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Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) Doctoral Dissertation Budget Guidelines

The Program Announcement for Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants states, "Funds are to be used exclusively for necessary expenses incurred in the actual conduct of the dissertation research ... the awards are not intended to provide the full costs of a student's doctoral dissertation research."

That is, NSF funding covers only those expenses essential to achieving the scientific goals of the project. While the maximum allowed is $12,000 in direct costs (plus added indirect costs) there should be no expectation that a proposal will be funded at that amount, especially in cases where other support has been obtained by the PI.

These standards are at the heart of any decision regarding funding. In addition, circumstances vary according to current budgets and priorities, number and quality of proposals, and the scientific needs of the project.

Some general guidelines include:

  • all air travel must be on U.S. carriers unless unavailable;
  • tuition, university fees, textbooks, journals, dissertation preparation, stipends, health insurance (except medical evacuation insurance if justified), mortgage payments and personal clothing are not allowed;
  • purchase or rental of field vehicles is exceedingly rare but support can be requested for a bicycle, gas, and/or local public transportation;
  • modest (i.e., student-level rather than State Department per diem rates) living expenses for the co-PI during fieldwork (in locations away from one’s home or university) are allowed; expenses of relatives or dependents, including childcare, are not allowed;
  • culturally appropriate informant compensation/reimbursement and research assistance are allowed if essential to the execution of the study;
  • allocations for some types of field equipment (e.g., laptops; photo, video, or audio equipment) are based on appropriateness to the scientific need of the study and current market prices. "State of the art" or top of the line equipment is generally not funded unless there is specific and well-justified explanation as to why "standard" equipment will not suffice (e.g., top quality lab equipment may be justified by the scientific goals of the project).

All budgeted items must be presented with detailed justification and actual costs; estimates must be realistic and justified. Other funding sources must be reported as overlapping funding is illegal. When in doubt, PIs are strongly encouraged to consult with the cognizant program office prior to proposal submission to ascertain allowable expenses and seek advice.


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