Budget Justification

The level of justification required in a proposal varies among sponsors. Generally speaking, the least detail is required by foundations and the most detail is required by the federal government when the award will be in the form of a contract.

Regular Budget Justifications

PIs must be prepared to explain to the sponsor how they arrived at their cost estimates. If a sponsor decides to fund a project, they may ask for further budget detail or verification of certain costs. There are generally three ways to describe the basis for a cost: actual cost (for items such as salaries), vendor price lists or quotes (equipment, airfare, lodging), or prior experience (supplies). When the required cost documentation is ready, your ORS contact should transmit all the documentation to the sponsor under his or her signature as certification that the documents are true and accurate.

Modular Budget Justifications

At time of submission, NIH will accept a modular budget; however, at JIT, Duke must submit a detailed budget and justification. Supplies $1000 or more will require a detailed description within the budget justification.

For a NIH modular budget, the narrative justification is provided only for personnel and, when applicable, consortium or contractual costs. There is no routine escalation for future years. In determining the total for each budget year, applicants should first consider the direct cost of the entire project period. Additional narrative budget justification is required only if there is a variation in the amount requested for each budget period. For example, purchase of major equipment in the first year may justify a higher overall budget in the first year, but not in succeeding years.

A modular budget justification should include:

  • Personnel Justification: The Personnel Justification should include the name, role, and number of person-months devoted to this project for every person on the project. Do not include salary and fringe benefit rate in the justification, but keep in mind the legislatively mandated salary cap when calculating your budget. [When preparing a modular budget, you are instructed to use the current cap when determining the appropriate number of modules.] 
  • Consortium Justification: If you have a consortium/subcontract, include the total costs (direct costs plus F&A costs), rounded to the nearest $1,000, for each consortium/subcontract. Additionally, any personnel should include their roles and person months; if the consortium is foreign, that should be stated as well.
  • Additional Narrative Justification: Additional justification should include explanations for any variations in the number of modules requested annually. Also, this section should describe any direct costs that were excluded from the total direct costs (such as equipment, tuition remission) and any work being conducted off-site, especially if it involves a foreign study site or an off-site F&A rate.