Ever heard of a modular budget? Used only by the National Institutes of Health, modular budgets offer a more efficient and condensed format to lay out the costs associated with lower-range funding requests ($250,000 or less per year). Basically, a modular budget is like a regular grant proposal budget without all the headaches that can come with the typical categorical breakdown of direct costs. Rather than submitting detailed line-item budgets, modular grant applicants can request funds in “modules” of $25,000, up to $250,000 per year.
Most often, applicants request the same number of modules each year in multi-year applications, but exceptions may be made if there are one-time purchases, such as equipment, as long as that one year’s direct costs don’t exceed $250,000. Further, the budget justification requirements are less rigorous for applications with a modular budget format.
To date, NIH is the only agency offering the modular budget format, and only for these funding mechanisms: Research Project Grants (R01); Small Grants (R03); Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) Grants (R15); Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants (R21); Clinical Trial Planning Grant Programs (R34); Additional Research Funding Announcements (RFAs) and Program Announcements (PAs).
If you’re wondering why NIH is promoting this option for these grant applicants, you aren’t alone! It turns out NIH is keenly tuned into what NIH applicants care about most – the science behind their proposals. The introduction of the modular budget was NIH’s way of saying that it’s OK for investigators and their institutions, as well as peer reviewers and NIH staff, to give more attention to science than those pesky budget details. We think that’s something to applaud, and we will definitely be keeping our eyes and ears open to see if this applicant-friendly approach catches on in other agencies!