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Glossary of Terms

Academic Year Salary

Academic year salaries are based on the individual faculty member’s regular compensation for the continuous period which, under university policies, constitutes the basis of his/her salary. For more information see Base Salaries and Summer Salaries.

Allowable Costs

Most sponsors put restrictions on what can be purchased with grant funds. These vary from grant to grant and there are significant differences between requirements of federal and non-federal sponsors. Research Services will review award documents with you to determine what is allowed on your grant.


A formal examination of an organization or individual’s accounts or financial situation. An audit also may include examination of compliance with applicable terms, laws, and regulations.


Funds that have been obligated by a funding agency for a particular project either as a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement.

Base Salary

The annual compensation which pays for an employee’s appointment, whether that individual’s time is spent on research, teaching, or other activities. Base salary excludes any income an individual may be permitted to earn outside of duties under the university.


A categorical listing of anticipated project expenses. It represents the principal investigator’s best estimate of the funding needed to support the proposed project.

Budget Justification/Budget Narrative

A written description of the cost estimation methods used to prepare a project budget, including an explanation of the individual expenses that comprise a larger budget category.

Consortium Agreement

A formalized agreement whereby a research project is carried out by the grantee and one or more other organizations that are separate legal entities.


An individual who provides professional advice or services for a fee, but normally not as an employee of the engaging party. If the need for consultant services is anticipated, the proposal narrative should provide appropriate rationale, and the summary proposal budget should estimate the amount of funds that may be required for this purpose. Costs of professional and consultant services rendered by persons who are members of a particular profession or possess a special skill and who are not officers or employees of the university are allowable when reasonable in relation to the services rendered. However, payment for a consultant’s services may not exceed the daily equivalent of the current maximum rate.


It serves as a procurement mechanism to acquire property or services for direct benefit or use of the sponsor.

Cooperative Agreement

Purpose is to transfer funds to recipient to accomplish a public purpose. The idea may originate with the recipient. Substantial involvement between the sponsor and recipient is anticipated. Examples include research, service to public, evaluation, training, and curriculum development.

Cost Sharing

A portion of the total project or program expenses contributed by someone other than the primary sponsor. Cost sharing can be either in-kind or cash.

Cost Transfers

Costs appropriate and allowable on a particular federally sponsored agreement may not be transferred to other sponsored agreements to cover cost overruns or to avoid restrictions either of the law or the terms of the agreement. Costs for an impending grant should not be “parked” on an existing grant until the new grant is received. Cost transfers occurring in the 90 days after the grant has ended but before submission of the final financial report are particularly suspect. However, if a cost benefits two or more projects, the costs may be allocated based on the proportional benefit. The cost transfer issue is best managed by taking care to charge the correct account initially, monitoring costs regularly, and changing standing charging instructions in a timely manner when a new grant begins. That said, cost transfers may be necessary to correct errors in charging or to allocate charges supporting more than one project. Because auditors consider cost transfer activity to be a red flag, special care must be employed. It is very important that clear explanations and documentation support each cost transfer. Research Accounting can help you with this; PI’s should discuss with them the implications of any cost transfers.

Direct Cost

Costs that can be identified specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity, or that can be directly assigned to such activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy and are reasonable, allowable and allocable.

Effort Reporting

The federal government requires universities to monitor effort on federal grants. Faculty, regardless of their role on the grant, must certify their own effort reports. The principal investigator or a staff member who has first-hand knowledge about the work performed must certify the work of non-faculty project staff charged to the grant. Effort reporting is a method of documenting the work time devoted to an externally sponsored grant or contract activity and is expressed as a percentage of professional activity devoted to a project. All individuals who devote effort to sponsored activities, whether or not they are paid, are subject to effort reporting. The total amount of effort expended to accomplish all professional activities of faculty, staff, and students, regardless of the actual number of hours expended on those activities, is equal to 100% for each activity report. Research Accounting can assist with preparation of these reports.


Tangible non expendable personal property, including exempt property, charged directly to the grant having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit.

Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs

F&A costs are charges that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity. The rate is expressed as a percentage of a base amount, established by negotiation with the institution’s cognizant federal agency on the basis of the institution’s projected costs for the year and distributed as prescribed in OMB Uniform Guidance. The University DHHS approved rate is applied to modified total direct costs.

Final Technical Reports

The terms and conditions required by most awards require the principal investigator to furnish the sponsor with a final technical report at the end of the project period. Funding agencies consider the technical report to be a useful tool in monitoring and evaluation. Timely submission of these reports is an important responsibility of the principal investigator. Late reports reflect on the University as a whole in its ability to provide appropriate stewardship of funds.

Financial Status Reports

Sponsors have varying requirements for financial reporting— monthly, quarterly, annually. Federal grants require a final financial report within 90 days of the end of the grant. These reports are prepared by Research Accounting. The principal investigator is required to sign off on these reports. Timeliness and accuracy of final reports are a major concern for sponsors, especially federal sponsors. Special care should be given to account management as the end date of the award approaches.

Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits are allowable as a direct cost (if not included as an indirect cost) in proportion to the salary charged to the grant. Fringe benefits include such mandatory costs as federal taxes, Worker’s Compensation, health and other insurance benefits.

Graduate Student

A part-time or full-time student working on the project in a research capacity who holds at least a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in a degree program leading to an advanced degree.


A grant’s purpose is to transfer money, property, services, or anything of value to the recipient in order to accomplish a public purpose (“cure cancer”). The idea originates with the recipient. No substantial involvement is anticipated between sponsor and recipient during performance of activity. Examples include research, service to public, evaluation, training, and curriculum development.

In-Kind Contribution

See Matching Funds

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs represent the expenses of doing business that are not readily identified with a particular grant, contract, project function or activity, but are necessary for the general operation of the organization and the conduct of activities it performs. For more information, see Facilities and Administrative Costs.

Matching Funds/In-Kind Contribution

Contributions of equipment, supplies, or other tangible resource, as distinguished from a monetary grant. It can be in the form of infrastructure support, office supplies support, equipment support etc. The university may also donate the use of space or staff time as an in-kind contribution. All in-kind contributions have to be documented for audit purposes.

No-Cost Extensions

No-cost extensions can be requested prior to the end of an award to obtain additional time to complete the work of the study and/or prepare technical reports. This also extends the time until final financial reports are due. No-cost extensions are NOT appropriate to provide time to spend down balances left at the end of the grant. Granting of no-cost extensions can vary greatly between federal and non-federal sponsors.

Other Professional

A person who may or may not hold a doctoral degree or its equivalent is considered a professional and is not reported as a Principal Investigator, faculty associate, postdoctoral associate or student. Examples of persons included in this category are professional technicians, physicians, veterinarians, system experts, computer programmers, and design engineers.


See Facilities and Administrative Costs

Participant Stipends

Participants may be paid a stipend, per diem or subsistence allowance based on the type and duration of the activity as outlined in the grant. Such allowances must be reasonable, in conformance with university policies and limited to the days of attendance at the conference/event.

Participant Support

Participant support costs 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 (but not employees) in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia or training projects. Funds provided for participant support may not be used by grantees for other categories of expense without the specific prior written approval of the sponsor. Participant support allowances may not be paid to trainees who are receiving compensation, either directly or indirectly, from other Federal government sources while participating in the project.

Post-Award Changes and Approvals

Frequently, projects change or evolve from how they’re first proposed to or funded by a sponsor. Many sponsors require prior written approval from the sponsor or university before changes can be made. Research Accounting can help you identify changes that require approvals and process change requests.

Postdoctoral Associate

An individual who received a Ph.D., M.D., D.Sc. or equivalent degree less than five years ago, who is not a member of the faculty, and who is not reported under Senior Personnel above.

Principal Investigator (PI), Program Director, or Project Director

The individual(s) designated by the applicant organization to have the appropriate level of authority and responsibility to direct the project or program to be supported by the award. The University may designate multiple individuals as principal investigators who share the authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically.

Publication Costs

Costs of documenting, preparing, publishing, disseminating and sharing research findings and supporting material are   allowable charges against the grant.

Senior Personnel

In addition to the principal investigator, senior personnel are defined as individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of the project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not salaries are requested.


The organization funding a research project. It can be a federal or state agency or a foundation.

Subagreement (or Subaward, Subcontract)

Any agreement, other than one involving an employer-employee relationship, entered into by a prime contractor calling for supplies or services required solely for the performance of the prime contract or another subcontract.

Summer Salary

This pertains to the period outside the academic year. During the summer months, salary is to be paid at a monthly rate not to exceed state standards, dependent upon teaching schedule or other commitments.


Expenses for transportation, and related items incurred by project personnel who are on travel status on business related to the project as allowable by the sponsor’s and/or university’s policies and state regulations. Travel allowances must be reasonable, in conformance with appropriate policies and limited to the actual travel time required to reach the conference/event location by the most direct route available. Receipts for charges are required.

Undergraduate Student

A student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time), leading to a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree.

Last updated: 8/7/2020