Effort for Faculty and Staff

The commitment of effort made in proposals is the starting point for a significant amount of project cost. Salary is allocated on the basis of a distribution of total effort (FTE), including teaching, research activities, University citizenship, etc. 

Proposing Effort

Salaries constitute the largest component of the expenses charged to sponsored projects. It is essential that Stanford managers, including Principal Investigators (PIs), understand the basic principles underlying the allocation of effort, and the corresponding charging of salaries, to those projects.

For regular exempt employees, including faculty, who are paid through the payroll system, pay is considered to be remuneration for all work which benefits Stanford. For full-time employees, this is 100% Full-Time Equivalence (FTE).

Note: 100% FTE does not equate to any set number of hours, e.g., 40 or 50 hours per week; it equates to the totality of University-compensated effort. Although the PeopleSoft system uses standard hours of 40 to indicate 100% FTE, 30 hours to indicate 75% FTE, etc., this does not mean that exempt employees, including faculty, who are 100% FTE, work only 40 hours per week.

Faculty are not paid by the University for personal time devoted to external consulting.

Faculty Effort

No one has more than 100% FTE, and most Schools require that a specified percent be reserved for non-sponsored activity. Research-only faculty on 12-month appointments may typically charge up to 95% to sponsored projects year round. See below for requirements for summer salary.

PIs may submit proposals on the assumption that not all will be awarded, but, at the time of award, a reasonable representation of time to be devoted to the project, whether that effort will be paid for by the sponsor or by Stanford, is necessary.

Proposal preparation costs may not be charged to sponsored projects unless the proposal is being prepared for submission to a current sponsor for non-competing extension or continuation of its ongoing project. In those circumstances, it is appropriate to charge those proposal development costs directly to current projects. Costs for development of proposals for submission to other sponsors, or for work that does not relate to ongoing projects, is not allocable to current projects and may not be charged to those projects.

Stanford University requires a commitment of effort on the part of the Principal Investigator during the period in which the work is being performed. This effort may be expended during the academic year, summer quarter only, or both.

Effort committed in a proposal, awarded by the sponsor, and expended on the project must be matched with an equivalent salary charge either directly to the sponsor, or to a cost sharing account, to some combination of these.

The requirement of PI effort does not extend to:

  • equipment grants
  • seed grants for students/postdocs where the faculty mentor is named as PI, dissertation support, training grants, or other awards intended as "student augmentation"
  • limited-purpose awards characterized by Stanford as Other Sponsored Activities, including travel grants, conference support, etc.

Agency Specific Guidance

NIH imposes a cap on salaries. For more information, read the Salary Cap Administration section.

NSF limits PI salary compensation to two months for all NSF funded projects. Should a PI have other NSF award(s) with salary support and the new proposal would put them over the two months of support in any one year policy, then per the GPG Chapter II.C.2.g.(i), they will need to justify in the budget justification why support for the pending project is needed. The Program Officer will consider this and determine if it is feasible to support the additional time.

Graduate Student Assistantship

Graduate student assistantships are a form of student employment, earning a compensation package including both salary and tuition allowance (TAL) for the performance of research or teaching services to the University as part of the student’s academic and professional training and development.

The University establishes minimum salary rates for RA/TA appointments, and departments may establish their own guidelines as long as funding rates meet or exceed those established by the University.

All graduate students receive tuition allowance; see below for details on how to propose tuition.

NIH Special Requirements

NRSA Requirements (Graduate Student Compensation) NIH Stipend Levels.

Stanford clarification: The Graduate Student Compensation Limit for Fiscal Year 2013 NRSA awards research grants is tied to the "0" level of experience stipend level for postdocs. Therefore, the limit is $42,000 salary plus benefits and tuition) when budgeting graduate students on research grants. 

Postdoctoral Scholars

The University Provost establishes minimum funding levels based on the years of cumulative research experience a postdoctoral scholar has when appointed. Departments may establish their own guidelines as long as funding rates meet or exceed those established by the University. If you have questions about funding rates or guidelines, please contact the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

Administrative Salary

Stanford policy requires that four criteria be met to direct charge administrative salaries to a federally sponsored project:

  1. The nature of the project requires significantly more administrative effort  than is generally the case (incurred for the performance of a major project or activity).
  2. The administrative salaries are budgeted and approved by the sponsor.

  3. The administrative salaries can be specifically identified and directly benefit the project.

  4. The administrative salaries are supported by a budget justification that includes:

  • a description of the expense or service
  • an explanation of how this expense or service relates to the activities that make the project "major"
  • how the expense or service relates to and benefits the project
  • the anticipated cost
  • the time period in which it will be utilized
  • any other information that will aid the sponsor in evaluating and funding the proposed item

Although NIH modular grants or similar grant instruments do not require line-item justifications, Stanford does require an overall justification in the budget narrative that identifies the project as major and describes those aspects of the project that make it major.

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Managing Effort


Salary being charged to sponsored projects must be supported by documentation of  the corresponding appropriate level of effort. Labor Distribution schedules must be completed accurately and salary charges reviewed and certified by the PI.

Stanford uses Plan Confirmation:  Under this method, the distribution of salaries and wages of staff applicable to sponsored agreements is based on budgeted, planned, or assigned work activity, updated to reflect any significant changes in work distribution.

Whenever it is apparent that a significant change in work activity charged to sponsored agreements will occur or has occurred, the change will be documented over the signature of a responsible official and entered into LD.

Short term (such as one or two months) fluctuation between workload categories need not be considered as long as the distribution of salaries and wages is reasonable over the quarter.

Approvals Required

  • Prior approval is required for an absence from the project for more than 3 months.
  • Prior approval is required if PI effort will decrease by 25%.
  • Clerical and administrative salaries on federal projects must have been proposed and awarded, and all effort charged must be consistent with effort worked.

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Faculty Effort on Sponsored Research FAQS