Supplemental Salary

With the approval of external sponsors and the University, faculty members are permitted to augment academic salaries with sponsored funds for up to 3/9ths of the academic salary, as compensation for the time spent on the associated sponsored research projects.  A quantifiable supplemental faculty compensation request in a grant proposal constitutes a commitment of effort that must be fulfilled, whether or not salary is paid for the effort on that project.  Any committed effort that is not compensated by the project becomes a cost-sharing burden for the FAS.

Since research is part of the academic role for most faculty members, supplemental salary from sponsored funds typically covers only a portion of the total effort devoted to sponsored projects.  Dean’s “ninths” taken as compensation and any vacation time or other non-Harvard activities during the summer months must be subtracted from the 3/9ths maximum allowance.  The adjusted maximum sets a limit on the total supplemental salary that a faculty member can request from external sponsors.

Ordinarily, in the absence of more specific guidance, payments will be spread over the applicable period for each award, consistent with the limits adopted by sponsors and by the FAS.  Except in unusual circumstances (such as field research, etc.), faculty members may not be paid from sponsored funds for more than 25% in any one month of the fiscal year.  This does not limit the amount of effort that may actually be expended on research, but only the amount for which sponsors can pay.  This policy limits the amount of effort that can be charged to grants during the summer months so that faculty have time to engage in activities that should not be charged to grants, including proposal writing, course preparation, writing letters of recommendation, committee work, and vacation.

At the end of each fiscal year, faculty members must certify that the work effort was indeed performed as indicated and paid.

Process for Faculty

In order for supplemental salary to be paid, a faculty member or authorized proxy must submit a request through the FAS Supplemental Pay, Effort Commitment Tracking and Request Application (SPECTRA).  Once the request is created in SPECTRA, it is first reviewed and approved by the authorized Department Administrator and then reviewed and approved by FAS Finance.  The supplemental salary ninths requested are spread out evenly over the fiscal year and reflected in faculty payroll accordingly.  (For more information about SPECTRA, please visit the FAS Finance website located at

The faculty member or other academic appointee bears the ultimate responsibility for spending awarded funds appropriately on his or her sponsored awards, and he or she is uniquely qualified to certify his or her effort on their funding source(s).   Every fiscal year, he or she must review his/her effort in ecrt and certify that:

  • the indicated proportion of his or her time and effort is reasonable to the amount of salary charged to that project,
  • the work occurred during the indicated time period, and
  • any transfers of salaries to that project reflect the actual effort performed on that project.

If a faculty member is leaving the University prior to the end of the fiscal year, the grant manager should print off an-off-cycle statement and have him or her certify prior to their departure.

NIH, Effort, and No-Cost-Extensions

A no-cost-extension (NCE) is defined as an extension of the awarded project period at no additional cost to the sponsor.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) require the committed effort of any key personnel named in the award document to remain at a measurable amount, but may be reduced from the original level without prior approval, during a no-cost-extension.  Please note that grant programs that have an effort requirement, or where terms and conditions prohibit such reductions are the exception to this policy.

For more information, section Extension of Final Budget Period of a Previously Approved Project Period without Additional NIH Funds in the NIH Grants Policy Guide addresses this topic.  Access it here.

Please note that this is only true for the National Institutes of Health.  However, many sponsors refer to NIH’s regulations.  Please ensure to check the award terms of any other sponsors in order to determine if this applies to non-NIH awarded projects.

Additional Information: