Understanding Participant Support Costs

Participant support costs are defined in the Uniform Guidance as direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to, or on behalf of, participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences or training projects (except NIH Kirschstein-NRSA programs). Participant support costs do not include expenses incurred to incent or enable research subjects to participate in studies, such as gift cards, stipends, dependent care costs, parking fees and transportation.


Note that participant support costs are not routinely allowed on research projects. Typically, these expenses are incurred for projects that include an education or outreach component. The funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will indicate when these expenses are allowable as direct costs to the project.

The Uniform Guidance redefined the Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) base to exclude participant support costs from Indirect Cost Recovery (ICR). This applies to all sponsored projects awarded on or after December 26, 2014.

The MTDC is now defined as all direct salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each subaward (regardless of the period of performance of the subawards under the award). MTDC excludes equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and subaward expenses in excess of $25,000.

The calculated MTDC base is multiplied by the F&A rate to calculate the amount of indirect costs on a project.

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