Research Grants: Budget Requirements

All research grant budgets must comply with the following requirements. Applicants must review this section before submitting an invited proposal as requirements may change.

RSF has limited funds to allocate across projects. Proposed budgets may be reduced by RSF if they do not adhere to RSF’s budget guidelines. 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.


Budget Format and Maximum Amount

PI(s) 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, including a detailed justification and breakdown of all line items in subcontracts, consultants, data collection fees, survey firms, etc. Budgets must be uploaded in Excel format.

Trustee Grants are generally capped at $200,000. Presidential Grants are capped at $50,000, but PIs may request up to $75,000 when the proposed research project has special needs for gathering data (e.g., qualitative research) or gaining access to restricted-use data, or when the proposal budget includes salary support for multiple assistant professor PIs.

RSF receives so many applications for its limited funding that it no longer considers submissions that make use of publicly available data, such as the Current Population Survey, American Community Survey, Panel Study of Income Dynamics, National Longitudinal survey of Youth, etc. However, if the project addresses a pressing issue or uses these data in an innovative way, RSF may consider such proposals as Presidential grants with a maximum budget of $50,000.

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 grants over $75,000 only. If the budget includes a subcontract to another university or research organization, only the subcontract organization can budget for indirect costs for the funds in the subcontract—the primary grantee organization cannot receive any indirect costs for the subcontract funds.

RSF does not allow indirect costs on data purchases or access fees or on subcontracts to survey firms for survey administration and data collection.


When projects include work subcontracted to another university or research organization, a detailed budget and budget justification for each line item in the subcontract must also be submitted as part of the main proposal and budget template. Each university or research organizations may include indirect costs only on its portion of direct costs.

Salary Support

Proposals should include no more than five PIs, three of whom may receive funding. In rare circumstances, RSF will consider requests for salary support for additional PIs if it is crucial to the completion of the proposed research. Applicants must provide a detailed explanation in the budget justification of the tasks and time efforts of all PIs. When more than three PIs are requesting funding, the budget justification must explain the expertise those additional individuals bring to the project.

Only individuals with salaries below $300,000 are eligible to request salary support. For all salary support requests, the budget must include the base salary from which the salary request is calculated.

PIs may be funded on more than one RSF grant at the same time but may not receive more than their respective RSF salary caps (see relevant PI salary support category) over the grant period, regardless of the number of projects they have with RSF.

PI Salary Support Categories

Only PIs or co-PIs whose salary is less than $300,000 are eligible to request salary support. If a PI is eligible, the following rules apply.

Faculty PIs and co-PIs: Investigators in tenure-track faculty positions with academic-year salaries up to $250,000 are eligible to request summer salary support up to $12,500 for a 1-year grant and up to $25,000 for a 2-year grant.

If the PI salary is between $250,000 and $300,000, the total summer salary support is capped at $25,000 x ($300,000- [PI salary])/50,000 for a 2-year project, or half that for a 1-year project.

Other PIs and co-PIs: For investigators who do not have a tenure-track position (including research employees, such as research scientists, who must raise all of their salary via grants or contracts) or who are 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 PI in each year of a two-year grant (a maximum of $40,000).

If the PI salary is between $250,000 and $300,000, the total salary support is capped at $40,000 x ($300,000- [PI salary])/50,000, for a 2-year project, and half that for a 1-year project.

Release Time

As a rule, RSF does not support release time (course buy-outs) from teaching during the academic year. For faculty members with a heavy academic-year teaching load (5 or more courses), RSF will consider supporting release time during the academic year in lieu of summer salary on a case-by-case basis. Such requests are considered part of PI salary support and may not exceed the total salary cap of $25,000 per PI for the duration of a two-year project ($12,500 for a one-year project).

Student Research Assistance

RSF supports salary/wages for research assistance time for undergraduate and graduate students. PIs 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 health insurance fees are allowed).

At a minimum, the compensation for research assistants must be based on the minimum wage in the state where the fiscal agent for the grant is located or at least $15.00 per hour, whichever is higher.

Post-Doc Support

PIs may request support for post-doctoral researchers who have appointments of no more than three years at their organization. The request should be based on the percent of time spent working on the RSF project, up to a maximum of 50 percent of the researcher’s annual salary, but no more than $35,000 per year (a maximum of $70,000 for the duration of the project).

Other Research Assistance

RSF will consider salary support requests for staff positions that provide research assistance. For most researchers in staff positions, the maximum salary support is limited to $25,000 for a one-year grant, or $50,000 for a two-year grant. Exceptions may be made for junior (pre-doctoral) researchers in staff positions on a case-by-case basis. RSF will also consider limited requests for salary support for project managers/coordinators who conduct research, but not administrative activities, on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the project. When requesting support for staff positions, applicants should explain in the budget justification why the work cannot be performed by student research assistants or post-doctoral researchers.

Fringe Benefits

RSF pays fringe benefits where required up to a maximum rate of 40%.


The core research team should have all necessary skills to conduct the project. However, if the PIs require the special skills of an outside consultant, the budget justification must specify the expertise the consultant brings to the proposed project which is lacking among the other PIs.

The budget justification should provide the consultant’s rate and time commitment to the project. The maximum allowable payment for consultants whose services can be justified is $750 for an 8-hour day. RSF does not pay fringe benefits on consultant fees. Only consultants whose salary is $250,000 or less are eligible to request support. Any exceptions to the salary and rate caps will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The total fees for an individual consultant cannot exceed $15,000 over the course of a two-year project ($7,500 for a one-year project).

Data Access and Survey Fees

If data collection will be performed by a survey firm, please obtain a quote from at least two firms, including information about the firm’s participant compensation structure (see “Study Participant Compensation” for additional requirements). The budget narrative should include a discussion of the two quotes and justify the decision to use one of the firms—there is no requirement that the applicant engage the firm with the lowest quote if there is a good reason for choosing the higher quote.

RSF may provide limited funding for access to restricted or proprietary data on a case-by-case basis. If the applicants on a project are faculty members or researchers at a university or research organization that is a member of a restricted data center (such as a Federal Statistics RDC), RSF will not typically provide any payment to the center. However, if the center has a formal policy of charging a reduced fee to all members rather than waiving the fee, the applicant must include a letter with their proposal to RSF from the director of the center that explains the fee structure for members and non-members.

If the 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 required at the RDC to carry out the project and any additional fees that may be associated with the specific dataset the PI(S) wish to 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.

Indirect costs are not provided for survey costs or data or RDC fees.

Study Participant Incentives

When grant funds are used to compensate study participants, applicants must fully describe the compensation plan as well as the reasoning behind the amount, method, and terms of compensation. If a survey firm has been hired to collect the data, applicants must obtain information from the firm about their participant compensation structure. RSF requires that payments to study participants (including for crowdsourced workers) be based on the minimum wage in the state where the grantee organization is located or at least $15 per hour, whichever is higher. Justified alternate compensation structures will be considered in exceptional circumstances.


RSF 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.


RSF will consider limited requests for equipment, such as computers or software, on a case-by-case basis. In no case can more than $5,000 be spent on equipment.

Funds from other organizations

Co-funding and/or cost-sharing by the grantee 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.

Unallowable Expenses

RSF does not provide funds for any of the following expenses:

  • Rent or other payments for office space.
  • Sabbaticals or fellowships at other institutions, even if the PI will be working on an RSF project.
  • Tuition remission for graduate or undergraduate students.
  • Personnel or other costs related to editing or communications or dissemination or publication, including journal publication fees.
  • Travel for collaboration purposes (meetings among PIs/collaborators) or dissemination/presentation of findings (conference travel).
  • The development of the data collection instrument and sample design as part of the proposed project.
  • Generic costs, such as copying, printing, mailing, phone calls, office supplies, information/computer services, etc., as these are typically considered to be a part of indirect costs.

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


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