-year ceiling), the direct costs (such as a salary cap or maximum travel costs) or the F&A costs.  The solicitation and sponsor guidelines as well as university policies should be reviewed with regard to those limitations.

Unobligated Balances

The unobligated balance is that portion of the funds authorized by the sponsor for expenditure under a Notice of Award (NoA) that has not been obligated by the end of a budget period.

Budgeting for Data Management and Sharing

If you are submitting an application for funding to NIH that requires a Data Management and Sharing (DMS) Plan, data sharing related costs may be requested. Use the NIH Budgeting for Data Management and Sharing Resources to help develop your budget and budget justification.