Brush Up on the Basics of a Modular Budget

Funding News Edition: August 03, 2022
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Reviewers will not respond well when faced with a budget that is clearly inflated or insufficient for the proposed work.

Credit: NIAID

When it comes to developing a budget request for your grant application, you have two routes from which to choose: detailed or modular. We focus on the latter here with a look at modular budget essentials.

When Modular Is a Must

You must use the PHS 398 Modular Budget Form in your application if all of the following apply:

  • You are at a U.S. applicant institution and submitting a new, renewal, resubmission, or revision (competing supplement) application.
  • You are requesting $250,000 or less in direct costs per year, excluding facilities and administrative costs. Note: you will request total direct costs in $25,000 increments.
  • You are applying for any of the following grants or their cooperative agreement equivalent whether investigator-initiated or in response to a program announcement or request for application:
    • Research project grant (R01/U01)
    • Small grant (R03)
    • Exploratory/developmental research grant (R21/UH2)
    • Clinical trial planning grant (R34/U34)
    • Research Enhancement Award (R15)

How do I access the modular budget form?

You can access the PHS 398 Modular Budget Form as part of the SF 424 R&R application package. If you mistakenly use the R&R Budget Form—which is for applications requesting more than $250,000 in direct costs—you will need to correct the error before your application can pass electronic validations.

Will reviewers know how I plan to spend my budget?

The modular budget form includes prompts to attach a Personnel Justification, Consortium Justification, and Additional Narrative Justification, which in combination serve to justify your budget to peer reviewers. In these attachments, you’ll describe how you plan to spend the requested budget without being tasked to itemize costs in detail. That benefit, a reduction in administrative burden when budgeting for smaller research awards, is what motivated NIH to create the modular budget form nearly 25 years ago.

Take Note: A Word of Advice             

Whether going the modular route or not (the majority of R01 budgets are now non-modular), make sure you request a budget that accurately reflects what your proposed project will truly cost. Reviewers will not respond well when faced with a budget that is clearly inflated or insufficient for the proposed work. Cutting corners with your budget will not end well. Learn more about why it’s essential your budget is On the Mark.

Researchers new to NIH funding sometimes assume that the cut-off point for using the modular budget form, a budget request of $250,000 in annual direct costs, represents either the average R01 award or the budget amount most likely to satisfy peer reviewers. But it is neither of those things. Again, our advice is that you request a budget sufficient to make your proposed project successful; if that amount is less than $250,000 in annual direct costs, then use the modular budget form.

Learn More

To find additional information on modular budgets, see the following resources.



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