The budget is a representation of the items (in the form of a table) of the expenses associated with the proposed project. The budget justification contains deeper details of the costs of the items, and sometimes explains the use of the funds when it is not obvious. Examples include the need for consultants, or the unavailability within the University of a proposed equipment item for purchase. Foreign travel should be specifically detailed and justified, and not combined with domestic travel. The need to travel to professional meetings should be linked to the proposed project, if possible. See the budget example (Duckett, 2002).

Cost estimates should be as accurate as possible to cover the costs proposed in the project. Reviewers will look at both overestimations and underestimates.

The budget should be prepared with the research manager of your department, in consultation with the relevant project representative, as needed. Sponsors often specify how budgets should be presented and what costs are admissible. The summary offered here is only preliminary guidance.

Steps for budgeting

Here are five steps to create a simple budget for your research project.

List your activities

Make a list of everything you plan to do in the project, and who is going to do it.

Take your methodology and turn it into a step-by-step plan. Have you said you're going to interview 50 people? Write it to your list.

Are you going to perform a statistical analysis of your sample? Write it in.

Think about the implications of what you're going to do. Do you need to use a Thingatron? Note that you will have to buy it, install it and start it up.

What about travel? Write down each trip separately. Be specific. You can't just go to "Southeast Asia" to do some fieldwork. You have to go to Kuala Lumpur to interview X number of people for Y weeks, and then the same for Singapore and Jakarta.

Example:

Your budget list might be like this:

I'm going to do 10 interviews in Kuala Lumpur; 10 interviews in Singapore; 10 interviews in Jakarta on my own.

I will need a three-month teaching permit for fieldwork.

Flights to KL, Singapore, Jakarta and back to Melbourne.

I will need accommodation for a month in each place, more diets.

The transcription service will transcribe all 30 interviews.

I will analyze the transcribed results. (No need to teach, I will do so with my short research time.)

I'll need a Thingatron X32C to do the testing.

Thing Inc will need to install the Thingatron. (I wonder how long that will take.)

The research assistant will do three tests a month with the Thingatron.

I will have to hire a research assistant (1 day a week for a year at level B1).

The research assistant will do the statistical analysis of the results of the Thingatron.

I will take care of the writing in as long as the research allows me.

In the end, you should feel like you've thought about the whole project in detail. You should be able to guide someone else through the project, so grab a critical friend and read them the list. If you ask questions, write down the answers.

This will help you reach the level of specificity you need for the next step.

Re-consult the rules

You have already read your university's funding rules, if they exist at all.

Once you've listed everything you want to do, re-read the budget-specific rules. What is allowed and what is not? The financing plan will not pay for the equipment, for example: you will have to finance your Thingatron in another way. Remove it from the list.

Some programs don't fund people. Others do not fund travel. It's important to know what you need for your project. It's also important to know what you can include in the request you're writing right now.

Most funding programs will not fund infrastructure (such as construction costs) or other things that are not directly related to the project. However, some will. If they do, you should include overhead (that is, the overhead costs your organization needs to continue operating). This includes the cost of basic items such as electricity and lighting, desks and chairs, and cleaning and security personnel. It also includes service areas such as the university library. Ask the finance officer for help. This is often a percentage of the total cost of the project (Bradley, 1996)

If you're hiring staff, don't forget to use the correct wage rate and include wage costs. These are the additional costs that an organization has to pay for an employee, but that do not appear on their payroll. They can include things like retirement, vacation charge, insurance and payroll taxes. Again, your finance manager can help you with this.

Example:

Your budget list could now be like this:

10 interviews in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta by me.

Release of teaching for three months for fieldwork.

Flights to KL, Singapore, Jakarta and back to Melbourne.

Accommodation for a month in each place, more diets, more travel insurance (rule 3F).

Transcript of 30 interviews, by the transcription service.

Analysis of the transcribed results, by me. No liberation from teaching is required.

Purchase and installation of the Thingatron X32C, by Thing Inc. Not permitted by standard 3C. Organizing access to The Thingatron through the partner organization - this is an in-kind contribution to the project.

Three trials a month with the Thingatron, by the research assistant.

Statistical analysis of the results of the Thingatron, by the research assistant.

Research assistant: 1 day a week for a year at level B1, plus 25.91% salary costs.

Overheads at 125% of the total cash request, according to rule 3H.

Cost of each item

Look for a reasonable cost for each item in the list. Are you going to interview the fifty people and do the statistical analysis yourself? If so, do you need free time from teaching? How long? What is your salary for that period of time, or how much will it cost you to hire a replacement? Don't forget hidden costs, such as wage costs.

If you're not going to do the work yourself, calculate how long you need a research assistant. Be realistic. Calculate at what level you want to use it and find out how much it costs.

How much will your Thingatron cost? Sometimes, just look for those things on the web. Other times, you will need to call a supplier, especially if there are delivery and installation costs.

Go to a travel website and look for reasonable costs to travel to Kuala Lumpur and other places. Look for accommodation costs for the period you plan to stay and calculate living expenses. Your university or government may have per diem rates for these types of trips.

Write down where you got each of the estimates from. It will be useful later, when you draft the budget justification.

Example:

10 interviews in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta for my part (see travel expenses below).

Release of teaching for three months for fieldwork = $25,342 - advice from the finance manager.

Flights to KL ($775), Singapore ($564), Jakarta ($726), Melbourne ($535) - Blue Sky airlines, round trip economy class.

Overnight stay for one month at each location (KL: $3,500; Sing: $4,245; Jak: $2,750 - long stay, three-star accommodation according to TripAdviser).

Diets for three months (60 days x 125 $ a day - University travel rules).

Travel insurance (standard 3F): $145 - University travel insurance calculator.

Transcript of 30 interviews, by the transcription service: 30 interviews x 60 minutes per interview x $2.75 per minute - Transcription service budget, accented voice fee.

Analysis of the transcribed results, by me. No liberation from teaching is required. (University in-kind contribution worth $2,112 for a week of my time - advice from the chief financial officer).

Purchase and install the Thingatron X32C, from Thing Inc. It is not allowed by rule 3C. Organize access to the Thingatron through the partner organization - this is an in-kind contribution to the project. ($2,435 in kind - budget of the partner organization, at the "favored customer" rate).

Three tests a month with Thingatron, run by a research assistant.

Statistical analysis of the results of the Thingatron, by the research assistant.

Research assistant: 1 day a week for a year at level B1, plus 25.91% salary costs. $12,456 - advice from the financial officer.

Overheads at 125% of the total cash request, according to rule 3H.

Put it in a spreadsheet

Some people work naturally on spreadsheets (such as Excel). Others do not. If you don't like Excel, don't worry. You're going to be doing research budgets for the rest of your research life.

When working with budgets, a spreadsheet is the right tool for the job, so learn how to use it. Learn enough to make a simple budget: adding and multiplying things will help you for most. Take a course if necessary.

For starters, your spreadsheet will multiply things like 7 days in Kuala Lumpur at $89.52 per day, and it will also add up all your subtotals for you.

If your budget doesn't fit correctly (because, for example, you've built it as a table in Word), two things will happen. First of all, you will be ridiculed. Second, and most importantly, people will lose confidence in the rest of your numbers. If the total is wrong, they will begin to question the validity of the rest of the budget. And that's something we don't want.

Justify

Every budget is accompanied by a justification for it. For each budget line, two questions must be answered:

Why do you need that money?

Where did you get the figures from?

The budget justification links the budget to the project plan and vice versa. All budget items must be included in the justification, so take the budget list and paste it into the justification.

For each item, include a short paragraph explaining why you need it. Refer to the project plan and expand on what is there. For example, if you've included a research assistant in your application, this is a perfect opportunity to say what the research assistant will do.

Also, for each point, show where you got the figures from. In the case of a research assistant, this may mean talking about the level of responsibility required, so that people can understand why you chose that salary level. For a flight, it can be as easy as saying, "Round-trip flight in Economy Class from Blue Sky airlines."

Example:

Fieldwork: Kuala Lumpur

Past experience has shown that one month gives enough time to refine and localize interview questions with research partners at the University of Malaya, test the interview instrument, recruit participants and conduct ten one-hour interviews with field notes. In addition, the novel methodology will be presented at CONF2022, to be held in Malaysia in February 2022.

Economy airfares between Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur are based on current Blue Sky Airlines fares. It should be noted that airfares have been kept to a minimum travelling from one country to another, rather than returning to Australia.

One-month accommodation is based on three-star long-stay accommodation rates provided by TripAdvisor.

The 30-day rate is based on southeast Asian standard university rates.

Use the same nomenclature everywhere. If you include a Thingatron X32C in your budget, call it Thingatron X32C in the budget justification and project plan. In an ideal world, someone should be able to move from the project plan to the budget and to the justification of the budget and vice versa and always know exactly where they are.

Example:

Project plan: "Do fieldwork in Malaysia? Where?" Move on to the budget.

Budget: "One month in Kuala Lumpur - OK. Why a month?" It goes to the justification of the budget.

Budget justification: "Ah, the fieldwork takes place at the same time as the conference. Now I get it. So what are you going to present at the conference?" Go back to the description of the project...

So, there you have it: Make a list; check the standards; calculate the cost of everything; make a spreadsheet; and then justify it. Budget done.

Budget Costs

Research assistant graduate students who will work on research projects for more than half of their time may have part of the tuition costs covered by their unit. The rest of the tuition costs must be included as an item in the sponsor's budget.

Typical Divisions

The typical divisions of the budget line (tabular) are personnel, equipment, supplies, services, travel, and indirect costs (IDC). Other categories can be added as needed. The budget must make it clear how the totals for each category of expenditure are achieved. Information on salaries, for example, often needs to be specified in detail: principal investigator, salaries for 3 months at $80,000 [nombramiento de 9 meses] ) = $13,333. Clarify whether salary totals involve two different rates (for example, due to an anticipated salary increase during the budget period).

The Personnel category includes not only the salary or base salary of each person in the project, but also (listed separately) the percentage added for staff benefits. The current figure used to calculate the average cost of staff benefits is 30 per cent of total wages and salaries. Project representatives should be consulted on the calculation of staff benefits, as the percentage may vary significantly depending on the type of staff involved and the benefit option selected.

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs (TDIs) are shown as a separate category, usually as the last item before the grand total. Also, indirect costs are calculated as a fixed percentage of total direct costs (modified by several exceptions). In the case of federally funded grants, some items are excluded from indirect costs, for example, equipment (over $5,000), tuition for graduate research assistants and subcontract balance of more than $25,000.

If the sponsor demands that expenses be shared, check with your department's research manager to find out how to indicate this in the budget. This must be approved by your president or dean.

Checklist of budget items

Wages and salaries

  1. Academic staff
  2. Research assistants
  3. Stipends (training grants only)
  4. Consultants
  5. Interviewers
  6. Computer programmer
  7. Data managers or analysts
  8. Administrators
  9. Editorial assistants
  10. Technical
  11. Study/clinical coordinators
  12. Hourly staff
  13. Staff benefits
  14. Wage increases in proposals that extend into a new year, for example, cost-of-living increases
  15. Accumulation and/or use of holidays

Team

  1. Fixed equipment
  2. Mobile equipment
  3. Office equipment
  4. Installing computers

Materials and supplies

  1. Project-specific office supplies
  2. communications
  3. Test materials or samples
  4. Questionnaire forms
  5. Access to data
  6. animals
  7. Care of animals
  8. Laboratory supplies
  9. glassware
  10. chemicals
  11. Electronic supplies
  12. Reporting materials and supplies

Travel

  1. Professional conferences
  2. Fieldwork
  3. Sponsor meetings
  4. Consultation trips and consultants
  5. Travel of research participants
  6. diets
  7. Rental of cars, planes and boats

Services

  1. Use of computers/data storage
  2. Duplication services (reports, etc.)
  3. Publication costs
  4. Photographic/graphic services
  5. Service contracts
  6. ISR services (e.g., surveys)
  7. Data analysis

Other

  1. Rental of spaces
  2. Alterations and renovations
  3. Data buying, periodicals, books
  4. Subjects/participants in the research
  5. Reimbursement to patients
  6. Tuition and fees
  7. hospitalization
  8. Subcontracts

Functions of the Project representative

This checklist suggests many of the expenses that might be appropriate for your budget, but it is important to consult with the project representative.

According to Rubin (1994), it can help ensure:

(1) that appropriate cost elements, such as service charges for the use of certain University facilities (e.g., surveys conducted by the Institute for Social Research), have not been omitted from the budget;

(2) that estimates of construction, renovation or installation of equipment have been properly obtained and recorded;

(3) that costs are not duplicated between the direct and indirect cost categories;

(4) the budget meets sponsor's cost-sharing requirements;

(5) that cost increases are anticipated as appropriate; and (6) that costs in all categories are realistically estimated.

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Bibliographic References

Rubin, Jeffrey. 1994. Handbook of usability testing: how to plan, design, and conduct effective tests.
New York: Wiley. 330 p.

Duckett, Bob. 2002. Review of Evaluating reference services: A practical guide, by Jo Bell
Whitlach. Library Review 51:56.

Bradley, Jana. 1996. Review of Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods
approaches, 1st ed., by John Creswell. The Library Quarterly 66:225.

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