Some grants limit spending of funds, for example, on buying a computer. Others are a little more open.

I have heard from colleagues that some funding agencies want to see that the university supports the researcher, so offering grant matching or access to facilities is a way to demonstrate this.

At least in the U.S., are there any written expectations from agencies of support for researchers (otherwise, are there standard practices)?

For example, is it expected that researchers buy chairs and desks through their grant? I can see an argument for large equipment, then possibly computer components, etc., and at some point it moves to furniture, light bulbs, window shades.

1 Answer 1


It is common practice in the US for grants to be managed by the university itself, usually through a special "Grants Office". The grant is charged a fraction of the grant, sometimes quite substantial, for something called "overhead". This is about keeping the lights on and providing space and maybe general clerical assistance. But it is unlikely that you would see "light bulbs" as a listed expense unless the grant accounting is extremely detailed.

But, you can normally expect that if you are awarded a billion dollars (we wish) that you will only, really, have any control over a part of that. Your own such office can probably provide guidance on their expectations and what they provide for the "charge" against the grant.

And, the funding agencies have something to say about the amount of the charge and have their own expectations. See, for example, https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/caar/indirect.jsp

  • You just wrote quite substantial, afaik the overhead is often on the order of 50%. Some source with numbers would be helpful.
    – quarague
    Nov 15, 2019 at 16:03
  • @quarague, The quoted source does that. It puts the max at 50%, in fact.
    – Buffy
    Nov 15, 2019 at 16:19
  • “If you were awarded a billion dollars (we wish)” Wouldn’t grants like that be plausible in certain fields like high-energy physics, or do scientists working at places like CERN not need to apply for grants?
    – nick012000
    Nov 17, 2019 at 2:21

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