Penn State - Research Administration
To establish the requirements that apply to participant support costs.
Funds identified as "participant support costs" are those costs paid to (or on behalf of) participants in meetings, conferences, symposia, and workshops, if allowed in the award budget. Participant support costs may not be paid to employees (performing in their normal role), presenters, or research subjects participating in a study.
Per the Uniform Guidance:
Participant support costs means direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences, or training projects (2 CFR 200.75).
Participant support costs are allowable with the prior approval of the Federal awarding agency (2 CFR 200.456).
Participant support costs are excluded from MTDC (2 CFR 200.68), thus F&A is not assessed on participant support costs (unless the budget is being calculated on a TDC or Total Cost basis.) There is no special object code associated with participant support costs, since such costs can be associated with travel, stipends, registration fees, etc. Thus, it is generally necessary to establish separate accounts, one for the participant support costs (assessed 0% F&A) and one for all other costs.
The federal government also expects participant support costs to be accounted for separately. According to the Uniform Guidance, grantees must request the Federal awarding agency's prior approval before transferring funds budgeted for participant support costs to other categories of expense (2 CFR 200.308(c)(5)). As a result, unused participant support costs are generally returned to the sponsor rather than spent on other categories of cost.
Historically, participant support costs have been associated most commonly with the National Science Foundation (especially Research Experience for Undergraduates grants (REUs) and Research Experiences for Teachers grants (RETs)). Please refer to NSF's Grants Proposal Guide, Chapter II, section C.2.g.(v) for NSF specific guidance.
For a project where employees of the University (be they students or staff) are helping to manage the logistical/administrative details of a sponsored conference or training project, such work would be considered part of their job duties and therefore their time and/or travel expenses should be paid for by another appropriate funding source. They should not receive participant support funds on top of that. Conversely, if a University employee is attending a conference specifically for the purpose of receiving training, those costs generally may be included as participant support costs.
For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Research or the Office of the Corporate Controller.
Most recent changes:
Revision History (and effective dates):