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If someone has been successful enough with grant support that they somehow manage to accumulate more than three months' summer support per year, what happens to the remainder of the funds above the three-month threshold?

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  • Sorry—I've edited the question to make my intent clearer.
    – aeismail
    Apr 8 '15 at 13:43
  • Now I understand the question, but I don't understand how the situation would arise. Wouldn't the grant proposal have included a budget listing the amount requested for summer salary? Did the funding agency actually award more money than the proposal requested, or is there some other reason why the recipient can't pay herself the full awarded amount? Apr 8 '15 at 14:03
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    @NateEldredge: suppose you apply for four grants, and in each one apply for one month's funding, and then by some miracle all four applications were successful. aeismail, is this what you had in mind? Apr 8 '15 at 14:07
  • @StephanKolassa: Yes, that's exactly what I had in mind.
    – aeismail
    Apr 8 '15 at 14:28
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Some people can buy off a course from their teaching duties in the non-summer months usually at the rate the department would have to pay to hire an adjunct to teach it. Some agencies will allow you to shift the salaries off yourself and onto a student so that maybe you go to 3 weeks from each of 4 grants rather 4 from each and use the saved money to fund some additional student time. This may or may not require permission from the funding agency, but it can usually be done without it as long as the PI isn't reduced to zero time.

With the NSF in the US, faculty aren't allowed to have more than 2 months of time funded across all NSF grants without explicit permission from NSF. Now, if you have 1 DoE grant covering 2 months and 1 NSF grant covering 2 months, they won't notice.

Some people also finagle this problem when their grants are staggered enough that there's only a short period (say one of three years) where this is an issue by pushing the money off to a future year and then exercising an option for a no-cost extension of one year to spend out the money.

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  • This quite accurately reflects my experience: usually as long as the money is still funding personnel and key personnel are kept at a reasonable level, there is no objection from the funding agency, and often not even a requirement to notify.
    – jakebeal
    Apr 8 '15 at 16:15
  • Yeah, I can only speak from my NSF experience from an non-academic department as a full-time research professional, but I get the impression that there is a lot of flexibility for those who are winning grants. It would be good for @aeismail to discuss the question with various agency program officers/managers that are relevant to their field and to people in their own department for further clarification.
    – Bill Barth
    Apr 8 '15 at 16:19
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It probably depends on the rules of the grant (you didn't say which agency you're discussing), but generally one is able to just spend the money on something else, or leave it for a future year.

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    "but generally one is able to just spend the money on something else" – this also depends on the rules of the grant. You may have different pools of funding for different purposes (staff, equipment, travel, etc) that aren't allowed to mix without going through a huge amount of paperwork. Unspent grant money may also return to the funding agency after the project deadline. Maybe these restrictions are not so common in the USA?
    – Moriarty
    Apr 8 '15 at 14:32
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    @Moriarty There are restrictions on moving (National Science Foundation) grant money to a different purpose, but, as far as I know, money intended for the PI's salary can be moved to any other purpose without special permission. (Moving money from another budget line to the PI's salary line would be much more difficult.) Apr 8 '15 at 14:59
  • @AndreasBlass: That's not true. It's generally allowed to move around salary from one person to another, but you can't move salary into the travel category without prior approval, for example. Apr 10 '15 at 11:56
  • @WolfgangBangerth That's interesting. Maybe it depends on the particular NSF program. I'm quite sure that I was allowed, without prior permission, to move money from my salary to travel and to student support (which would include not only the student's stipend but also tuition). Of course, if you're talking about other people's salaries, then your description agrees with my experience; I couldn't move someone else's salary money to travel. But moving my own salary never needed permission. Apr 10 '15 at 12:37
  • Maybe, or maybe it is "Locally Invented Bullshit (LIBS)" about what one can and cannot do. As a PI, you can certainly assign someone else's salary to yourself (e.g., postdoc salaries) and vice versa. I don't think that at my current university, I could move my own salary to travel. Apr 10 '15 at 19:40

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