University Research Services

University Research Services
University Research Services

Budgeting Resources

Student studying in Stauffer Library

How to Craft a Project Budget

  • Below, you'll find general information on how to craft a research project budget and how to justify different expenses. For detailed information on a particular funding program, please contact a research projects advisor.
General Principles
  • Follow the Rules: Every call for proposals has unique guidelines. Make sure to review these in detail! Agencies will not provide funds for ineligible expenses.
  • Don't Exceed a Budget Cap: Abide by any budget caps given (e.g., maximum amount per year; maximum amount per expense category). Funding agencies will not provide funds above these.
  • Don't Leave Your Budget to the End: Your budget will determine what is a reasonable scope of work to your budget. If you leave budgeting to late in the proposal development process, you might discover that your planned objectives are not achievable if you have a budget cap.
  • Justify Expenses: All expenses must be thoroughly justified. If reviewers doubt the need for a budget item, they may recommend to the agency that your funding total be reduced.
  • After-Tax Rebate: For Canadian agencies, if an item would require HST use the Queen's after-tax rebate amount (3.41%) for your estimate (e.g., if an item costs $100, budget for $103.41 with tax).
  • Exchange Rates: For international agencies, use official Bank of Canada exchange rates. Given currency fluctuations, it's advisable to use an average rate (E.g., 1-month, 3-month, or 6-month average). 
Tri-Council Guidelines
Direct vs. Indirect Costs
  • Direct Costs: Funds that are provided to the research team to conduct the research project (e.g., to buy consumables, pay staff).
  • Indirect Costs: These funds are not provided to the research team but are instead sent to institutions to cover the costs of essential shared infrastructure (e.g., libraries, ITS, REB boards, etc.). Indirect costs are also sometimes referred to as overhead or F&A costs.
    • Calculating Indirect Costs: The budget guidelines will normally specify whether or not indirect costs are an eligible expense. Indirect costs are normally set as an allowable percentage of the total direct costs. 
      • For example: $21,000 (MSc stipend) + $100,000 (consumables) + $4,000 (travel) = $125,000 (total direct costs). Indirect cost rate = 15% of the total direct costs = $18,750. The total budget request = $143,750.
    • Indirect Costs with a Budget Cap:  Sometimes a program has a total budget cap that includes direct + indirect costs.
      • For example, if the program's total budget cap is $100,000, and the indirect cost rate is 25%, the maximum amount for indirect costs = $100,000 - ($100,000 / 1.25) = $20,000. Therefore, the budget breakdown is a maximum of $80,000 for direct costs, and $20,000 for indirect costs.
  • Queen's Indirect Cost Policy: Queen's has an indirect cost policy that outlines the expected indirect cost rate in certain scenarios. In cases where a funding agency specifies a particular indirect cost rate, Queen's faculty have two options to comply with the policy: 
    1. They can request funding for indirect costs at the rate specified by the agency.
    2. They can complete an indirect cost variance form to request permission from their Department Head and faculty to use a lower rate. This variance form must be signed by both the Department Head and the faculty representative BEFORE the grant is submitted to the agency. Please note that URS will not be able to provide institutional sign-off on a research grant that uses a lower indirect cost rate without a completed indirect cost variance form.
  • Questions? For questions about a particular program, please contact a research projects advisor for more information.
Research Staff
  • Role Description: In your budget justification, provide a brief description of the staff member(s) proposed role(s) and expertise.
  • Salary Grid: Ensure that their salaries match the Queen's salary grid AND include the required yearly salary increase.
  • Benefits: Be sure that the budget for research staff includes both salary & benefits (e.g., $50k salary + 20% benefits = $60k). The benefit rate is generally budgeted at 20-30%. For existing staff, use their existing benefit rate.
  • New Staff Positions: To determine what pay grade a new staff member should be at:
    1. Review the Queen's HR generic job descriptions. These describe the kinds of roles that staff at different pay levels can undertake. The more autonomous and/or technical the position, the higher the pay grade. The generic job descriptions include administrative positions, coordinator positions, and research-based positions.
    2. Once you've determined the appropriate pay grade, use the Queen's salary grid to identify the appropriate salary and yearly pay raise.
    3. Contact HR if you have any questions.
Research Trainees
  • Role Description: Provide a brief description of the trainee(s) degree level (MSc., Ph.D.) AND proposed role(s) in the project.
  • Stipends: Ensure that the graduate student stipends match the norms within your Department and/or School. Contact your departmental coordinator if you're unsure of the current stipend amount.
  • Post-Docs: Ensure that funding for post-doctoral fellows includes salary & benefits and matches the post-doc collective agreement (PDF, 1.1MB). The agreement outlines the minimum salary amount, which increases each year, and the minimum benefit amount is 15%. However, post-docs generally receive salaries & benefits greater than these minima.
Consumables
  • Consumables: Provide a clear justification for consumable expenses (e.g., list the necessary reagents with a price breakdown or give an annual estimate based on current needs in your lab, specifying what the expense covers - disposable pipettes, petri dishes, etc.)
  • Service Contracts: Ensure that the purpose of the service and the provider are described. Depending on the funding organization, you may be required to provide one or more competitive quotes.
  • Participant Honoraria: Give the number of recipients, the honorarium amount, and describe what the honorarium covers (e.g., participation in focus groups; parking compensation; meal vouchers; incentives such as gift cards).
Equipment
  • Agency Guidelines: Not all funding agencies will support the purchase of equipment. If equipment is an eligible expense, they may have restrictions on the amount or type of equipment that can be purchased.
    • Some agencies also have a specific definition for equipment (e.g., CIHR equipment definition). If the item does not match this definition, it may be covered under 'consumables'.
  • Justification: Provide a robust justification for the equipment (why is it essential to your project? why is this exact model ideal?).
  • Computers & Communication Equipment: specify how the devices are directly related to the research project (e.g., cell phones or satellite phones for field research) and if there are advanced computing needs (e.g., enhanced graphic capabilities).
  • Computer Software: Specify how the software is relevant to the project (e.g., specialized software for analyzing a particular type of data).

 

Travel
  • Travel Types: Clearly distinguish between research-related travel and travel for knowledge translation activities
  • Justification: The justification should ideally include the purpose of the trip, who is traveling (i.e., PI only; PI + graduate student), and what the estimates include (i.e., airfare, train travel, meals, accommodations, local transport, etc.)
    • To estimate the cost of meals, use the Queen's per diem rate (PDF, 147 KB) amount ($75/day within Canada; $100/day outside of Canada), unless otherwise specified by the agency.
    • For train travel, estimate using the Queen's Via Rail discount.
    • If using a personally-owned vehicle, estimate using the Queen's reimbursement rate (PDF, 147 KB) of $0.55 per km, unless otherwise specified by the agency.
Knowledge Translation / Knowledge Mobilization
  • Travel Types: Clearly distinguish between research-related travel and travel for knowledge translation activities
  • Justification: The justification should ideally include the conference name/location (if available), who is traveling (i.e., PI only; PI + graduate student), and what the estimates include (i.e., airfare, train travel, meals, accommodations, local transport, etc.)
    • To estimate the cost of meals, use the Queen's per diem rate (PDF, 147 KB) amount ($75/day within Canada; $100/day outside of Canada), unless otherwise specified by the agency.
    • For train travel, estimate using the Queen's Via Rail discount.
    • If using a personally-owned vehicle, estimate using the reimbursement rate (PDF, 147 KB) of $0.55 per km, unless otherwise specified by the agency.
  • Publication Expenses (e.g., open access fees): The justification should ideally include the target journal(s) and the anticipated number of articles.
  • Knowledge Translation Products (e.g., pamphlets, booklets, websites): Include information such as the number of KT products (e.g., printing costs per booklet) and the costs of service providers (e.g., cost to hire a web designer). Depending on the funding organization, you may be required to provide one or more competitive quotes.

Last Updated: May 13, 2019