NSF Salary Guidance
No.        08-4
Date:    November 6 , 2008

NOTE: This Important Notice is being sent to Fiscal Officers, Chairpersons, Deans, and Chancellors. Please forward to others who have a need to know.)

The National Science Foundation has posted to its website a revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG, NSF 09-1) that will be effective for proposals received on or after January 5, 2009. A Summary of Significant Changes is posted with the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG).

In this revision, NSF has addressed the COGR/AAU request for greater flexibility in charging salary by changing its compensation policy “to no more than two months of [senior project personnel] regular salary in any one year.” The prior limitation to summer salary has been eliminated.

If additional time is needed, NSF requires that “any compensation … in excess of two months must be disclosed in the proposal budget, justified in the budget justification, and must be specifically approved by NSF in the award notice.”

This limit includes salary compensation received from all NSF-funded grants.

Previously, NSF-compensated salary was limited to two summer months. This meant that most researchers on 9-month academic year appointments charged their summer effort to the NSF accounts, and charged their academic year salary to non-NSF accounts (including department accounts), even though they often spent some non-trivial level of effort on the NSF grant year-round. Essentially, the departments cost-shared the academic-year effort of NSF researchers.

Researchers should be aware that most departments do not pay for cost-shared effort during the summer months, as summer salaries are not built into departmental budgets. Before submitting proposals that allocate salary across the full year, researchers should consider the impact on their summer salaries.

For example, previously a researcher earning $100,000 during the academic year could earn another $22,500 for the two summer months spent working on the NSF award (two months equaling roughly 9 weeks at 2.5% of normal pay per week).

Under the new policy that same research can now allocate two months of NSF salary across the entire year (16.67% effort per month if evenly distributed across all 12 months). The net result is that the researcher would spend the three summer months (13 weeks) at 16.67% effort on the NSF account, and would be paid roughly $5,418.

Unless previously agreed upon by the department, researchers should not expect to receive summer salary for contributed (cost-shared) effort on NSF grants during the summer months.


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