Resources (Policies and Procedures)

Direct/Indirect Costs

Project Initiation Meeting (PIM)

SPA and SRS conduct a Project Initiation Meeting (PIM) once a project account has been established. The PI, project administrator, SPA and SRS reps will be in attendance. We will review the award's Terms & Conditions (SRS) and the project budget (SPA). This is a great opportunity to ask questions, discuss project nuances, and become more familiar with any regulations that may apply to the project.

SPA will provide the handout below with all of the specific project details. A second page will be included with a high level budget overview, based on the sponsor approved budget.

Click here for more information on the PIM Handout.


The federal government recognizes that, in an academic setting, teaching, research, service, and administration are often inextricably intermingled. Effort calculation is based on the time necessary to fulfill 100% of activities for which an individual can be compensated, regardless of the number of hours worked. It is not based on a 40‐ hour work week or on a percent of appointment; however, the estimate of effort should be reasonable. In some instances, the amount of effort may exceed the budget. Salary expense associated with effort that exceeds the funds available in the budget is not charged to the award and is, therefore, considered voluntary uncommitted cost sharing.

The following are examples of how to calculate effort.

Ex 1‐ Dr. Smith puts in 30 hours per week on an NIH project but also spends 20 hours per week on her teaching and department chair responsibilities. What would be her % effort on the NIH grant?

Since her total hours are 50 hours per week, her effort percentage for working on the NIH award would be 30 hours/50 hours, or 60%.

  # Hours % Effort
NIH Grant 30 60%
Teaching, etc 20 40%
Total hrs/wk 50 100%


Ex 2‐ Dr. Jones puts in 10 hours per week on Dr. Smith's NIH project, 20 hours a week on his own NSF award, and also spends 20 hours per week on his teaching, advising, and writing responsibilities. What would be his % effort on his NSF grant?

Dr. Jones' total hours are also 50 hours per week, therefore, his effort percentage for working on his NSF award would be 20 hrs/50 hrs, or 40%.

  # Hours % Effort
NIH Grant 10 20%
NSF Grant 20 40%
Teaching, etc 20 40%
Total hrs/wk 50 100%


Ex 3‐ Dr. Doe puts in 10 hours per week on his NIH project, 20 hours a week on his own NSF award, and also spends 20 hours per week on his teaching and writing responsibilities. Although Dr. Doe expends 40% effort on the NSF award, the budget can’t support that level of effort for the remainder of the award. As a result, Dr. Doe only charges 20% effort to the award. Where is the % effort that is not captured in the Effort Reports being charged?

The remaining 20% of effort is considered voluntary uncommitted cost share, which we are not required to track when the PI has effort on the award. This is allocated to the departmental %.

  # Hrs % Effort
NIH Grant 10 20%
NSF Grant 10 20%
Teaching, etc 20 40%
VU Cost Share * 10 20%
Total hrs/wk 50 80%

* Voluntary Uncommitted Cost Share

Fixed Price Agreements

A fixed price contract is a type of contract where the payment amount does not depend on resources used or time expended. Fixed price contracts may involve significant financial risk to the University because the PI has agreed to perform the work regardless of the actual cost of conducting the project. Therefore, great care must be taken during the budget development and project negotiation stage to ensure the amount requested from the sponsor includes all anticipated allowable direct costs and indirect costs based on use of the appropriate full federal or non-federal F&A rate.

SPA will identify fixed price projects that have reached their end date and contact the PI to determine if deliverables have been completed and accepted by the sponsor or if an extension is needed. If activities for the project remain, the PI will be directed to Sponsored Research Services (SRS) to request a formal contract extension from the sponsor. If the project is complete, SPA will determine whether a final deficit or residual balance exists on the project.

For deficit balances, SPA will work with the PI to identify an account to transfer the over expenditures.

For residual (surplus) balances, the following actions will be taken:

  1. SPA will review the award budget versus actual expenses to determine the residual balance.
    1. The full F&A budgeted amount (regardless of actual expenses) will be manually charged to the project.
  2. If the final project balance is less than $5,000 OR 10% of the contract amount (whichever is greater), SPA will transfer the residual balance to the account designated by the PI.
  3. If the final project balance is $5,000 or more OR greater than 10% of the contract amount, the residual amount is considered to be a "significant balance" and the following steps must be completed:
    1. SPA will prepare the top portion of the Fixed Price Agreement Closeout form and send to the PI to complete the remainder.
    2. The PI must complete the section below:
      section to complete
    3. Obtain Department Head and Dean approval.
    4. Forward completed form to SPA for review.

During the review of “significant” residual balances, the SPA Executive Director and VPR will assess the fixed price awards held by a PI to verify proper costing, pricing and charging of applicable expenses. Additional clarifying information may be sought, or corrective actions identified if there appears to be a pattern of large unexpended balances or large overdrafts. Future participation in fixed price contract work will be contingent on reasonable and successful management of prior projects. This is done to protect the University from accusations of defective pricing.


SPA training information and resources can be found on the Controller's website here.


Please refer to the Travel Policies and Procedures