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3. Commitments to sponsored projects

Three key terms: Cost sharing, cost-shared effort, and paid effort

Often, the sponsor pays all of the costs associated with a sponsored project. But sometimes UMD bears a portion of the costs.

  1. Cost sharing is the portion of the total costs that is borne by UMD rather than by the sponsor.
  2. Cost-shared effort is any work on a sponsored project for which the university, rather than the sponsor, provides salary support.
  3. Paid effort is work for which the sponsor provides salary support.

Both types of effort are important in the effort certification process.

What is a commitment?

A commitment is the amount of effort you propose in a grant proposal or other project application, and that the sponsor accepts – regardless of whether you request salary support for the effort. Commitments are specific and quantified, and they generally are expressed in terms of a percentage of your work time over a given project period.


If you indicate in a grant proposal that you will devote 30% of your effort to the grant for one year, and request salary support for 10% of your effort, then

  • The effort commitment is 30%
  • Paid effort is 10%
  • The cost-shared effort is 20%

A commitment is an obligation that the university must fulfill. Commitments may be adjusted with the approval of the sponsoring agency.

Are effort commitments recognized and tracked for all project personnel?

Commitments are recognized and must be tracked for:

  • the principal investigator/project director, and
  • all co-investigators, and
  • all persons identified as senior/key personnel in the grant proposal.

When the proposal does not explicitly list key persons, the university defines key personnel for the purpose of effort reporting as the principal investigator/project director and all co-investigators.

What statements in the proposal form the basis for commitments?

Requests for salary support and statements about cost-shared effort in the budget or budget justification become binding commitments when the university and the sponsor finalize the award agreement.

When effort proposed in the project description or research plan is specific and quantified, it also becomes a binding commitment at the time the university and the sponsor finalize the award agreement.


"Professor Jones will devote 10% of his time during the academic year to this project."

Even if Professor Jones is not mentioned in the budget or the budget justification, this statement represents a specific, quantifiable commitment to the sponsoring agency.If a statement in the project description or research plan is not specific and quantified, such as "Professor Jones will provide some assistance as needed to the project," it does not become a binding commitment.

Limits on your total effort commitments to sponsored projects

No one can ever have commitments to sponsored projects that total more than 100%.

Your commitments to sponsored projects can add up to a full 100% only if all of your UMD job duties can be allocated to sponsored projects. Faculty members generally have academic or administrative responsibilities in addition to their work on sponsored projects. Consequently, a faculty member's commitments to sponsored projects generally cannot total 100% for any consecutive 12-month period.

It is not against the rules for academic staff, classified staff, or postdoctoral researchers to be paid 100% from sponsored projects. There are a number of instances where this is entirely appropriate, given the individual's job duties. However, everyone's allocation of effort to sponsored projects must be reasonable in light of their non-sponsored university activities.

The PI's minimum commitment of effort to a sponsored project

An effort commitment is required of the principal investigator/project director (PI/PD) for every federal and non-federal sponsored project. This includes fixed-price agreements, where the commitment may not be stated explicitly. In such cases, the commitment is implicit in the reimbursement negotiated with the sponsor.

A PI/PD is responsible for the scientific, administrative, and financial management of a sponsored project. Fulfilling these responsibilities requires time and represents a commitment of effort.

This doesn't apply for equipment and instrumentation grants, doctoral dissertation grants, or student augmentation grants. It does apply for the PI/PD on a training grant, but not for the faculty mentors (also known as preceptors or program faculty) as their effort will be assigned to the trainees' specific research projects.


Go back to main menu The Basics of Effort Reporting or

Continue to Module 4. The basics of effort certification at UMass

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