Grants Guide

Financial and Administrative Use of Grant Funds

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Responsibilities and accountability

Accountability to taxpayers

Since NSERC receives its funding through parliamentary appropriations, it has a responsibility to Parliament and to the Canadian people to ensure that the public funds put in its trust are well managed.

To this end, NSERC funds must be used effectively, economically and in the best interest of the organizations supported by the grant.

Roles and responsibilities

The administration of NSERC grants is carried out by three partners: the principal applicant, the organization and NSERC. Refer to the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions (if applicable) for more details on administration of funds granted.

NSERC defines the conditions under which its funds may be used, monitors the use of grants, and interprets its rules and requirements for the organizations and the principal applicant.

Grants are awarded to organizations promoting science and engineering to Canadian youth, and are administered through the organization’s administration system. The principal applicant authorizes expenditures in accordance with NSERC requirements, as outlined in this guide or as stated as a condition of a grant, and with the organization’s policies. No one may initiate or authorize expenditures from an NSERC grant account without the principal applicant’s delegated authority.

Each organization establishes appropriate procedures, systems and controls to ensure that NSERC policies and requirements are followed. Administrative, personnel and accounting procedures must conform to the standards, practices and policies of the organization.

Each organization receiving NSERC funding is responsible for ensuring that certification requirements are in place for PromoScience-supported activities that have potential adverse environmental effects. For more information, consult NSERC’s Guidelines on Impact Assessment.”

Direction of activities

If an organization is not awarded all the funding that was originally requested, it can modify the scope of its activities according to the funding that it gets. Modified activities must still address the objectives of the original application, and can only be made if the selection committee did not direct funding to a particular aspect of the proposal (that information would appear in the notification of decision letter). All adjustments should be documented in the year-end progress report (if applicable) and final report.

Any significant changes to the programs or activities being supported with NSERC funds must be discussed with the program officer and approved by NSERC. A revised budget may be required. Further, any large deviations in the budget (greater than 20% of a budget line) require NSERC approval in advance.


Grantees are responsible for using grant or award funds in accordance with NSERC policies, including the PromoScience Grants Guide, and for providing true, complete and accurate information on documentation for expenditures from grant or award accounts.

Using grant or award funds for purposes inconsistent with NSERC policies; misappropriating grants and award funds; contravening NSERC financial policies, namely the PromoScience Grants Guide; or providing incomplete, inaccurate or false information on documentation for expenditures from grant or award accounts all constitute breaches of NSERC policies.

In cases of allegations of non-compliance with the PromoScience Grants Guide or the Signatures section of the PromoScience Call for Applications, Section 6.1 of the Tri‑Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research applies and is adapted, as necessary, for the PromoScience program.

Matters involving financial mismanagement, where there is evidence of fraud or other unlawful activity, are referred to the appropriate authorities as per the Treasury Board Directive on Losses of Money or Property.


Organizations are expected to acknowledge NSERC assistance in all official communications, advertising, public events and media releases. Furthermore, under Part VII of the Official Languages Act, NSERC is responsible for taking positive measures to promote the use of both English and French in Canadian society. As such we ask that grantees acknowledge, verbally and in writing, their NSERC funding in both English and French whenever possible. For sample text and additional information visit our Acknowledgement and Logos web page.

Annual Funding of Grants

New grants

Grant notification letters are sent to applicants and relevant financial officers with a commitment for one year's funding and an indication of future annual instalments, if any.

Payment of grants

Grant funds are sent directly to the organization’s financial office. The organization must not disburse any funds on behalf of the principal applicant until all specified certification requirements and any other requirements have been met.

No grant funds will be released by NSERC until all payment conditions have been met (e.g., confirmation of activity reports and an environmental assessment).

PromoScience instalments are normally paid in January.

Subsequent instalments

All subsequent instalments are subject to Parliamentary appropriations and the conditions that may be attached to them. Also, NSERC reserves the right to defer or suspend subsequent instalments if the Parliamentary appropriations are reduced or cancelled, or if the need for funds is not demonstrated.

In certain cases, a progress report must be received and approved by NSERC before a second- or third-year payment will be issued. This requirement would be indicated in the grant notification letter.

Over expenditures

NSERC is not responsible for funding expenditures or commitments by organizations that exceed the NSERC funds credited to them for the current and prior fiscal periods. These are the responsibility of the organization.

Extension period for use of funds beyond grant period

PromoScience grants are awarded for one to three years, with the grant period running from January 1 to December 31, starting in the year following the grants competition. Organizations may not make any new commitments beyond the end of the grant period in the final year of the grant. Should any unexpended funds remain at this time, organizations are instructed to submit a written request to the PromoScience Program Officer before the funding expiry date of the grant, briefly stating why the extension is required, how much funding remains in the grant account, how the remaining funds will be spent and when the activities will draw to a close.

No requests for extensions will be considered if the organization paid has not submitted a Form 300 for each period of the grant, ending March 31.

Use of grant funds

General principles

The principal applicant must not have any financial or personal interest, direct or indirect, in any transaction charged against NSERC grants.

PromoScience funds must contribute to the direct costs of the delivery of the organization's programs and activities for which the funds were awarded and the benefits should be directly attributable to the grant. The organization pays 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 vehicles, and basic communication devices such as telephones and fax machines. Indirect or overhead costs refer to the ongoing expenses of operating an organization but cannot be associated with the direct costs of the grant or award for which the funds were awarded.

The funds must be used effectively and economically, and the expenses must be essential to the delivery of the programs or activities supported by the grant.

NSERC relies on the organization’s integrity and conflict of interest policies to ensure the accountable and responsible use of public funds. The organization has the right and responsibility to withhold approval of expenditures proposed by the principal applicant that contravene NSERC requirements or the organization’s policies.

Organizations that wish to use funds in a manner not covered by explicit NSERC guidelines or requirements must contact the Finance and Awards Administration division at NSERC, prior to doing so by email at

Since it is not feasible to regulate every possible transaction using NSERC grant funds, organizations are ultimately responsible for ensuring that sound judgment is exercised at all times.

In the absence of an explicit NSERC policy, the organization’s policy is to be applied (e.g., per diem rates for travel). In the presence of both an NSERC policy and an organizational policy, NSERC requires compliance with its policy, recognizing that organizations may also have to comply with their own organizational policies.

Eligible expenses

The following are guidelines to assist organizations in their interpretation of the acceptable use of public funds. The list of examples is not exhaustive.


  • salariesFootnote * and the actual cost of related federal, provincial and organizational non-discretionary benefitsFootnote ** for organization staff and other personnel (i.e., students, technicians)
  • clerical salaries directly related to program delivery
  • consulting fees
  • honoraria for guest speakers

but not

  • salary of the principal applicant
  • administrative (or management) charges and fees
  • discretionary severance and separation packages
  • salaries or stipends for youth participants in the program or activity

Travel and subsistence costs

  • travel and subsistence costs (meals and accommodation) include reasonable, out-of-pocket expenses for program delivery and program promotion for the organization's staff
  • travel and subsistence costs for participants in the program or activity
  • air travel must be claimed at the most economical rate available, not to exceed full economy fare
  • 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 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 costs can be claimed in lieu of and up to the equivalent of child care costs
  • travel cancellation insurance and seat reservation charges
  • travel health insurance for organization personnel who do not receive any such benefits from their organization and/or other sources

but not

  • commuting costs between the residence and place of employment or between two places of employment of the principal applicant and/or the organization’s staff
  • reimbursement for the cost of airfare purchased with personal frequent-flyer points programs

Equipment, supplies and communications

  • equipment and supplies directly related to program delivery
  • extended warranty for equipment
  • maintenance and operating costs of equipment and vehicles
  • computers, tablets, modems, emerging technology and other hardware and/or specialized software required for program delivery not normally provided by the organization and with adequate justification
  • monthly charges for the use of internet, only when this service is required for the purpose of program delivery and not normally provided by the organization free of charge
  • cellular phones, smartphones or other electronic devices when they are necessary for program delivery, and/or for personnel safety reasons with adequate justification establishing the need in relation to the funded program
  • monthly plan fees for electronic devices when being used for program delivery and/or for personnel safety reasons only

but not

  • office accessories (paper clips, pens, file folders, writing pads, ring binders, day planners, wastebaskets, etc.)
  • standard monthly connection or rental costs of telephones
  • connection or installation of lines (telephone or other links)
  • voicemail
  • rental or purchase of cellular phone or personal digital assistants (e.g., BlackBerry®, Palm® Pilot, Pocket PC), including service plans, long distance or local charges
  • insurance costs for equipment and vehicles
  • costs of the construction, renovation or rental of office space or supporting facilities
  • home internet costs


  • costs of advertising and distribution
  • costs of production of materials
  • costs of developing web-based information, including web maintenance fees
  • 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)
  • translation costs associated with PromoScience-supported activities
  • costs of holding a workshop or seminar, the activities of which relate directly to the promotion of science and engineering (including non-alcoholic refreshments or meal costs)

Miscellaneous expenses

  • costs of awards and prizes
  • costs involved in providing personnel with training and/or development for program delivery
  • costs for the purchase of books, office supplies and information services
  • hospitality costs (non-alcoholic refreshments or meals) for networking purposes and for program delivery; gifts, where approved by a research ethics board, will also be eligible
  • costs of membership in professional associations if they provide direct benefits to the PromoScience-supported activities
  • costs for program evaluation; the maximum allowable percentage for program evaluation costs is 20% of the grant instalment per year.

but not

  • costs of alcohol
  • costs of basic services such as heat, light, water, vacuums and janitorial services
  • insurance costs for buildings or equipment
  • monthly parking fees for vehicles, unless specifically required for program delivery
  • costs for research
  • costs of substitute teachers
  • costs related to professional training or development, such as computer and language training

Reporting and supporting evidence

Activity reports

The requirements for PromoScience activity reports are outlined in the notification of decision letters sent to all new grantees after each competition. Payment of future instalments or future grants may be contingent upon receipt of satisfactory activity reports. Reminders and updates on the requirements for reports will be sent to organizations by email at least three months before the report is due.

Financial reporting

Organizations are required to submit to NSERC an annual statement of account, signed by a financial officer designated by the organization, for every grant for the period ending March 31 of each year, using NSERC’s Grants in Aid of Research Statement of Account (Form 300). Send it by email to NSERC’s Finance division at

  • Note: The PromoScience grant period is from January to December; as a result, the first Form 300 will only report expenses for a three-month period (January to March).
  • Organizations may be required to submit other financial reports as requested by NSERC.

Supporting evidence

For each grant, the organization and/or the principal applicant must keep complete and accurate records on the use of NSERC funding, including verifiable audit trails with complete supporting documentation for each transaction, for a minimum of seven years.

The principal applicant is responsible for authorizing expenditures from their PromoScience grant account in accordance with NSERC’s requirements and conditions of grants and with the organization's policies. No other party may initiate or authorize expenditures from a PromoScience grant account without the principal applicant’s written delegated authority. All claims must have the principal applicant’s or delegate's signature. The signatures certify that:

  • all expenditures on the claim are for the purpose for which the grant was awarded
  • all expenditures on the claim are eligible expenses
  • all goods and/or services have been received
  • the charges included have not been claimed for reimbursement from other sources
  • reimbursements for expenditures received from other sources or institutions must be disclosed to the administering institution

Grantees must be able to provide supporting documentation for all expenditures charged to their grant accounts. Such documentation includes:

  • salaries paid to personnel
    • signed records regarding personnel paid from grant funds—including names, categories and salary levels
    • length of time supported in each case
    • details of employee benefits charged and relevant calculations
  • equipment and supplies
    • supplier invoices indicating details of purchases
    • prices paid
  • internal expense allocations or shared expenditures
    • documentation indicating the exact charge made
    • the method of calculation or attribution
    • the grantee’s authorization for those assigned to the agency account
  • hospitality for networking and science promotion-related activities, counter-signed by the department head or dean if claimed by the principal applicant
    • the date(s) of the event(s)
    • the number of participants
    • the purpose of the event

Individuals claiming travel-related expenses from a grant must prepare a separate claim for each trip. These claims must also conform to the standard travel policies and procedures of the grantee’s organization. For claimants other than the grantee, the affiliation with the grantee’s organization must be specified. If the traveller is a student, the claim must be signed by the grantee. In the event that the traveller is the grantee, the claim must be countersigned by the supervisor or department head confirming the relevance of the travel to the grant.

The travel claim must include:

  • the purpose of the trip
  • dates and destinations (person or location visited)
  • official supporting documentation (e.g., prospectus or program, indicating the dates of conferences and workshops)
  • details of daily claims for expenditures relating to those visits
  • details of any vehicle used
  • receipts, such as hotel invoices and car rental agreements (credit cards slips or confirmation of reservation are not valid receipts)
  • air travel ticket receipts and boarding passes (if available) or any other evidence that support travel expenses claimed (e.g., a written attestation from the grant holder)

Administrative matters

Ownership of items purchased with PromoScience funds

All equipment and material purchased with PromoScience grant funds belong to the organization and not to the principal applicant, unless NSERC agrees otherwise in writing, or unless doing so would be contrary to a legislated requirement. As custodian, the organization is responsible for ensuring that the equipment is used for promoting science and engineering.

NSERC expects that the equipment will be made available to other organizations involved in science promotion when not in use by the organization that received the PromoScience grant. Fees may be charged to these users to recover direct costs incurred.

If NSERC-funded equipment is later sold, proceeds from the sale belong to the organization, but should be used for promotional purposes.

For the organization’s responsibilities with respect to equipment and facilities, consult Section 3.8: Ownership of Equipment and Facilities of the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions (if applicable).


PromoScience grants are awarded to the organization and not to the principal applicant. NSERC must be notified immediately of any changes in the responsibility of administering the grant. PromoScience grants are not transferable from one organization to another, nor can funds from one PromoScience grant be transferred to another.

Termination of a grant

When an organization ceases to exist or becomes unable to carry out the activities for which the grant was awarded, the principal applicant must immediately inform NSERC's Finance division and submit the following documents:

  • the organization’s statement of account as of the date requested by NSERC
  • a detailed list of outstanding commitments made by the organization prior to termination

The organization may not authorize any new commitments or expenditures from the grant account after the date of termination, or other date indicated by NSERC.

NSERC may authorize the payment of outstanding commitments or proposed phase-out expenditures out of the residual funds.

The allowed phase-out period will be determined by NSERC. A standard phase-out period is three to six months.

If NSERC terminates a PromoScience grant, the organization will be notified by a finance officer or the PromoScience program officer.

Deferral of instalment payments

Government policy states that NSERC cannot pay instalments in advance of need; it can provide funds only to correspond with the cash flow requirements to conduct program delivery. If the organization has a build-up of funds in the PromoScience account and believes that the scheduled instalment for the next financial year will not be needed at that time, the grantee should request a deferral of the next instalment from NSERC.

Deferring an instalment extends the life of the grant, allows the organization to re-organize its activities and postpones the renewal or re-application date by one or two years. The total of all deferral periods cannot exceed two years. The original grant end date will be adjusted accordingly.

Deferring an instalment does not adversely affect the review of the organization's next application, but rather demonstrates good fiscal management of its funds and provides the opportunity for NSERC to fund other organizations that might otherwise not have been awarded funding.

NSERC may defer, or even hold back, an organization’s next instalment if, in the sole discretion of NSERC, it is judged that the organization’s build-up of funds has not been properly justified and that the need for funds has not been demonstrated.

For more information about deferrals and hold-backs, contact the Finance and Awards Administration division at NSERC by email at .

Residual balances

All grants paid are deemed to have a primary holder (the principal applicant), whose name appears on the award notice.

All grants that have not been extended, or that have been terminated, may contain residual balances of funds allocated in prior years and/or issued in the current fiscal year. NSERC will request a reimbursement in the case when no future payments are scheduled for any current-year funds not required for the purpose for which they were granted.

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