Modular Budgeting: Don’t Sweat the Details

Well, sweat the details a little bit.


Modular submissions to NIH calls for proposal are very attractive, especially due to the perceived lower level of scrutiny thee budgets receive (and, of course, the “25% Rebudgeting Rule” doesn’t apply to modular grants!).  If you have a project requesting $250,000 or less in direct costs in all years, your project is likely qualified for a modular submission (otherwise known as the “PHS398 Modular Budget component”).  Keep in mind, however, that you will still need to submit a detailed budget to SPA at the time of proposal submission; this is for accounting and set-up purposes once the project is awarded.


What do you need to know about submitting a modular budget?

A few things to keep in mind:

  • A modular budget is not accepted for SBIR and STTR grant applications.
  • There are only two justifications required for a modular budget:
  1.       You must include a personnel justification, including the name, role, and number of person-months for every person on the project. Note: salary and fringes are not to be discussed in the justification.
  2.       If you have a consortium or subcontract, you must have a corresponding justification which includes the total costs (direct + F&A), rounded to the nearest $1,000, for each consortium/sub.  Any personnel should have roles and person-months defined.  If the consortium is foreign, be sure to identify it as a foreign component.
  •  While not always required, you may also need to include an “Additional Narrative Justification” to explain any variations in the number modules requested annually.  Also use this section to describe and direct costs that were excluded from the total direct costs (equipment, tuition, etc) and any work being conducted off-site.


Why does SPA require a detailed budget if NIH only requires a modular for my project?

There are many reasons SPA requires a detailed budget in all instances, and why it’s a good thing for the PI:

  • Certain budgetary detail helps in determining exclusions from the base when calculating facilities and administrative (indirect) costs.
  • The PI can ensure that adequate resources are being requested for the proposed research activity.
  • Agencies can (and have) come back to ask for details; it’s good to have them at the ready.
  • Your detailed cost categories and amounts are used for budgeting loading once the project is awarded.


Modular budgeting saves time, effort and (oftentimes) agency scrutiny, but it doesn’t completely negate the need for detailed preparation.  For more detailed assistance on preparing a budget, check out the WSU-SOM Office of Research’s Proposal Prep page, or contact RAS for more specific guidance.

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