In research proposals, why do investigators, who usually are permanent faculty members, need to claim a certain fraction of their full-time salaries, from the proposed budget? Are they not paid in full by the university?


There are several reasons in the US. Most faculty are paid for 9 months of the year not 12. They may choose to spread out their pay into 12 payments a year, but their base salary is for 9 months. Grant funding is one way to supplement their pay up to a full 12 months. Unfortunately, the National Science Foundation, which funds a lot of academic research in the US, only allows a maximum of 2 months to come from NSF, so professors must diversify somehow as well.

Additionally, some faculty may choose to buy out some of their required teaching. Many departments will allow you to teach less if you can bring in even more of your salary. Sometimes this is done with grant funding, but I think more often it is done using endowed chairs.

  • In regard to the questIon, a 9 month salary means essentially that faculty are not paid in full by the university, but only paid 75%. – StrongBad Jul 24 '15 at 14:31
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    @StrongBad Rather, faculty are paid fully for the work they do during 9 months of the year and are free to do other work (or no work at all) during the other 3 months of the year. – Brian Borchers Jul 24 '15 at 15:56
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    @StrongBad, I would say "sort of". Generally all the money a professor receives will come from the university, but they start out with a number that represents 9/12ths of what the professor could be paid. If the professor wins some grants, they can fill in up to 3 more 12ths at their current monthly rate, but the checks keep coming from the university. If the professor decides to do so, they may generally seek outside employment during the summer months rather than grant funding, and that money would come from someone else at a rate negotiated separately. – Bill Barth Jul 24 '15 at 16:08
  • Does the same apply in the UK? – adipro Jul 24 '15 at 22:16
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    I'm not aware of anywhere outside of the US where 9 month faculty contracts are used. – Brian Borchers Jul 24 '15 at 22:23

This varies by the industry, as well. Many NIH funded researchers in the biological and health sciences are effectively full time researchers, and their salaries are not funded by their institutions directly (rather, are often 'paid' in laboratory space). NIH grants pay their full salary (up to the NIH Salary Cap, linked to here for 2015).

Institutions might give these professors a constant salary from the institution, with the expectation that most/all of that salary is reimbursed through grant work. (Ignoring tenure, for the moment; of course a tenured professor may receive a salary even if they are unable to find sufficient grant work for an extended period of time.)


In the UK at least, it is because the funder is contracting with the university for their employee's time. This PowerPoint from Birkbeck, for instance goes into costs etc, plus the requirement for institutional sign-offs. The investigator will continue to be paid by their university as before (normally) but the University will be compensated for the relevant time.

  • So the investigator's salary remains unchanged, but the university gets an extra income? – adipro Jul 25 '15 at 15:18
  • Yup. I mean, scholars with a track record of successful grant applications are more likely to get promoted or move on to better jobs or go up the professorial scale if that's where they are in the hierarchy, but they don't get a cut of the grant directly (beyond say having access to a grant-linked conference travel budget etc). – ctokelly Jul 25 '15 at 16:38
  • I see. So they get promoted because of that extra income they bring for the university. – adipro Jul 25 '15 at 17:42
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    @adipro It's generally not profit to the university. The income is typically used to keep the lights on, maintain buildings and libraries, and pay for admins. These are usually known as indirect costs. In the US, these are pre-negotiated at rates with the federal that add a percentage to the total direct costs (salaries, etc) of the proposal (about 56% at my university). UK agencies appear to pay up to 80% of these costs. It doesn't turn into profit for the university at all. Unis like this money, but it buys them flexibility not champagne parties. – Bill Barth Jul 25 '15 at 17:53
  • @adipro On your question, well they are more likely to get promoted, because they are bringing in the reputational and financial benefits of the grant income, but nothing is certain. – ctokelly Jul 25 '15 at 18:49

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