Office of Research, UC Riverside
Sponsored Programs Administration

Administrative/Clerical Salaries - Special Guidance

Standard Treatment

In accordance with OMB Circular A-21 and University policy, administrative/clerical salaries are considered F&A costs and should not be budgeted in proposals or charged to extramural awards (sponsored programs).

Examples of Administrative/Clerical Activities

The following list (which is not all inclusive) represents some of the most common, routine administrative/clerical activities:

  • General departmental administration including maintaining general departmental databases
  • Contracts and grants administration including proposal prepartion
  • Personnel, payroll and human resource functions, both staff and academic
  • Accounting, budgeting and financial monitoring functions including bookeeping and reconciling ledgers
  • Travel planning
  • Preparation of newsletters, brochures, correspondence and reports
  • Purchasing functions including processing and tracking purchase orders, placing low value orders and receiving ordered goods/services
  • Space management
  • Equipment inventory
  • Regulatory committee oversight including preparation of protocols for regulatory committee review

Treatment of Administrative/Clerical Salaries in Special Circumstances

Administrative/Clerical salaries may be treated (budgeted and/or charged) as a direct cost if special circumstances exist that would necessitate or require an extensive amount of administrative/clerical personnel expenses significantly greater than the routine level of support that is provided by UCR departments and units. To treat an administrative/clerical salary as a direct cost, the following conditions must be met:

  1. the sponsored project/program must satisfy the Major Project criteria contained in OMB Circular A-21 (see below); and
  2. the administrative/clerical activities of the individual(s) whose salary and related benefits comprise such expenses can be specifically identified (i.e., with a high degree of accuracy) with the sponsored project/program; and
  3. the administering unit must maintain documentation that explains and supports items 1 and 2 above.

Major Project Criteria

Major Project, as defined in OMB Circular A-21 is a project that requires an extensive amount of administrative/clerical personnel support, which is significantly greater than the routine level of such services provided by academic departments.

Examples of Major Projects

The following examples of federal Major Projects are illustrative of circumstances where direct charging of administrative and clerical support is appropriate:

  • Projects that are geographically inaccessible to normal departmental administrative services such as research vessels, radio astronomy projects, and other research field sites that are remote from campus (e.g., field projects).
  • Projects that require making travel and meeting arrangements for large numbers of participants, such as conferences and seminars.
  • Large, complex programs, such as Primate Centers, Program Projects, environmental research centers, engineering research centers, and other grants and contracts that entail assembling and managing teams of investigators from a number of institutions.
  • Projects which involve extensive data accumulation, analysis and entry, surveying, tabulation, cataloging, searching literature, and reporting.
  • Projects whose principal focus is the preparation and production of manuals and large reports, books, or monographs (excluding routine progress and technical reports).
  • Projects requiring the management of large databases; individualized graphics or manuscript preparation; projects involving multiple human or animal protocols; or projects involving coordination of, and communication between, multiple investigators at various locations.
  • Since training grants are for a different purpose than a traditional research project, these project budgets may include costs that are normally treated as F&A costs. Training grants permit a budget for an "institutional allowance" which authorizes direct charging of appropriate expenses normally treated as facilities and administrative costs if they are reasonable, specifically identified with the project, and budgeted in the award.

The following examples are illustrative of circumstances where direct charging of administrative or clerical salaries to non-federal projects may be appropriate if the costs are budgeted and approved by the awarding agency:

  • For-profit (Industrial/Commercial) sponsors: Projects performed for these organizations are proposed and awarded to be performed, at least in part, for the benefit of the sponsor. Total costs are the concern of the sponsor, not whether the costs are direct or facilities and administrative.
  • Non-profit sponsors: Generally the purpose of private foundation funding is to supplement federal research support. Typically, non-profit sponsors do not support the facilities and administrative activities of the research project as indicated by their practice of funding facilities and administrative costs at a rate less than the institution's full F&A cost rate.
  • State sponsored agreements: State agreements that have defined the types of costs that are direct or facilities and administrative would constitute a different circumstance than costs incurred under federal agreements. UCR must comply with State agency regulations and statutory requirements. Consequently, costs normally treated as facilities and administrative costs could be treated as direct if they are reasonable, specifically identified with the sponsored agreement, included in the award budget and considered allowable by the State or under the terms of the award.

Additional Examples of Activities in Support of "Major Projects"

  • Competitive and complex procurement (e.g., securing competitive bids for one or more large subcontracts under a UCR prime award)
  • Conducting a telephone survey or extensive interviewing of human research subjects
  • Coordinating and managing a high number of consultant contracts/subcontracts
  • Coordinating extensive travel and meeting arrangements
  • Extensive data collection or entry
  • Managing a large projects at multiple sites/locations
  • Planning and organizing large conferences
  • Preparing manuscripts/publications beyond the routine
  • Extensive administrative activities in support of related projects (see OMB Circular A-21 (C.4.d. (3))

The above examples are neither exhaustive nor are they intended to imply that direct charging of these expenses would always be appropriate.

Questions to Address When Justifying Administrative/Clerical Salaries

When justifying administrative/clerical salaries in proposal budgets (or before charging such expenses to a sponsored project/program), it is helpful to address the following issues:

  • Are the administrative support needs of this project significantly greater than the routine level of administrative support provided for other projects in the department? If so, why? Also, describe how the administrative support activities of the administrative/clerical personnel working on the project are necessary for the successful performance of the project.
  • If a job title or payroll classification implies that an individual's work is administrative in nature, but the person will be engaged in non-administrative work on a sponsored project/program, describe the non-administrative work to be assigned to the individual, as well as how such work is necessary for technical performance of the project.
  • Can the proposed administrative/clerical support costs be easily and accurately allocated to the project? How will this be done? For example, an administrator working full-time for a project can be allocated easily and accurately to the project. However, if that person works on multiple projects, it may be difficult to accurately document the relative benefit of the administrator's salary (effort) to any specific project. The more projects a person works on, the more difficult it is to accurately and easily document the relative benefit to each project.