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Participant Support Costs

Effective Date: Formalized January 1, 2008

Revised: June 29, 2015 

Executive Summary

Federal and non-federal agencies provide support for a variety of sponsored projects, including research, training and public service. When an agency funds a project whose aim is to sponsor outreach programs to bring experts together to discuss research or education findings or to expose other researchers or students to new research and education techniques, the funding provided by the sponsor may include a category of expenses generally referred to as participant support costs. Specifically, participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences, or training projects. Participant support costs are not to be confused with general travel costs, which may be incurred by principal investigators and others as those costs relate to individual research and other projects. They are also not to be confused with patient costs for participants of clinical research. This policy sets forth the special requirements that may apply to participant support costs.

Reason(s) for the Policy

To assist principal investigators and departmental staff in insuring that federal and sponsor-specific regulations regarding participant support costs are satisfied.

Primary Guidance to Which This Policy Responds

The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (also known as the Uniform Guidance), sections §200.68, §200.75, §200.308 (c)(5), and §200.456. 

Responsible University Office & Officer

Associate Vice President, Research Administration

Revision History

Latest Revision-06/29/2015

Who is Governed by This Policy

Principal investigators and departmental administrators

Who Should Know This Policy

  • All persons governed by this Policy {see above}
  • Deans, Directors and Departmental Chairs
  • Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) staff 
  • Sponsored Projects Finance (SPF)  staff

Exclusions & Special Situations


Policy Text

Awards from Federal and other sponsors may sometimes include funds labeled by the sponsor as "participant support costs".  Participant support costs are those costs paid to (or on behalf of) participants in meetings, conferences, symposia, and workshops, when there is a category for participant support costs in the award budget. Participant support costs may include registration fees, travel allowances, manuals and supplies, tuition, stipends and other costs associated with supporting the cost of attendance at these gatherings.  Note, however, that participant support costs pertain only to those projects that are awarded specifically for the purpose of supporting the meetings themselves; they do not include the costs associated with general travel and similar costs incurred on individual research and other grants, which are related to attendance at conferences or meetings that bring collaborators together to meet and discuss research-related subjects. These latter costs are classified as travel costs on those individual awards, and are not participant support costs.

In order to include these costs on sponsored projects, applicants and awardees must receive prior approval from the sponsor. These costs must be specifically awarded by the sponsor in the Notice of Award. Awardees must request prior sponsor approval in order to transfer funds budgeted for participant support costs to other categories of expense. Indirect costs (F&A) are not allowed on participant support costs, and must be excluded when calculating the Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) base on a federal sponsored project.

Participant support costs are typically awarded on specific projects awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will only allow these costs when identified in specific funding announcements. If a federal sponsor awards such costs:

  • The sponsor will not allow rebudgeting from the participant support cost category into other categories without prior approval. 
  • Any additional categories of participant support costs other than those described in the Uniform Guidance 2 CFR § 200.75 (such as incentives, gifts, souvenirs, t-shirts and memorabilia), must be justified in the proposal budget justification, and such costs will be closely scrutinized.
  • The sponsor will require the university to return any unexpended participant support costs to them. 
  • They are often associated with special programs such as Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) on National Science Foundation grants.  

When a sponsored project includes participant support costs, the principal investigator and his/her administrative support personnel are required to be familiar with the specific requirements as set forth by the sponsor, and to insure that those requirements are complied with. Evidence of attendance of participants in the form of a daily log or similar documentation must be maintained within the project's records. For further information on participant support costs, and NSF proposals for conferences, symposia and workshops that support participant support costs, please refer to NSF's Grants Proposal Guide,  



Contact Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) for any necessary assistance in understanding sponsor requirements when an award includes participant support costs.