Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Use of Grant Funds

Preamble

The following are guidelines to assist grantees and institutional administrators in their interpretation of the acceptable use of grant funds. The list of examples is not exhaustive. Grantees are encouraged to communicate with their relevant institutional contacts, e.g., business officer, Research Grants officer. For further information on any of the Agencies’ policies and requirements, contact the Agency's Finance Division.

General Principles

Grant funds must contribute towards the direct costs of the research for which the funds were awarded, and the benefits should be directly attributable to the grant. The institution provides for indirect or overhead costs, such as the costs associated with facilities and basic utilities, the purchase and repair of office equipment, administration fees, insurance for equipment and research vehicles, and basic communication devices such as telephones and fax machines. Indirect or overhead costs refer to the ongoing expenses of operating an institution but cannot be associated with the direct costs of the research grant/award for which the funds were awarded.

The funds must be used effectively and economically, and the expenses must be essential for the research for which the funds were awarded.

Contributions to shared expenses must be directly attributable to the funded research program or project, and agreed to and authorized by the grantee.

Additional eligible and non-eligible expenses specific to a program are detailed in the Agency’s program literature.

In the absence of a written Agency policy, the institutional policy, e.g. per diem rates (travel), is to be applied. In the presence of both an Agency policy and an institutional policy, the Agencies require compliance with the involved Agency policy, recognizing that grantees may also have to comply with institutional policies.

The institution has the right and responsibility to withhold payment of expenses submitted for reimbursement by the grantee that contravene Agency requirements or institutional policies.

Retroactive Expenses

Costs incurred between the date of the grant announcement on the Agencies Web site and the effective funding start date of the grant, are eligible. However, the Agencies will not assume any responsibilities for any costs should a change in funding occur. These expenses are subject to approval at the discretion of the institution.

For NSERC project grants only

In exceptional circumstances, as determined in the sole discretion of NSERC, NSERC will agree to consider the eligibility of certain retroactive costs that would be defined as costs incurred prior to the official start date of a grant.

The Agency will not assume any responsibilities for retroactive expenses in the event that the project or expenses are not approved.

Retroactive Expenses are evaluated on a case-by-case basis by NSERC in accordance with the following four criteria:

  • they must be "eligible expenses" as per the sections below and/or the relevant program description;
  • they must be identified as Retroactive Expenses and justification provided at the time of submission of the original application;
  • they must relate to a project grant application which has been approved for funding; and
  • the cost must be incurred between the submission date of the original application and the official start date of the approved project.

Compensation-Related Expenses

Definitions

Stipend

Financial support given to a recipient of a training award, or provided by a grantee to a trainee, to support them while they are working on their research thesis and/or gaining research experience.

Salary

Remuneration for work performed by Research Personnel that contributes toward the direct cost of research for which the funds were awarded, in accordance with institutional employment contracts or collective agreements, where applicable.

Eligible Compensation-Related Expenses

Salaries

  • Salaries* and the actual cost of related federal, provincial and institutional non-discretionary benefits for work performed by research personnel that contributes towards the direct cost of research for which the funds were awarded, shall be in accordance with institutional policies, and must meet the following condition, as applicable:
    • Salaries to postdoctoral fellows are limited to two years' support (NSERC and SSHRC). Three years' support is acceptable, when justified, to attract exceptional candidates from outside Canada. The three-year appointment must be offered up front and reported to the Agency with a written justification within one month of an offer being accepted (NSERC only).

Stipends

  • Stipends* paid to trainees (e.g. undergraduate, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows) shall be in accordance with institutional policies, and must meet the following conditions, as applicable:
    • Stipends to postdoctoral fellows are limited to two years' support (NSERC and SSHRC). Three years' support is acceptable, when justified, to attract exceptional candidates from outside Canada. The three-year appointment must be offered up front and reported to the Agency with a written justification within one month of an offer being accepted (NSERC only).
    • Stipends to visiting researchers up to a maximum of $2,000 per month for up to 125 days per year, not including travel and subsistence costs (NSERC only).
    • For those with a PhD degree (or equivalent), the maximum period of support is three years and candidates will only be eligible for support until the end of their fifth year of post-PhD training (CIHR only).
    • For those with a health professional degree who are not enrolled in a graduate degree program, the maximum period of support is four years (CIHR only).
    • For those with a health professional degree who are enrolled in a graduate degree program, the maximum period of support to complete the degree is five years and includes funding received to complete a Master's degree or non-degree research training (CIHR only).

* The Agencies defer to the Canada Revenue Agency for all taxation-related questions.

Notes

  • Persons paid from Agency grants are not considered Agency employees, scholars or fellows.
  • Institutional non-discretionary benefits normally include long- and short-term disability insurance; life insurance; pension benefits; medical, vision and dental care benefits; and parental leave. Institutional non-discretionary benefits must not contravene Agency guidelines.
  • Grant funds may be used to supplement salaries or stipends paid from other sources, such as other Agency grants and individual training awards.
  • Trainees may be hired as research personnel on a grant (normally on a part-time basis, i.e., hourly) and/or be paid a stipend from a grant (in which case the work done is part of the training of the student and constitutes the thesis or comparable academic requirement).
  • Trainees and research associates may receive a salary and/or stipend on grants including those on which they are Co-applicants (CIHR only).

Other types of eligible compensation-related expenses

  • Consulting fees.
  • Fees paid for the purpose of participant recruitment, such as modest incentives to consider participation (i.e. to establish a potential participant pool), where approved by a Research Ethics Board.
  • Fees paid to research participants, such as modest incentives for participation, where approved by a Research Ethics Board.
  • Subcontract costs.
  • Clerical salaries directly related to dissemination activities, including manuscript preparation.
  • Honoraria for guest lecturers.
  • Research Time Stipends only when awarded (SSHRC only).
  • Salary Research Allowances (SSHRC only) or This link will take you to another Web site Release Time Allowances (CIHR only) only when included in a particular funding opportunity.
  • Salary to Project Coordinators (SSHRC only).

Non-Eligible Expenses

  • Any part of the salary, or consulting fee, to the grantee or to other persons whose status would make them eligible to apply for grants from the Agency.
  • Administrative (or management) charges and fees.
  • Compensation-related benefits to recipients of stipends.
  • Discretionary severance and separation packages.
  • Payments to practicing clinicians who wish to participate in the research on a part-time basis, or to individuals who wish to participate in the research as an investigator and who at the same time receive remuneration for teaching or service work, except when deemed eligible in a particular funding opportunity (CIHR only).
  • Release time allowance (RTA) requests will not be considered for the following (CIHR only):
    • Individuals with salaried academic research appointments.
    • The cost of teaching time to allow the individual to engage in research.
    • Supplementing or replacing part of the salary of a researcher on sabbatical from their main appointment.

Travel and Subsistence Costs

Eligible Expenses

Travel and subsistence costs (meals and accommodation) include reasonable out-of-pocket expenses for field work, research conferences, collaborative trips, archival work and historical research, for the grantee, research personnel and students working with the grantee, and visiting researchers.

  • Air travel must be claimed at the lowest rate available, not to exceed full economy fare.
  • Travel cancellation insurance and seat reservation charges.
  • Travel health insurance for research personnel who do not receive any such benefits from their institution and/or other sources.
  • Safety-related expenses for field work, such as protective gear, immunizations, etc.
  • Entry visa fee (for grantees and/or research personnel) when required for the purpose of research.
  • Collaborators may claim travel and subsistence expenses related to research planning and exchange of information with the grantee or for the dissemination of research results (NSERC and SSHRC only).
  • Relocation costs for eligible research personnel and their immediate family members:
    • economy airfare; or
    • cost of land travel, up to the equivalent of economy airfare.
  • Child care expenses while a nursing mother or single parent is travelling:
    • The eligible cost for a single parent is limited to overnight child care costs incurred while the grantee is travelling.
    • The eligible cost for a nursing mother who is travelling with a child is limited to the customary cost of child care and airfare if applicable. If travelling with a caregiver, travel and accommodation cost can be claimed in lieu of and up to the equivalent of child care costs. The maximum claim is $1,000 (CIHR only).

Non-Eligible Expenses

  • Commuting costs of grantees and associated research personnel between their residence and place of employment, or between two places of employment.
  • Passport and immigration fees.
  • Costs associated with thesis examination/defence, including external examiner costs.
  • Reimbursement for airfare purchased with personal frequent flyer points programs.

Sabbatical/Research Leave

Eligible Expenses

  • Costs related to a vehicle necessary for field work (with prior institutional approval; the vehicle must be licensed and insured during the sabbatical period).
  • Direct research expenses, including research assistance, bench fees and field work expenses, including travel and accommodations, when supported by appropriate documentation.
  • Transportation costs to move research equipment or material to and from the sabbatical location.
  • Travel costs to attend conferences.
  • The costs of travel between the home institution and the sabbatical location, limited to one return trip ticket, except in unusual circumstances (NSERC and CIHR only).

Non-Eligible Expenses

  • Costs of transporting research personnel to and from a grantee's sabbatical location for supervisory or academic purposes.
  • Costs of transporting the grantee to the home institution for supervisory or academic purposes.
  • Living expenses.

Equipment and Supplies

For computers and electronic communications, refer to the section titled Computers and Electronic Communications.

Eligible Expenses

  • Research equipment and supplies. See table for additional information regarding eligible and non-eligible expenses for stationery and office supplies. 
  • Travel costs to visit manufacturers to select major equipment purchases.
  • Transportation costs for purchased equipment.
  • Extended warranty for equipment.
  • Brokerage and customs charges for the importation of equipment and supplies.
  • The costs of training staff to use equipment or a specialized facility.
  • Maintenance and operating costs of equipment and vehicles used for Agency-supported research.

Non-Eligible Expenses

  • Insurance costs for equipment and research vehicles.
  • Costs of the construction, renovation or rental of laboratories or supporting facilities.

Computers and Electronic Communications

Eligible Expenses

  • Computers, tablets, modems, emerging technology and other hardware and/or specialized software required for the research not normally provided by the institution, and with adequate justification.
  • Monthly charges for the use of the Internet from the institution or the home, only when this service is required for the purpose of research and not normally provided by the institution free of charge.
  • Cellular phones, smartphone or other electronic devices when they are necessary for research purposes (e.g. data collection), and/or for personnel safety reasons with adequate justification.
  • Monthly plan fees for electronic devices when being used for the research purposes (e.g. data collection), and/or for personal safety reasons only.

Non-Eligible Expenses

  • Standard monthly connection or rental costs of telephones.
  • Connection or installation of lines (telephone or other links).
  • Voice mail.
  • Library acquisitions, computer and other information services provided to all members of an Institution.

Dissemination of Research Results

Eligible Expenses

  • Costs of developing Web-based information, including Web site maintenance fees.
  • Costs associated with the dissemination of findings, i.e., through traditional venues as well as videos, CD-ROMs.
  • Page charges for articles published, including costs associated with ensuring open access to the findings (e.g., costs of publishing in an open access journal or making a journal article open access).
  • Costs of preparing a research manuscript for publication.
  • Translation costs associated with dissemination of findings.
  • Costs of holding a workshop or seminar, the activities of which relate directly to the funded research (including non-alcoholic refreshments or meal costs).

Services and Miscellaneous Expenses

Eligible Expenses

  • Recruiting costs for research personnel, such as advertising and airfare for candidates, etc.
  • Costs for safe disposal of waste.
  • Costs for the purchase of books or periodicals, specialized office supplies, computing equipment and information services not formally provided by the institution to all its academic and research staff.
  • Costs involved in providing personnel with training and/or development in novel techniques required for the conduct of the research project.
  • Specialized courses with adequate justification.
  • Hospitality costs (non-alcoholic refreshments or meals) for networking purposes in the context of formal courtesy between the grantee and guest researchers and research-related activities in the context of assemblies that facilitate and contribute to the achievement of the research objectives (e.g., grantee meeting with partners, stakeholders, guest researchers).
  • Costs of membership in professional associations or scientific societies if necessary for the research program/project.
  • Monthly parking fees for vehicles specifically required for field work and only for month(s) when field work was conducted.

Non-Eligible Expenses

  • Costs of alcohol.
  • Costs of entertainment, hospitality and gifts, other than those specified above such as regular interactions with colleagues from the institution and personnel meetings.
  • Costs related to staff awards and recognition.
  • Education-related costs such as thesis preparation, tuition and course fees, leading up to a degree.
  • Costs related to professional training or development, such as computer and language training.
  • Costs involved in the preparation of teaching materials.
  • Costs of basic services such as heat, light, water, compressed air, distilled water, vacuums and janitorial services supplied to all laboratories in a research facility.
  • Insurance costs for buildings or equipment.
  • Costs associated with regulatory compliance, including ethical review, biohazard or radiation safety, environmental assessments, or provincial or municipal regulations and by-laws.
  • Monthly parking fees for vehicles, unless specifically required for field work.
  • Sales taxes to which an exemption or rebate applies.
  • Costs of regular clothing.
  • Patenting expenses.
  • Costs of moving a lab.
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