Clerical and Administrative Salaries – Guidelines for Charging to Externally Sponsored Projects

Under Uniform Guidance, costs incurred in support of routine administrative activities of the university are considered indirect (F&A) costs and should not normally be charged to sponsored projects.  In general, salaries of administrative and clerical staff fall into this category. 

Examples of administrative and clerical activities:

  • Travel and meeting arrangements
  • Travel reimbursements
  • Purchasing activities
  • Financial tracking and management
  • Payroll
  • Human resources

To directly charge salaries related to these types of activities to a project, the PI is responsible for justifying how the item will directly benefit the project and ensuring that all of the following apply:

  1. Administrative and clerical services are integral to the project or activity
    • The requirement that the cost is “integral” means the services are essential, vital, or fundamental to the project or activity
  2.  Individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity
  3. Such costs are explicitly included in the budget or have the prior written approval of the Federal awarding agency
  4. The costs are not also recovered as indirect costs.

If the costs of clerical and administrative salaries were not explicitly included in the budget or budget justification, re-budgeting for those costs will require prior approval of the awarding agency.  The approval should be obtained before the costs are charged to the project.  NIH has waived this requirement unless the change results in a change of scope.

Most projects will require a basic level of administrative support; this support is generally not considered significant or unique to the project and therefore not integral.  Projects that require direct charging of administrative support should have an unusual type or volume of administrative tasks.  Examples of projects where administrative and clerical activities might be integral and allocable to the project:

  • Large, complex programs such as Clinical & Translational Science Award, Program Projects, environmental research centers, engineering research centers, and other grants and contracts that entail assembling and managing teams of investigators from a number of institutions.
  • Projects which involve extensive data accumulation, analysis and entry, surveying, tabulation, cataloging, searching literature, and reporting (such as epidemiological studies, clinical trials, and retrospective clinical records studies).
  • Projects that require extensive travel and meeting arrangements for large numbers of participants, such as conferences and seminars.
  • Projects whose principal focus is the preparation and production of manuals and large reports, books and monographs (excluding routine progress and technical reports).
  • Projects that are geographically inaccessible to normal departmental administrative services, such as research vessels, radio astronomy projects, and other research field sites that are remote from campus.
  • Individual projects requiring significant amounts of project-specific database management; individualized graphics or manuscript preparation; human or animal protocols; and multiple project-related investigator coordination and communications.

Some common administrative and clerical job families and/or job classifications:

PA** Administration
PB** Business and Finance
PC** Academic Support
PG** Human Resources
PRM* Research Support Family
PRN* Sponsored Research Administration
GB** Clerical Family

Last updated: 12/15/2022