Last modified: Nov 8, 2017

Summer Salary:

Summer salary is compensation paid to faculty that perform research on a grant or contract during the summer months of May, June, July, and August.

How do I calculate Summer Salary? For grant and contract funded research, Summer Salary is limited to 3.2 months or 40% of the faculty member’s academic year salary (Northeastern University’s academic year is generally 8 months). To calculate summer salary simply divide your academic year salary by 8 and then multiple it by 3.2 (or the portion of the summer available to you after teaching, other duties, and/or vacation time have been accounted for). Please note that certain external sponsors may have their own policies regarding summer salary payments to faculty and/or principal investigators.

What is a faculty buyout? A faculty buyout occurs when effort is conducted during the academic term (generally September 1st through April 30th) and charged to a research grant or contract. Consequently academic term salaries shall not be augmented either in rate or in total amount for research performed during the academic term. When part of a faculty member’s services are to be charged as project costs, it is expected that the faculty member will be relieved of an equal part or all of his or her regular teaching or other obligations.

Can I charge clerical or professional administrative salaries to my federally funded research grant? Federal regulations discourage the charging of salaries for administrative and clerical staff as a direct cost to a project. OMB Circular A21 states that administrative and clerical staff should normally be treated as Facilities and Administrative costs and not as a direct cost.

Time and Effort Reporting: Federal regulations require that Institutions maintain an effort activity reporting system. The OMB Circular (A-21) requires faculty and staff involved in federally sponsored research to report activities (e.g. sponsored projects, instruction, administration) for which they are compensated. Under this system the distribution of salary and wages by the Institution will be supported by certification reports which are required to be signed by the Principal Investigator (PI) or responsible official.

Why does the Principal Investigator need to review and certify the report and return it to ORAF? The Principal Investigator (PI) is ultimately responsible to ensure that all salary charged to the externally funded project is commensurate with the employee’s effort on the project. The PI is required to sign the report and return it to ORAF in a timely manner where it is kept on file for audit purposes.


What are the travel restrictions on my grant? Travel is restricted to the personnel working on the Research Project, whether it is employees or non-employees.  In general, travel should be done within the sponsor approved budget and guidelines.  Federal guidelines prohibit certain expenditures such as alcohol and entertainment.

Why do I need to get prior approval for foreign travel? The federal government has increased oversight with regard to travel to foreign countries in connections with sponsored research. All foreign travel using federal funds must follow certain criteria such as the Fly America Act and other A-21 requirements. The following link will give you information pertaining to Northeastern University’s policy on Foreign Travel: Policy & Procedure on Foreign Travel in Connection with Sponsored Research

Allowable/Unallowable Expenses:

Can alcoholic beverages be charged to a federal award under any circumstances? No. There are no instances when alcoholic beverages would be either appropriate or allowable, unless the awarding agency specifically provides approval in the award notice.

Where can I find guidance on determining the difference between an allowable/unallowable costs? The ORAF website has a guide for sponsored project expenditures that gives an overview and lists a matrix of commonly found allowable and unallowable costs.

Cost Sharing:

Research sponsors may require NEU to share the cost of research projects. Therefore, cost sharing is that portion of a project or program cost that is not reimbursed by the sponsor. In some instances in-kind contributions can qualify as cost sharing. To ensure that NEU has fulfilled its cost sharing commitment made as a condition of an award. Cost sharing expenditures are recorded in a separate Index /Fund. Some sponsors also require that NEU’s cost sharing expenses be included on all invoices for reimbursement. All federal cost sharing agreements are legally binding and subjected to audits and failure to provide the level of the commitment could lead to return of award funds and /or termination of the project. NEU funds the overhead cost associated with cost sharing commitments.

Cost Transfers:

Federal sponsors closely scrutinize cost transfers. Frequent or untimely transfers leave the principal investigator open to questions regarding lax oversight or inappropriate spending of award funds. Therefore, the principal investigator should frequently review the account activity and identify in timely fashion any inappropriate charges to an award. However, mistakes happen. If you do identify errors on your account, you'll need to complete a Journal Voucher. Use the form to describe and justify the need for any transfer of expenses – please refer to the Cost Transfer Policy for a detailed overview. It is not acceptable to request a transfer simply to use funds remaining on an award about to expire. Generic descriptions, such as "Due to administrative oversight," are not acceptable. All cost transfers must be completed within 90 days of the original transaction. Exceptions must be discussed with Research Administration and Finance. Consideration to the issue will be given, but approval is not guaranteed. Repeated requests for transfers could require a written action plan detailing procedures to be implemented to ensure more accurate record-keeping.

Facilities and Administration Costs (F&A):

F&A stands for Facilities & Administrative costs (sometimes called IDC, Indirect Costs). These are actual costs incurred by the university in support of sponsored activities that cannot be identified readily and specifically to a project. The rate used by Northeastern is negotiated with the federal government. Among other expenses, it includes the cost of departmental and central administrative support, building and equipment use, and library services.

Northeastern’s current Indirect Cost Rate/Facilities & Administrative Rate (a/k/a F&A, indirect or overhead cost rate):

Effective 7/1/2017 the rates are:  On campus 56%, Off campus 26.0%.  Rates are available in our Policies & Guidelines webpage.