Compiling a research budget

Where to start?

Step 1:   Complete a costing request form [Excel]. To help you complete the form, see some example travel costs [PDF]. 

Step 2:  Email the costing request form to

Step 3:  A grant applications manager will contact you to compile the budget for your research project. For any further queries, contact us on +44 (0)20 7106 1202 or email the Research Development team.

Consider the following items when preparing the costing request form.

Staff salaries [click to expand]

Often the most expensive part of the budget is the salary cost. You’ll need to consider the amount of time you wish to spend on the project as well as the amount of research assistance and expertise required.


To ensure enough money is budgeted for staffing costs, you’ll need to consider what staff roles the project requires. To help determine what level is appropriate, view the research staff role profiles [HR intranet].


You may need administrative support if you plan on sending out a large number of questionnaires and have a lot of data entry to do. If the study is complex, you may want a senior research fellow with previous experience. It will cost more but it will be an expense worth paying for. View the August 2014 salary scales [HR intranet log in required].


In addition to these, there will be extra costs to include, such as:

  • recruitment advertising 
  • redundancy expenses
  • pension costs
  • National Insurance contributions

There are procedures for including named staff in proposals. If you have a specific person in mind contact your grant applications manager [link].


Check local practice with your head of department or centre manager as additional procedures on staffing salary levels may apply.


Indirect costs [click to expand]

Indirect costs can include estates costs and institutional overheads, for example the cost of using an office and the cost of using facilities such as HR, IT support and library services.


Often a funding body will only pay a contribution towards these. The Research Division will calculate these costs based on a standard full economic costing. If you have any queries, get in touch with the Research Development team



Equipment [click to expand]

This could include items such as a digital recorder or a laptop for carrying out field work. Some items of equipment may not be eligible depending on the funder’s regulations. 


For example, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) will normally expect a computer to be provided by the host institution but they will consider funding if a standard computer will not be adequate, for example, if you need to process vast amounts of data. You will need to justify the equipment explicitly in your proposal. Contact us for further advice [link]

Consumables [click to expand]

Some examples of standard running costs of a project include:

  • printed brochures for dissemination events
  • tea, coffee, lunch for meetings etc.
  • postage and stationery
  • photocopying
  • computer supplies (toner)

Travel and subsistence [click to expand]

Often a project will require travel costs to allow you to:

  • carry out field work
  • attend a conference
  • present findings for dissemination purposes
  • meet co-investigators working on the project

The School has some example costs, including travel rates to cover the cost of subsistence and accommodation as well as flights and train costs. You can refer to these example costs when estimating your budget. View example costs [PDF].


Some funding bodies have set criteria of what they are prepared to cover and may apply funding caps for example, no business class flights; economy travel only. Contact the Research Development team in the first instance who will help you with your costs. When requesting a costing, consider:

  • the total number of trips you'll require
  • the number of people who'll need to travel
  • the year in which each trip will be taken 

Justification of resources [click to expand]

A common component of a project is the ‘justification of costs’, sometimes referred to as ‘resource allocation’. It's essential to spend time making this section clear.


If an expensive item of equipment is crucial for the project, you need to state how it will be used and why alternative options are not viable.


The same rule applies for the inclusion of those people who have specialised expertise – you must state:

  • what these staff will be doing
  • why less costly options are not viable 

The Research Development team can offer you further guidance on what is required – please get in touch.  

Research Incentives Policy and teaching buyout [click to expand]

The School operates a Research Incentives Policy which allocates personal financial rewards to staff who win grant funding. For full details view the Research Incentives Policy [pdf] and FAQs [restricted access, log in with LSE password].


Essentially, subject to conditions, personal financial rewards, paid for from School funding, are equal to the value of the salary of the investigator recovered through the grant. Personal financial rewards can be used as salary supplement, teaching buy-out, and/or put into an individual research account for personal research use. To see what personal financial rewards might result from the Policy view our illustrative examples [restricted access, log in with LSE password].  


Departments (or Research Centres) also benefit from the scheme. In recognition of the costs of running research projects, departments are allocated a 40% share of the net overhead income brought in by each grant, to be used according to the rules of the Research Infrastructure and Investment Fund (RIIF fund).


More detailed rules on the calculation of the RIIF Fund allocation are in the Research Incentives Policy [pdf]. Details on the purposes and uses of the RIIF Fund are in the Research Infrastructure and Investment Fund [pdf]


Certain funders will directly cover the cost of teaching buyout. You need to check the guidelines to see what conditions need to be fulfilled.  In such cases the Research Development team will help calculate the amount of buyout you can apply for and will offer further advice on the procedure.  

Ineligible costs


Each call has different guidelines for what may or may not be included within the budget for your project. It is best to read the guidelines for the call and if in doubt, check these details with your grant application manager in the Research Development team.