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Managing Sponsored Project Funds: Participant Support Costs

Find out details about PSC and PSC rebudgeting for a sponsored project award.

Participant Support Costs (PSC)

Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances and registration fees paid on or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia or training projects.

Funds provided for participant support may not be used by grantees for other categories of expense without the specific prior written approval of the cognizant NSF Program Officer. Therefore, awardees must account for PSC separately.

  • PSC must be specified, itemized and justified in the budget
  • Indirect cost is not permitted
  • Speakers and trainers are not considered participants
  • Prior approval required to reallocate funds out of the PSC category
  • Student cannot be compensated as an employee and as a participant on the same grant
  • Room rental fees, catering, supplies, etc related to an NSF-sponsored conference are not PSC
  • Participants from the submitting institution and other institution(s) could be considered participants
  • Incentive payments to research subjects are not allowed (e.g., survey takers) PSC
  • Please note that some of the above expenses can be allowed in the project but not as PSC

National Science Foundation (NSF) - PSC Rebudgeting Request

According to NSF Grant Specialist, it is allowable to rebudget funds into the PSC category if did not exits in the original budget.

For requests to rebudget into PSC when PSC was not in the original award:

  • If the request is not a change in scope.
  • Department need to provide the PSC budget broken down into PSC categories and include the budget justification.
  • Once a rebudget INTO PSC is done, it cannot be moved out without prior approval.

Reminder: Post-award REUs, RETs, and other training PSC are typically requested via supplemental funding requests in Fastlane. In cases where the PI would like to add an REU, RET or other training PSC component to an award into PSC category, the PI should discuss this with the recognizant NSF Program Officer and reach out to OCGA, so the appropriate Contract and Grant Officer discuss it with the cognizant NSF Grant Officer. A formal prior approval request will most likely be required.

Items always requiring NSF approval:

  • Change in scope*
  • Request to create a REU/RET or other training PSC
  • Rebudget out of PSC

*Change in scope: Not specified as any specific % change, but 25% of total budget is commonly used rule of thumb. Please refer to the NSF Proposal and Award Policies & Procedures Guide for further clarification.

Food and Meals for participants (NSF)

NSF allows for a subsistence allowance or per diem to be paid to Participants to use for meals as Participant Support.

Thus, if a meal is provided to a Participant at the conference or training, it can be provided as Participant Support as long as:

  • The per person cost of the meal is less than the Per Diem meal allocation for the meal and location
  • The Participant is not also receiving a Per Diem allowance OR the amount of the Per Diem allowance is reduced by the meal allocation.

Cost for meals for non-Participants and portion of the actual meal cost that exceeds the per diem for the Participant(s) is not allowed as Participant Support on NSF Awards. Only the cost of meals for Participants up to the per diem amount are allowable as Participant Support.

For example, the per diem allocation for lunch is $18.00.  There are ten Participants and two UW staff attending a conference. The actual cost for lunch is $20 per person so the total lunch cost is 12 people x $20 = $240.  Of the total cost, only $180 (10 Participants for a maximum amount of $18) can be charged to Participant Support.

Find answers, request services, or get help from our team at the UC San Diego Services & Support portal.