Developing a Budget for Your Research Application

Budgets and budget justifications demonstrate feasibility, value for money and detail why you need an item for your project, as well as how you arrived at the costings.

Every research project has two budget categories:  direct costs and indirect costs.

The University determines a set percentage for the indirect costs of funded research. Contact REDI for the correct figure to use.

Direct costs are costs integral to achieving the research objectives of a grant. The costs directly address the research objectives of the grant and relate to the research plan.

Direct cost examples:

  • Personnel, e.g. research assistants, student stipends for PhDs, and staff costs. You need to factor in salary increases, on-costs (superannuation and payroll) and casual loadings. Always use the salary level and step corresponding with the skills and tasks required for the role. See the Position Descriptors in the relevant University Enterprise Agreement
  • Equipment, maintenance and travel (outline why you are going and for how long)
  • Teaching relief
  • Other (e.g. Consumables).

Indirect costs are institution costs that benefit and support research activities at the institution. Although they are necessary for the conduct of research and may be incurred during the project, they are costs that do not directly address the approved research objectives of a grant.

Indirect cost examples:

  • Operations and maintenance of buildings (e.g. libraries, labs, meeting venues, IT such as computer access, specialist software, databases, secure cloud storage)
  • Insurance, legal and financial services
  • Hazardous waste disposal, and
  • Regulatory and research compliance and administration of research services

All external research activities are expected to contribute to indirect costs except:

  • Nationally competitive grants, such as ARC and NHMRC (see current Australian Competitive Grants Register (opens in a new window)). This includes all ‘Category 1’ schemes.
  • Registered charities listed on the ACNC register (opens in a new window)
  • Grants transferred from another university
  • Funding bodies that exclude or limit overheads or administrative costs (i.e. indirect costs) in their rules or guidelines
  • Scholarships and internships
  • Official Western Partnership projects
  • Travel award type grants or facility usage type grants (e.g. Endeavour Fellowships, AINSE grants)
  • Projects costed under $100,000 are discounted by waiving Western’s portion of the indirect costs.

Indirect costs are calculated by determining the direct costs first and then applying the indirect costs formula:

e.g. Direct costs = $50,000 x (indirect cost % figure) = Total project cost

Cash and in-kind support

Your project budget needs to include all cash and in-kind items it requires.

In-kind support is any non-cash contributions that a party gives to the project. In-kind can be contributed by Western Sydney University or by an external party, and can include:

  • staff (e.g. time committed to the project which is not funded by the project)
  • non-staff/infrastructure (e.g. if you are using lab space to conduct the project but are not receiving direct payment from the project to 'buy out' lab space)
  • indirect costs

How to budget personnel and salaries

On-costs are direct costs associated with salary. These costs relate to superannuation, sick leave, payroll tax etc. and must be included your budget.

  • 28% on-costs apply to Western Academic and General Salaries for permanent and fixed-term staff of more than 12 months
  • 18% on-costs apply to Western Academic and General Salaries for fixed term staff of less than 12 months
  • 16.5% on-costs apply (above the casual hourly rate) to Western Academic and General Salaries for staff working by the hour on casual contracts.

Access this link for more detail about Western on-costs

For the latest salary figures, please check with the Office of Human Resources

An example:

You are a Lead Chief Investigator (CI) on a non-Category 1 funding body project for one year. You commit 0.4 (FTE) of your time to the research = 2 days per week. You are paid at Academic Level E, Step 2, which is $188,944 per annum. You can calculate your salary inclusive of 28% on-costs as follows:

0.4 x 0.28 x 188,944 = 21,161.73

The budgeting of your salary, a direct cost of the research, should be listed as $21,161.73.

If your project covers three years, with the same or differing time commitments, you calculate this figure for each year of your project. Remember to factor in pay rises according to Step increases in multi-year grants.

You may also have a research assistant employed full-time for seven weeks at HEW Level 5, Step 3. You hire the assistant at the casual hourly rate of $48.97, which includes 25% leave loading. You add 16.5% on-costs to this figure:

48.97 x (35 x 7) = 11,997.65

11,997.65 x .165 = 1,979.50

1,979.50 + 11,997.65 = 13,977.15

The total cost to employ the research assistant is $13,977.15.

Note 1: the maximum period a person can be employed on a casual rate is 6 months.

Note 2: For some schemes, the funding provider stipulates a specific maximum rate for funding of salary on-costs, e.g. the Australian Research Council (ARC) funds on-costs at a rate of 30%, so you must use this figure.


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