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Participant Support Costs

The university policy defines participant support costs and provides guidance for their use in sponsored programs.

Some extramural sponsors of research projects include a category in their budget forms called participant support costs. Briefly, it refers to transportation, per diem, stipends, and other related direct costs for participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences, meetings, symposia, training activities, and workshops.

participant is defined as the recipient, not the provider, of a service or training associated with a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information-sharing activity.  Participants may include students, scholars, and scientists from other institutions, individuals from the private sector, teachers and state or local government personnel. Employees are not eligible to receive participant support.

Program participants are individuals receiving service or training at a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium, or other short-term instructional or information-sharing activity funded by an external grant or award or externally funded project or program participants who benefit from the training. Participants perform no work or services for the project or program other than for their own benefit. They are not involved in providing any deliverable to the university or a third party and will not be terminated or replaced for failure to perform. Georgia Southern employees may not be participants on sponsored projects.

Participant payments are small, non-compensatory stipends and possibly reimbursement of travel costs or other out-of-pocket costs incurred while attending a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium, or other short-term training or information-sharing activity. Participant expenses may be paid directly, or the individual may be reimbursed.

Participant support costs:

  • are identified specifically on National Science Foundation (NSF) awards.
  • are awarded by other sponsors (but not necessarily referred to as “participant support costs”) and tend to be by program
  • are often subject to special sponsor regulations
    • do not allow re-budgeting from the participant support cost category into other categories without prior sponsor approval.
    • may be exempt from facilities and administrative (F&A) costs.
    • require the university to return any unexpended participant support costs to the sponsor.
    • are associated with special programs that provide research experience for participants, such as Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) on National Science Foundation grants. Additional sponsor regulations:
      • do not allow participant support costs to be budgeted on REU and RET sub budgets to be spent on non-participant activities.

Per the Uniform Guidance, participant support costs (PSC) are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees in connection with conferences or training projects.  Sponsor approval must be obtained before incurring participant support costs on sponsored awards.  

F&A on participant support costs

The Uniform Guidance states that participant support costs are exempt from F&A on federally sponsored projects. For Non-Federal awards, sponsor-specific and/or award-specific guidelines should be reviewed at the time of proposal to determine if F&A is allowable.  

Unallowable Costs The intent of participant support is solely to provide financial assistance for participants to attend conferences and training. Unallowable costs include honoraria for guest speakers, expenses for the PI, project staff or collaborators to attend, and payments made to research subjects as an incentive for recruitment or participation in a research project. Costs for hosting the conference or training should be budgeted and charged to the parent budget. Some sponsors permit per diem for meals as participant support.

Last updated: 8/24/2021