Budget Justifications

Definition and Purpose

The budget justification is a categorical description of the proposed costs. Generally, it explains staffing and supply/service consumption patterns, the methods used to estimate/calculate (including escalation or inflation factors) and other details such as lists of items that make up the total costs for a category. The budget justification should address each of major cost categories (salaries, fringe benefits, equipment, travel, supplies, other direct costs and indirect costs), as well as any additional categories required by the sponsor.

A thorough written justification that explains both the necessity and the basis for the proposed costs must accompany the budget. The justification section is critical as it enables the principal investigator to emphasize the importance of essential project costs. A budget that is adequately and appropriately justified is the best way to assure a positive cost analysis by the sponsor.

Click on the section title for further information about each of the following categories of costs.

Salaries and Wages

List all persons/positions to be paid with project funds and briefly describe their role in the project. If a University employee will contribute time/effort to the project, disclose the percent of time/effort and the dollar equivalent of the contributed effort. For example, if an investigator requests no salary support but anticipates spending 20 percent time on the project, disclose the anticipated effort as 20% and the dollar equivalent of the contributed time as 20% of the investigator's total negotiated salary.

Indicate that salaries are based on current University of California academic and staff salary scales and explain the types of anticipated salary increases (merit and/or range adjustment), the rate of increase, and the period of time to which the increases apply.

For all NSF Proposals (direct and flow through funding) include the following justification for senior personnel salary compensation: “UCI’s “year” for purposes of applying the limitation on senior personnel salary compensation is its fiscal year, July 1st through June 30th.”

Fringe Benefits

List the benefit rate used for each UCI employee. A statement disclosing the method of calculation should also be included.  See Employee Fringe Benefits for more information.

Supplies and Materials

When proposing supplies as a single category or using broad subcategories, describe in detail the supplies/materials that make up the costs proposed. Describe how the project will benefit from the purchase of the supplies and materials proposed. For those costs normally treated as Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs, clearly justify the special purpose necessitating the inclusion as a direct cost.

Describe the method used to estimate supply and material expenses (e.g., catalog prices, vendor quotes, historical costs for like projects appropriately escalated, etc.) including how inflationary factors were determined and applied in multi-year budgets.  See Supplies and Materials for more information.


Describe the benefit to the project or the specific need for equipment proposed. When proposing fabricated equipment costs, provide a cost analysis of the estimated labor, materials and other costs associated with the equipment fabrication and retain supporting documentation used to develop the cost analysis.

Describe the method used to estimate equipment expenses (e.g., catalog prices, vendor quotes, etc.) including how inflationary factors were determined and applied in multi-year budgets.


Explain the purpose of the trip and how the trip will benefit the project. State the destination and the names or the number of individuals who will be taking the trip. If the exact destination is not known, state the geographic location. Describe the mode and cost of transportation (air and/or ground), the number of days of per diem, the per diem rate. Include a statement indicating that the per diem rates used are the current UCI per diem rates.


Indicate the name of the consultant(s), the area of expertise, organizational affiliation (if any) the daily rate of pay, number of days of service and the cost of travel and per diem as appropriate.

Describe the need for the consultant(s), the services to be provided and justify the selection of the consultant and their rate of pay.

Subcontracts or Subawards

Indicate the reasons why a portion of the technical or programmatic effort must be subcontracted and provide an explanation of the method used to select the subcontract (e.g., sole source, competitive bid, etc.) as well as the reasons why the subcontractor was selected.


Retain page rates for those journals in which project results will be published and any other documentation used to estimate publication costs.

Patient Care

The budget justification for patient care costs must include:

  • Details about inpatient and/or outpatient costs including the names of any hospitals where the care will be provided. If multiple sites are to be used, provide detailed information by site.
  • The basis for estimating costs, including the number of patient days, estimated cost per day, and cost per test or treatment. If both inpatient and outpatient costs are requested, provide information for each separately. Current rates for special services, tests or treatments must be used.
  • Whether each hospital or clinic has a currently effective DHHS-negotiated patient care rate agreement and, if not, what basis is used for calculating costs.
    • Rates for UCIMC services can be obtained from the Clinical Research Finance department.

Other Direct Costs

Explain the need for cost items included in the direct costs category and describe the method used to estimate those expenses (e.g., service brochures, established rate lists, vendor quotes, historical costs for like projects appropriately escalated, etc.) including how inflationary factors were determined and applied in multi-year budgets.

Facilities and Administrative Costs

State that the indirect costs are calculated based on UCI's federal indirect cost rate agreement. Indicate which rate was used (organized research, instruction or other sponsored activity) and cite the date that the agreement was signed.