Guidance on Extramural Research Funding and Release Time

​​​​​​​Updated/Revised 1 December 2017

Faculty in the College are strongly encouraged to apply for extramural funding to support research and scholarship, for several reasons:

  • To provide scholars with the time and support needed to engage in extensive research and scholarship
  • To support graduate students through funding and through gaining experience working on scholarly projects
  • To provide resources for project-related equipment, travel, and other needs beyond what can be supported by existing (and limited) state funds
  • To generate funds to support overall research infrastructure, by way of Facilities and Administration (sometimes called “overhead”) and salary release funding
  • Because external funding is itself a form of validation of the quality and importance of a scholar’s work

The following guidelines do not apply to fellowships.

Although faculty often think of their work on sponsored projects in terms of “course buyouts,” this is not the way funders (and university, state, and federal regulations) view the issue. Instead, faculty time on a grant (excluding summer work by faculty on 9-month contracts) is considered to be a fraction of their normal effort. Typical effort sums to 100% of faculty time; the proportion of time a faculty member works on a sponsored project is a fraction of that 100% time. Also, 100% of effort is based on a 40 hour work week. So, to calculate time charged to a sponsored project, estimate the number of hours worked per week, divide by 40, and that is the portion of effort to be charged to the sponsor. There are additional restrictions and issues on summer salary for 9-month faculty appointments; in all cases, faculty should contact their Department Head and the college research office at least 30 days in advance of a grant submission deadline to ensure they have adequately and accurately estimated and budgeted work charged to grants.

Proposed Principles to Guide Work Allocations between Dept. Head and Faculty

Because faculty are legally required to expend the effort to which they commit on a project, their supervisor/Department Head must adjust the faculty member’s expectations for effort across realms of responsibility so their total effort is equal to 100%. For example, if a faculty member is 20% time on a grant, that 20% time must be taken from current allocations to accommodate the grant effort. However, the matter of how faculty responsibilities, duties, and teaching assignments are shifted to accommodate time commitments on sponsored projects is not a matter that involves the Office of Research and Engagement. Rather, that is a decision between the faculty member and her supervisor/Department Head and, when exceptions are needed, with approval from the dean. The following principles should guide how department heads and faculty make decisions about where to reassign time from existing allocations to funded projects.

  1. The typical faculty SME assigns 40% scholarship, 40% instruction, and 20% service. Work on sponsored projects can come from one or more of these areas of effort. For example, if a faculty member is funded to work 20% time on a project, that effort could come from the 40% of the faculty member’s time allocated for research (which would lead to no reduction in teaching), or could be distributed over other areas of effort (e.g., service, teaching).
  2. When a faculty member has budgeted academic year salary on one or more projects, the faculty member should work with the department head to determine from what area(s) the effort will be drawn for the project, and determine the duration of time (e.g., a semester or academic year). Such arrangements may, but do not necessarily include, changes in teaching, service activities, or allocation of time devoted to research. Once determined, the understanding should be documented in a MOU and a copy of the MOU should be retained in the faculty member’s department personnel file.
    1. Department heads must consider both the faculty member’s needs and departmental/programmatic needs when assigning faculty effort to projects. If departmental or program needs would be compromised by reducing faculty teaching effort, then the effort given to a project should come from other (e.g., research, service) areas of faculty effort.
    2. In the standard case, department heads should assign an equal amount of research effort with effort from other areas (e.g., instruction, service). For example, if a faculty member has a project that funds 30% of her time, her department head would typically assign 15% of the effort from scholarship, and 15% would come from instruction and/or service.
    3. Since a typical SME assigns a 40/40/20 distribution across instruction/scholarship/service, faculty members would typically reduce their teaching by one course if funded 20% or more on a grant. That is, 10% of the time for the grant would come from scholarship activities, and 10% from instruction; since most faculty are on a 2/2 load, they teach 4 courses a year, 10% of their time = 1 course, so it would take 20% time assigned to a grant to reduce the faculty member’s teaching by one course preparation.
    4. Given the university’s commitment to public education, all college faculty should teach at least one course per year, even if they have substantial portions of their effort given to sponsored projects.
  3. Department heads have the authority to negotiate with faculty to maximize and balance the interests of the faculty member and the department, college, and university. However, the dean must approve if the adjustments to assigned time exceed 1.0 FTE (i.e., would require overload or other additional compensation), or if the faculty member will teach no courses in an academic year (unless the faculty member is on an approved scholarly reassignment).