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.

Stanford Base Salary

Stanford Base Salary (SBS) is the annual compensation paid by Stanford to individuals whose time is spent on research, teaching and/or other activities.

Stanford Base Salary:

  1. Includes regular and supplemental salary
  2. Excludes bonus payments and extra compensation such as faculty housing allowance, tuition reimbursement, etc.
  3. Excludes any income that an individual is permitted to earn outside of the Stanford responsibilities (e.g., consulting payments)
  4. May not be increased as a result of replacing Stanford’s salary funds with sponsored project funds


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. 

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

The DHHS salary cap limits the amount which can be charged to a DHHS project (or related cost sharing account) by limiting the maximum annual salary rate for a 100%, 12-month FTE. The rate is set annually and applies to all awards made that year.

DHHS establishes the funding limitation for salaries at the time that a competitive award is made. However, if subsequent (non-competing) funding is awarded during a year with a higher salary cap, NIH will allow existing funds to be re-budgeted to that level. Typically, no new funds will be awarded for this purpose.

  • DHHS salary cap may change annually

  • PHS funds salary up to the level of the cap in effect on the award date

  • Use a special expenditure type to capture difference between actual pay & what can be charged to a PHS award

Note:  other sponsors also may have salary caps, such as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, CIRM, Alex's Lemonade Stand, American Institute for Cancer Research, Anesthesia Safety Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Thrasher Foundation, Greenwall Foundation, PCORI, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, Rheumatology Research Foundation and Susan B. Komen.  This list is not exhaustive:  read the solicitation carefully to determine if your sponsor has a salary cap.

For more information, read the Salary Cap Administration section.


As a general policy, NSF limits the salary compensation requested in the proposal budget for senior personnel to no more than two months of their regular salary in any one year. This limit includes salary compensation received from all NSF-funded grants.  If anticipated, any compensation for such personnel in excess of two months must be disclosed in the proposal budget, justified in the budget justification, and must be specifically approved by NSF in the award notice budget.

Under normal rebudgeting authority, as described in AAG Chapters II and V, an awardee can internally approve an increase or decrease in person months devoted to the project after an award is made, even if doing so results in salary support for senior personnel exceeding the two month salary policy. No prior approval from NSF is necessary as long as that change would not cause the objective or scope of the project to change. NSF prior approval is necessary if the objective or scope of the project changes.

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 a tuition allowance. For guidance, see RPH 16.6 Tuition Allowance for Research Assistants.

NIH Special Requirements

NRSA Requirements (Graduate Student Compensation) NIH Stipend Levels.

Stanford clarification: The Graduate Student Compensation Limit for Fiscal Year 2015 NRSA awards research grants is tied to the "0" level of experience stipend level for postdocs. Therefore, the limit is $42,840 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

Federal Guidance on Direct Charging Administrative Salaries

OMB Circular A-21 and the Uniform Guidance establishes the principle that administrative salaries (salaries of clerical and administrative personnel) should normally be treated as indirect costs Facilities and Administrative (F&A).

For awards incorporating OMB Circular A-21 it further establishes that universities may charge directly those administrative costs that are above what would normally be provided:

Where a major project or activity explicitly budgets for administrative or clerical services and individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity.

Technical expenses shall be treated as direct costs wherever identifiable to a particular sponsored agreement. (These include salaries of Principal Investigators and technical staff, laboratory and other technical expenses)

Federal awards received before December 26, 2014, incorporating OMB A-21 must continue to follow those requirements and Stanford’s policy on Charging for Administrative and Technical Expenses (RPH 15.4).

 Stanford Policy

Effective September 5, 2014, Stanford Policy requires proposals to federal sponsors include the Uniform Guidance regulations on administrative salaries.

Stanford policy states direct charging administrative salary costs to federally sponsored projects is appropriate only if ALL five of the following conditions are met:

  1. Administrative or clerical services are integral to a project or activity. The requirement that the cost is integral means the services are essential, vital, or fundamental to the project or activity.
  2. Individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity.
  3. Such costs are explicitly included in the budget or have the prior written approval of the federal awarding agency.
  4. A budget justification must be included in the proposal.
  5. The costs are not also recovered as indirect costs.


This policy does not apply to non-federally-funded sponsored projects. Administrative expenses that directly benefit such awards can and should be charged directly to those awards. However, the policy does apply if the non-federal sponsor receives federal funding for the project, specifically adopts A-21 guidelines, or has its own policies restricting administrative charges.

The Proposal Development and Routing Form (PDRF) will include this question for those sponsors coded as FEDERAL in our sponsor database (it will not appear where the concept of integral does not apply, e.g., non-fed sponsors:

Is this a Integral as defined by the Uniform Guidance, allowing administrative and clerical salary expenses to be charged (Federally-Funded Projects only)?

In addition to answering “yes” to that question, you must also use language about “integral to project” in the Budget Justification section of the proposal.

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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 if the PI is disengaged 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