Grant proposal budgeting 101

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA—If you’re tempted to put off working on the budget for your grant proposal until the last minute, Yulia Strekalova, director of grants development at the University of Florida in Gainesville, has a message for you: Don’t. “You are writing the proposal to ask for money,” she told Science Careers in a conversation after her session this morning at the annual meeting of AAAS (which publishes Science Careers). “Not thinking about what money and resources you need until the very end is, I think, putting the whole process on its head.”

Meticulously thinking through all the aspects of a project’s budget can help you identify parts of your proposal that are not as fleshed out as they should be, she explained. When drafting the budget, think about the who, what, where, when, and how of you project. Answering these questions helps ensure that you are asking for the right amount of money and forces you to think through details of your project plan that might have important implications for the research. “If you’re open to these questions, they will strengthen your design,” she said.

[N]ever, ever lowball your budget—but don’t pad it either.

For example, if a study needs human participants, you must have a plan for how and where you’re going to get them and know what the cost will be. Neglecting such details can lead to problems down the line, like unanticipated costs. From a scientific perspective, the participant group you decide to work with could affect the results you obtain.  

Two other tips from Strekalova:

  1. Don’t underestimate the time you need to commit to in the budget. All your responsibilities and all the tasks related to running the project, big and small, will likely add up to more than you expect.

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