7.1 Effort

1. Proposing Effort

Salaries constitute the largest component of the expenses charged to sponsored projects. It is essential that Stanford managers, including PIs (Principal Investigators), 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.

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2. 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 honorarium (effective CY2015), vacation accrual, 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


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3. 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. Faculty on 9 month appointments can charge up to 90% to sponsored projects during the summer.

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 is necessary, 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, or 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. 

Short term (such as one or two months) fluctuations in effort need not be considered as long as the distribution of effort is reasonable over the quarter.

If you require sponsor approval for change of a PI or change of effort use the OSR Request Form in SeRA

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4. Allocability of Effort

The largest category of direct project expense at Stanford is salary and benefits. The PI (Principal Investigator) is responsible for reviewing the way in which effort is allocated to projects. Percentages of effort charged to a project are reviewed and certified by the PI quarterly.

When a PI manages a lab with multiple ongoing projects, the distribution of effort of the PI, students, researchers and other staff must be carefully thought out. There should be a reasonable relationship between salary distribution and the actual proportion of effort devoted to the project when charging salary.

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5. Agency Specific Requirements


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.

Graduate Student Assistantship

Graduate student assistantships are a form of student employment, earning a compensation package including both salary and tuition allowance TAL (Tuition Allowance)) 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.

NIH Special Requirements

NRSA (National Research Service Award) established requirements for graduate student compensation. 

Stanford clarification regarding NIH stipend levels

The Graduate Student Compensation Limit for NRSA awards research grants is tied to the "0" level of experience stipend level for postdocs. Therefore, the limit is the amount published in the NIH Guide, 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

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