I wonder whether repurposing money from companies is easier than repurposing money from federal grants in the United States, and if so, why. If the field matters, I am mostly interested in computer science.

Example of repurposing: a student did some TA, and the money could be spent on computer hardware instead.

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    I suspect this is mostly a matter of the terms and conditions of the grant and/or contract. A general answer is unlikely.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 18, 2016 at 16:13
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    In your example, do you mean the funding was intended to support a research assistant, but the student didn't need support so it was spent on something else instead? (It sounded at first like the money was intended to support a TA, but instead of paying the student for his/her work it was spent on something else.) Mar 18, 2016 at 16:18
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    One obvious case that I can think of is that the NIH NRSA stipend cannot be supplemented by federal funds. So if I have both industry money and federal money, I can only repurpose the industry funds.
    – StrongBad
    Mar 18, 2016 at 16:27
  • @AnonymousMathematician Correct. Mar 18, 2016 at 16:28

1 Answer 1


Sometimes you make a mistake in creating a budget for your project when you propose it. Doesn't matter who you sent it to, public agency or private company, sometimes you make a mistake. Most agencies will let you move money around between buckets within the grant as long as it serves the purposes of the program and you can justify it. Lots of agencies won't let you buy a computer unless you swear on a stack of your mother's graves that you're going to use it 100% for the project and nothing else. They might not check, but they might make you swear anyway, and your university will be looking as well. Companies are similar, though maybe not as caring about the details. Everything, as Jon points out, depends on the terms of the agreement between your university and the granting entity. Lots of corporate money comes in as an unrestricted gift with no strings, whereas virtually no public funds have no strings.

Read the terms.

  • "Virtually no public funds have no strings". The law forbidding the use of federal funds for research into the health effects of gun violence by itself guarantees that all public funds have some strings attached. So I think we can strengthen that to "all public funds have strings attached".
    – emory
    Mar 18, 2016 at 16:41
  • @emory, yes, so, we weren't really talking about that kind of string.
    – Bill Barth
    Mar 18, 2016 at 16:54

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