Budget Guidelines

All proposed budgets must comply with the following guidelines. Applicants should review this section before submitting a letter of inquiry or a proposal as guidelines may change.

Projects that use newly-available data or make new linkages across data sources have a higher priority than projects that analyze only public use data from widely available data sets. For projects using publicly available data (e.g., any non-restricted Census, CPS, or ACS, PSID, ECLS or any other such dataset), the budget request cannot exceed $75,000 (including indirect costs). RSF will only consider budget requests that exceed this amount if the investigator can adequately explain why the project requires a higher amount.  

The Foundation has limited funds to allocate across projects. Proposed budgets may be reduced in order to allow RSF to support a greater number of high-quality projects within a given funding cycle. Proposed budget categories may also be reduced or eliminated during the review process or by the Trustees if requested amounts are considered excessive or if they exceed RSF allowable costs as outlined below (for example, for salary support, travel, etc.) or if the PI has access to other resources for the same or closely related project. RSF only makes such budget decisions after it has decided which projects to fund or present to the board of trustees and further changes may be made by the trustees at the board meeting.

Grant Categories:
•Project Grants are generally capped at $150,000, including 15% indirect costs. Projects that use publicly available data are capped at $75,000, including indirect costs.
•Presidential grants are capped at $35,000 (no indirect costs). In rare circumstances, investigators may apply for a Presidential Grant of up to $50,000 (no indirect costs) when the proposed research project has special needs for gathering data (e.g.: qualitative research) or gaining access to restricted-use data.

Project Length:
Projects are limited to no more than two years; RSF may consider longer projects in exceptional circumstances.

Indirect Costs:
RSF covers indirect costs of up to 15% on project grants and allowable subcontracts, only. No indirect is provided on budgets less than $50,000.

Budget Format:
Investigators must use the RSF budget template when submitting an invited proposal. All proposals must include a detailed justification and breakdown of costs to support the budget. Budgets must be uploaded in Excel format.

Salary Support:
Proposals should include no more than 5 investigators, 3 of whom may receive funding (faculty and postdoctoral researchers). In rare circumstances, RSF will consider requests for salary support for additional investigators if it is crucial to the completion of the proposed research. Applicants must provide a detailed justification in the budget narrative for the tasks and time efforts of all investigators. When more than 3 investigators are requesting funding, the budget narrative must explain the expertise those additional individuals bring to the project.

PI salary:

Faculty PIs or co-PIs: Only PIs or co-PIs whose academic salary is less than $300,000 are eligible to request summer salary support. If you are eligible, the following rules apply:

1) If your salary is less than $250,000, you may request up to 1 month summer salary support per year up to a maximum of $20,000 over the course of the entire project period.

2) If your salary is between $250,000 and $300,000, your total summer salary support is capped at $20,000 x ($300,000-[your salary])/50,000, over the course of the entire project period.

PI’s may be on more than one RSF grant at the same time but may not receive more than $20,000 over a two year period, regardless of the number of projects they have with RSF.

For project investigators who do not have a tenure-track position (for example, research employees, such as research scientists, who must raise all of their salary via grants or contracts) or those not affiliated with universities, RSF will consider providing support for the percent of time spent working on the RSF project, up to a maximum of 25 percent of their normal salary, but no more than $20,000 per investigator in each year of a two-year grant (a maximum of $40,000). The budget must include the base salary from which the salary request is calculated. 

Student Research Assistance: RSF supports salary/wages for research assistance time for undergraduate and graduate students. Investigators must indicate how RA time is calculated (e.g., hourly wage by number of hours; salary by percent of time devoted to project). RSF pays RA fringe benefits but does not pay student fees or tuition remission (in some cases, student healthcare fees are allowed).

Post-doctoral Researchers who have appointments of no more than three yearsRSF will consider providing support for the percent of time spent working on the RSF project, up to a maximum of 50 percent of their normal salary, but no more than $25,000 per year (a maximum of $50,000 for the duration of the project).

Release Time: RSF does not support release time (course buy-outs) from teaching during the academic year. In some exceptional circumstances, for example, where carrying out specific research projects may be severely time constrained due to external factors (e.g., surveys during election years), we may consider allowing for release time during the academic year in lieu of summer salary. Such requests are considered part of investigator salary support and may not exceed the total salary cap of $20,000 per investigator for the duration of the project.

Fringe Benefits:
RSF pays fringe benefits where required up to a maximum of 40%.

Fair Payment Policy for Crowdsourcing Workers
With increasing frequency, academic researchers use crowdsourcing workers (e.g. MTurk) to complete study-related tasks. RSF requires that compensation for crowdsourcing workers be appropriate for the time and effort that they devote to their study-related task. The payment amount must be based on the minimum wage in the state where the fiscal agent for the grant is located or at least $10.00, whichever is higher.

Applicants must fully describe the compensation plan for crowdsourcing workers, as well as the reasoning behind the amount, method and terms of compensation.

Most grants include salary for Principal Investigators, Co-investigators and research assistance. As a general rule, the research team should bring all necessary skills to the project. However, if an outside consultant is needed, the budget narrative must specify the specific expertise and value the consultant brings to the proposed project which the existing research team does not have. The maximum allowable payment for consultants for an 8-hour day is $750, with the total fees for an individual consultant not to exceed $15,000 over the course of a two-year project. RSF does not pay fringe benefits on consultant fees, nor are consultant fees subject to indirect costs.

When grants include an honorarium for preparing a paper, it is Foundation policy to pay the honorarium only after a paper has been accepted for publication, or completion of the task for which the honorarium is allotted. The Principal Investigator, Project Director or Foundation program officer is usually responsible for approving payment. In some cases, the payments are paid out in installments, so authors receive a partial payment for the first draft and a second payment when the final paper is accepted. RSF typically structures honorarium payments and consulting fees as internal grants and pays these to individuals directly, rather than making the grants to the institution acting as the fiscal agent.

RSF will not pay for travel for collaboration purposes (meeting among PIs/collaborators) or the dissemination/presentation of findings (conference travel). The Foundation will consider limited travel expenses directly related to carrying out the research project (e.g. data collection, site visits or access to restricted data). If the approved budget contains funds for travel, RSF funds should be used only for economy class travel and moderately priced restaurants and hotels. 

When projects include work subcontracted to another university or organization, a separate detailed budget for the subcontract must also be submitted. We do not allow indirect costs on subcontracts to external vendors such as survey firms, laboratories or testing companies, or university-affiliated survey centers; indirect/overhead costs are only allowed on subcontracts to other universities or research organizations. In the case of subcontracts to other universities or research organizations, indirect expenses may not be charged by both the subcontracted organization and the university acting as the fiscal agent on the same amount. Each university or research organizations may include indirect on its portion of direct costs.

Data Collection / Data Access Fees / Data Release:
RSF does provide support for data collection activities where existing data is insufficient and the project questions are relevant to the foundation’s research programs. However, RSF will not support the development of the data collection instrument and sample design as part of the proposed project.

As a condition for providing support for new data collection, RSF requires that the investigators make their data sets publicly available to the social science research community. If RSF is being asked to support data collection as part of a particular project proposal, investigators must include as part of their application a plan for public release of the data and documentation. RSF will consider limited exceptions for proprietary data and/or qualitative data. 

If the successful completion of the project depends on access to data sources that are not publicly available, the grant will be contingent on written confirmation of access to these data sources. No funds for the project can be disbursed until RSF receives confirmation that the investigators have access to the data sources.

If your budget includes fees to access/work with restricted data at a Research Data Center (RDC) or non/governmental facility, the budget narrative must include a breakdown of the fees, including the amount of time you require at the RDC to carry out your project and any additional fees that may be associated with the specific dataset you wish you access. RSF is a member of the New York RDC (NYRDC), which allows researchers to access restricted-use microdata in physically secure facilities at Cornell University, Yale University, and Baruch College, three of twenty-four Census Research Data Centers across the nation. RSF-supported scholars may use one of the three affiliated sites without paying an access fee if their projects are approved through the NYRDC’S normal application process for conducting research at the sites.

Equipment and Rent:
RSF does not typically cover costs for items or equipment such as computers or software; we will consider equipment requests on a case-by-case basis. In no case can more than $5,000 be spent on equipment. RSF does not cover rent for office space.

Co-funding / Cost-sharing:
Co-funding and/or cost-sharing by your university or organization is encouraged and should be reported in the budget narrative. This includes approved or pending funding. Requested RSF funds must be allocated to budget items that are not covered by other funders.

What We Do Not fund:
We do not:
•Provide support for sabbaticals or fellowships at other institutions, even if the PI will be working on an RSF project. We encourage investigators to consider the Foundation's Visiting Scholar Program if time is needed for completing a project.
•Support release time (course buy-outs) from teaching during the academic year.
•Provide support for any pre-doctoral or doctoral research (including dissertation research) with the exception of the Behavioral Economics Small Grants and special small grant competitions targeted at emerging scholars.
•Pay tuition remission for graduate or undergraduate students.
•Provide any support for personnel or other costs related to communications or dissemination or publication, including journal publication fees.
•Pay for travel for collaboration purposes or dissemination/presentation of findings (conference travel).
•Pay for the development of the data collection instrument and sample design as part of the proposed project.
•Allow generic costs, such as copying, printing, mailing, phone calls, information/computer services, etc., as these are typically considered to be a part of indirect costs.


Click here for detailed information about eligibility and application requirements.
Click here for a list of frequently asked questions about applying for an grant.


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