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Business Policies & Guidelines

Business Policies & Guidelines

There are a number of policies and guidelines that govern the business of conducting research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Some are unit and campus specific, while others apply to the entirety of the University. The list below details links that may be of use to the Illinois Research Community.


Policies and Guidelines

Charging of Facilities and Administrative Costs to Sponsored Projects

The policy establishes the campus standards for charging of applicable Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs on externally-funded Sponsored Projects based on the classification of the project as Organized Research, Sponsored Instruction, or Other Sponsored Activities. 

View the Policy in the CAM

Frequently Asked Questions

How Is F&A Calculated?

The basis for our F&A calculation using the applicable negotiated rate is the Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC). Under MTDC, F&A is not assessed on equipment over $5,000 or more, capital expenditures, tuition remission, rental costs, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs, and the portion of each subaward/subcontract in excess of $25,000. Our negotiated F&A rates are available here.

The basis for our F&A calculation using a reduced F&A rate is the Total Direct Cost (TDC).  Under TDC, F&A is not assessed on tuition remission. 

Link to this FAQ Item

Are there exceptions to using the institutional negotiated F&A rate?

There are certain circumstances under which the institution may elect to accept a reduced F&A rate. Some examples of these circumstances follows:

Statutory Limitation: Certain federal grant programs such as federal training and fellowship grants may be limited by law as to the amount of F&A allowed to be charged.
Published Sponsor Policy or Program Solicitation Requirement: Some sponsors like non-profits and foundations will limit the F&A rate they are willing to pay. The institution reserves the right to review any published F&A limitation to ensure the limited rate is consistent with our institutional practices for that class of sponsor.
Institutional Practice: The institution has established precedence through institutional practice for accepting a lower rate of F&A for some sponsors.

The approved institutional exceptions are available here.

Link to this FAQ Item

When is the “Off-Campus” F&A rate applicable?

If a project involves work at on-campus and off-campus project sites, a single F&A rate should generally be applied consistent with where the majority of the work is to be performed. The criteria for use of the off-campus rate are as follows:

Performance at the off-campus project site must be on a continuous basis and of sufficient duration, normally a full semester, summer term, or the period of performance of the project; intermittent performance is not sufficient;
The University personnel working or engaged on the project must be physically located at the off-campus project site;
Travel to and from an off-campus project site is considered an off-campus cost. Travel to and from other locations, such as meetings with federal sponsors, is not considered an off-campus cost;
Subaward costs are not a determinant in classifying costs as on-campus or off-campus;
Costs incurred at the off-campus project site may include administrative salaries when administrative support cannot otherwise be reasonably provided, related fringe benefits, supplies, utility costs, rent, local travel, and other similar costs that are treated as direct costs.

If a project is required by the sponsor to separate the components that are conducted on-campus and off-campus, separate fund codes must be established such that the on-campus rate is applied to the work on-campus, and the off-campus rate to the work conducted off-campus.

Link to this FAQ Item

How do I determine if my project should be classified as either “research”, subject to the Organized Research rate, or “testing”, subject to the Other Sponsored Activities rate?

A research project typically has the following attributes: a) the work involves original, creative research and is expected to produce new science or technology; b) there is a substantial involvement of the Principal Investigator in defining the statement of work; c) University owns the results of the work.

A testing project typically has the following attributes: a) research methods are pre-existing and of a primary technical nature with no new science or technology being generated; b) sponsor designed protocol with no significant input from the Principal Investigator; c) no analysis of project results; d) sponsor maintains ownership of observational data and results of the testing. 

Link to this FAQ Item

What is the appropriate rate for the State of Illinois agencies and municipality’s sponsorship?

The F&A rate for State of Illinois agencies will depend on the prime source of funds. Principal Investigators or the submitting units are responsible for identifying the source of funding prior to submitting proposals to State of Illinois agencies or entities defined as Illinois municipalities or local governments.

For projects supported entirely with State of Illinois funds, the target F&A rate is 10% of Total Direct Costs (TDC) unless the sponsor specifies higher rates, in which case the higher rate should be used.

For projects supported with combined State of Illinois and federal funds, the rate is 20% of Total Direct Costs (TDC).

For projects administered by Illinois agencies or entities supported entirely by federal funds, the applicable institutional negotiated rate should be used with tuition remission being requested as a direct cost.

Note that there is significant inconsistency in the treatment of indirect costs among the various state agencies. If in doubt as to the proper F&A rate, please contact your Sponsored Programs coordinator for assistance.

Link to this FAQ Item

What is the appropriate F&A rate for use on corporate sponsored projects?

The applicable institutional negotiated rate should be used on all corporate sponsored projects unless institutional practice dictates otherwise. For instance, support for student competitions and Research Park internships have rates lower than the negotiated rate. 

Link to this FAQ Item

What is the appropriate F&A rate for use on an Industry Affiliate Program (IAP)?

Approved Industry Affiliate Programs are subject to an F&A rate of 15% Total Direct Costs (TDC). 

Link to this FAQ Item

What is the appropriate F&A rate for use on a foreign sponsored project?

The institutional negotiated rate should be used for foreign sponsors regardless if the funding originates from a foreign government or commercial sponsor. 

Link to this FAQ Item

What is the appropriate F&A rate for use on non-profit, foundations, or charities?

The F&A paid by the non-profits, foundations, or charities vary widely. The University is generally accepting of reduced rates on non-profits. If the non-profit does not specify a rate in their proposal solicitation or have a published policy, a rate of 10% Total Direct Costs (TDC) should be applied. 

Link to this FAQ Item

If the F&A rate changes between the time of proposal and award or during the course of a project, which F&A rate should be used?

The F&A rate used in the proposal budget will be honored upon award if the F&A rate changes prior to award. Once awarded, the F&A rate remains fixed for the life of the award including subsequent supplemental increments of funding to the same award. For this purpose, competing renewals are considered new awards and should use the rate in effect at the time of the competing renewal submission.

Link to this FAQ Item

What is the appropriate F&A rate to use when a project is being transferred from another institution?

The F&A rate issued at the time of the award to the transferring institution will be honored. Note the National Science Foundation (NSF) requires the use of our negotiated rate unless otherwise mandated. 

Link to this FAQ Item

Is F&A assessed on gifts supporting research?

Gifts are currently exempted from being charged an institutional F&A assessment. However, please note that some academic units may charge an assessment against gifts. 

Link to this FAQ Item

Is F&A assessed on Participant Support Costs?

No, participant support costs are excluded from the Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) base and not assessed F&A. Participant Support expenses generally include costs of transportation, per diem, stipends and other related costs for participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with sponsored conferences, meetings, symposia, training activities and workshops. 

Link to this FAQ Item

Is F&A assessed on Fellowships?

Normally, we do not assess F&A on Fellowships. However, if a sponsor permits recovery of F&A on fellowship funding, the sponsor-approved rate should be included in the budget. 

Link to this FAQ Item

How is F&A calculated on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) proposals?

USDA limits F&A on some NIFA awards to the lesser of 30% of total award (direct plus F&A costs) or the amount that can be recovered using our negotiated rate. Other NIFA awards are similarly capped at 22% of total award. For budgeting purposes, the rate of 30% of total award is equivalent to 42.857% of Total Direct Costs and the rate of 22% of total award is equivalent to 28.205% of Total Direct Costs. Note, in this case Total Direct Costs INCLUDE tuition remission. Details for each NIFA program can be found here.  In addition, OSP provides a budget template to assist in determining which rate is appropriate and can be found here. 

Link to this FAQ Item

Do we exclude Tuition Remission costs when the F&A rate is less than our negotiated rate?

When a reduced F&A rate is approved, the graduate assistant tuition remission rate is normally waived at the discretion of the originating unit. However, the originating unit has the option of requesting the tuition remission if the sponsor does not expressly prohibit this cost. The exception being that tuition remission is not charged to State of Illinois projects that use the 10% or 20% Total Direct Costs (TDC), unless allowed by the state agency. 

Link to this FAQ Item

Can the difference between a reduced F&A rate and our negotiated rate be used as cost sharing?

If the reduced rate is a result of a statutory limitation, any F&A above the limitation may be considered unallowable and thus not eligible to be considered cost share. If the campus elects to charge a rate less than the negotiated rate, the difference could be used to meet cost sharing if allowed by the sponsor. 

Link to this FAQ Item

Conflict of Interest or Commitment


The University of Illinois Policy on Conflicts of Commitment and Interest applies to all paid academic staff members, whether part time or full time employees of the university. Annually, faculty and staff must disclose potential conflicts by completing a Report of Non-University Activities (RNUA). For more information and COI contacts, visit the campus COI page.

View the University's Policy

Cost Sharing on Sponsored Projects


The policy establishes the conditions in which the university will commit to Cost Sharing; the process for including Cost Sharing in a Sponsored Project; and the core principles that Cost Sharing must meet. 

View the Policy in the CAM

Frequently Asked Questions

Do “Cost Sharing” and “Matching” have the same meaning?

While the terms Cost Sharing and Matching are often used interchangeably, Matching has a specific meaning related to the ratio of Cost Sharing. Matching refers to a situation in which the sponsor requires the university to match the level of grant funding in some proportion with funds received from another party (such as a 50% match or a “1 to 1” match). This type of Cost Sharing is usually stated in the program announcement or Request for Proposals (RFP) as an eligibility requirement (mandatory) and is often provided from institutional resources.

Do costs claimed as Cost Sharing have to meet the same cost principles as costs reimbursed by the sponsor?

Yes, costs used to satisfy Cost Sharing commitments are subject to the same policies as the costs directly reimbursed by the sponsor unless the sponsor specifically permits an exception. To be claimed as Cost Sharing, the costs must be allowable under university and sponsor policies, must be allocable to the project, and should be reasonable and necessary for the performance of the project.

Can I cost share my effort?

Yes, if you have a paid university appointment, have eligible time available to devote to the project, have obtained the required approvals, and if the sponsor permits. You must include all contributed effort on the proposal routing form that is signed by the appropriate unit executive officer. However, to the extent possible, you should include effort to be expended in performance of the project as a direct salary cost in the proposal budget. You may only use effort paid from a sponsored project as Cost Sharing if both sponsors approve of its use.

Can I cost share my effort if the university is receiving no funds from a project?

No, unless you have received prior approval from the unit executive officer. Specific approval beyond the Principal Investigator’s acknowledgement is required for a faculty member or other university employee to voluntarily commit effort as Cost Sharing (university support) for the benefit of an outside entity where there is no funding issued to the university. 

Can I use “waived” facilities and adminitrative costs as Cost Sharing? 

Sometimes, under special circumstances, depending on whether the sponsor requires a reduced F&A rate and whether the sponsor indicates that unrecovered F&A is allowable as cost share.

Does the central campus support provide Cost Sharing? 

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (“OVCR”) sometimes provides partial Cost Sharing under a limited set of circumstances and only when requested by deans or institute directors. See the OVCR Cost Sharing Guidelines here.

Are there limits to what I can propose as Cost Sharing?

Given that Cost Sharing frequently involves the use of departmental or college resources, unit executive officers, deans, or institute directors may impose limits on the contributed amount of Cost Sharing. 

Why is the university concerned with excessive cost share?

The university is required to provide the stated resources that are committed as Cost Sharing in a proposal, whether the commitment of resources is Mandatory Committed Cost Sharing or Voluntary Committed Cost Sharing. Excessive or unnecessary cost share limits the university’s capacity to commit resources when required for eligibility of submission, increases our administrative burden, and reduces the availability of resources for other purposes.

Effort and Compensation


In the past few years, the federal government has been paying more attention to how faculty spend their time when they are being paid from grants.  Audits have been conducted at several institutions and substantial penalties have been imposed for unallowable salary transactions: Florida State University (2012, $586,000); Louisiana (2011, $1.3M); Michigan (2009, $1.02M); and Yale (2008, $7.6M). 

As a condition of receiving sponsored grants and contracts, the University must assure our sponsors that:

  • work on a sponsored project justifies the salary charged to that project; and  
  • the actual time spent on the project is consistent with what we originally proposed.

To conform to federal uniform guidance and audit findings, we must align payroll records on sponsored projects with the time period in which the work is performed, and apply a consistent definition of base salary when charging salary to grants and contracts. Thus, the campus is implementing a new policy that may affect the way in which faculty summer salary is charged to grants and contracts.

View the Policy in the CAM

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key components of the policy?

A key requirement of the new policy is that payroll records (for those paid on sponsored funds) must reflect the effort actually spent on sponsored projects during the pay period. Faculty and research staff salary that is paid from sponsored projects should correspond to work that they do, during the period that they actually do it.

The new definition of Institutional Base Salary includes academic year salary and academic year professorship stipends, but not administrative stipends.  As required by federal uniform guidance, the principles of IBS apply to calculation of summer salary for all employees, regardless of source of funds.

Most researchers participate in activities that are not allowed to be charged to sponsored funds. To address this, a faculty or staff member shall not charge more than 95% of his/her university effort to sponsored projects during any given appointment period. This policy requires accurate accounting and distribution of effort funded by sponsored projects, and will mitigate the risk of financial penalties in the future.

The Principal Investigator continues to be responsible for confirming that reporting on actual sponsored effort for his/her research team is accurate.

Who is affected?

Researchers in the following situations are potentially affected.

  1. Staff paid an administrative stipend by the college or unit during the year, where the stipend has been factored into summer salary. It may be necessary to convert the administrative stipend to a 12-month stipend, or to take other action.
  2. Faculty who expect to be paid more than 2.85 months of summer effort on sponsored grants or contracts during summer 2015. Some portion of salary may need to be covered from discretionary funds or by redistributing some summer effort to the academic year.
  3. Service-in-excess payments that are funded by sponsored grants or contracts. The grant PI should consult with Post-Award accounting to make sure that these payments are allowable.
  4. Non-faculty researchers whose appointments are funded 100% on grants should not engage in unallowable activities. If necessary, the appointment should be restructured so that it is not 100% grant funded.

What do our peers do?

Other universities have implemented similar policies to achieve these goals, for example:

Stanford University: Effort for Faculty and Staff

University of Washington: Effort Reporting Policy for Sponsored Agreements

University of Wisconsin: Guidelines for Effort Reporting 

Yale: Salary from Grant Funds

Eligibility to Serve as a Principal Investigator


The Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for the design, scientific and technical conduct, administrative oversight, fiscal accountability, regulatory oversight, and reporting for a research, instructional, or public services project. If the sponsor allows, a project may have multiple Principal Investigators who share the authority and responsibility for the project. If there are multiple Principal Investigators, each shall have the authority and be responsible for the proper conduct of the project. The policy establishes the role and responsibilities of a Principal Investigator, the categories of appointments for those individuals who are eligible, and an approval procedure to allow those individuals who are not included in the default categories to serve as Principal Investigators. 

View the Policy in the CAM

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an emeritus or retired faculty member serve as a Principal Investigator?

Yes. However, the unit executive officer or institute director determines whether sufficient departmental or unit resources are available to support acceptance of any sponsored research award involving emeritus or retired faculty members as PIs. The rate of pay that the university may charge a sponsor for a retired faculty member is limited and may be subject to conditions imposed by the retiree’s retirement plan.

Can a student serve as a Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator?

No. Students may not serve as either a Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator. In the event a graduate fellowship is awarded as a grant, the Dean of the Graduate College, the Dean’s designee, or the student’s faculty advisor shall be designated as the Principal Investigator. Even if a sponsor requires that the student’s name be listed as Principal Investigator externally, the university still will not permit the student to serve as PI internally.

Can a Cooperative Extension Specialist serve as a Principal Investigator?

Yes. However, a Cooperative Extension Specialist’s participation as a PI is generally limited to cooperative extension, training, or public service projects related to the individual’s official duties.

Can a Postdoctoral Research Associate or Research Fellow serve as a Principal Investigator?

Yes, provided that the Postdoctoral Research Associate’s or Research Fellow’s supervisor approves the pursuit and administration of external funding, such funding is consistent with the source of funding supporting the Postdoctoral Research Associate’s or Research Fellow’s salary, and the academic unit is willing to accept responsibility for the Postdoctoral Research Associate’s or Research Fellow’s performance as PI in the sponsored project.

Can a newly hired faculty member serve as a Principal Investigator on a proposal in advance of their contract start date?

Yes, provided that the Board of Trustees has approved the hiring of the new faculty member. The new faculty member must follow all applicable campus procedures for proposal submission.

Can a civil service employee serve as a Principal Investigator?

Prior to having a civil service employee serve as a Principal Investigator, (a) the Vice Chancellor for Research would need to authorize an exception to the approval process; and (b) if the exception is granted, the applicable unit executive officer would also need to approve the request.

Can a Principal Investigator be changed?

Yes. The Principal Investigator serves at the discretion of the institution, and certain events may necessitate a change in Principal Investigator. For example, if the Principal Investigator is departing the institution, but the grant is remaining, the institution would need to designate a new PI. The terms of the sponsored award will typically require prior written approval from the sponsor for a change in Principal Investigator.