Research Affairs / 
Grantsmanship Vocabulary and Definitions



New - An application being submitted for the first time.
Revision - This application replaces a prior unfunded version of a competing application.  NIH calls this a Resubmission.
Noncompeting Continuation
- A request for financial or direct assistance for a second or subsequent budget period within a previously approved project period.  NIH calls this a Renewal.

(For more definitions, see the Grants Guide: Determine the Proposal Type)

Bricks-and-mortar (adj)

Classically, pertaining to construction, as in a bricks-and-mortar grant to build a new laboratory. Sometimes extended to include renovation or enhancement of structures, or to include large items of fixed equipment.

Budget Period

The interval of time (usually 12 months) into which the project is divided for budgetary and funding purposes.

Challenge Grant (n)

A grant that provides value in response to value received from other sources, usually according to a formula. A challenge grant may, or example, offer two dollars for every one that is obtained from a fund drive. The grant usually has a fixed upper limit and may have a challenge minimum below which no grant will be made. Compare with Matching Grant.

Contract (n, adj)

A reciprocal business arrangement in which one or more institutions agree to provide to one or more other institutions certain goods and/or services in return for pre-arranged compensation. Often used to arrange the delivery of scientific research or service, a contract can be for a specified flat fee or can provide for payment of a fee plus reimbursement of expenses ("cost-plus" or "fee-plus"). A contract can have some of the characteristics of a grant when it contains such provisions as retention of equipment by a contractee at the completion of the contract. The "buyer" identifies the need, outlines the program, and solicits bids from interested and qualified organizations through a process known as Request for Proposals (RFP).

Cooperative Agreement

A sort of hybrid grant+contract, the cooperative agreement is not well-defined. It is generally not as restrictive as a contract, but usually vests more control of a project in the supporting agency than is the case with a grant. Cooperative agreements are used by some agencies to support scientific research, but not on a widespread basis.

Cost Sharing (n), Cost-sharing (adj)

A general term that can describe virtually any type of arrangement in which more than one agency supports equipment acquisition, projects, programs, institutions, etc.

Direct Costs

Includes specific, identifiable costs for operating a supported project. These are: salaries and wages, supplies, equipment, travel, publications, and other items or services that arise during the project period.


Transfer of equipment, money, goods, services, property, etc., with or without specifications as to use thereof. Sometimes used to designate contributions that are made with more specific intent than is usually the case with a gift, but the terms are often used interchangeably.


A fund, usually in the form of an income-generating investment, established to provide long-term support for a piece of equipment, institution, project, laboratory, faculty position, etc.

Gift (n)

See Donation.

Grant (n, v)

A financial assistance mechanism whereby money and/or direct assistance is provided to carry out approved activities. The awarding office anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement with the recipient during the performance of the financially assisted activities.

Indirect Costs

Costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives, and which therefore cannot be identified specifically with a particular project or program. Overhead includes administrative expenses, operation and maintenance expenses, library costs, utilities, research space, departmental administration costs, and other general costs not provided for in the proposal budget.

In-kind (adj)

Consisting of other than money. Equipment or services of recognized value that are offered in lieu of cash. The requirements of a matching grant, for example, might be fulfilled by securing the in-kind use of a major item of instrumentation (meaning the project would not be charged for using the instrument).

Matching Grant

A grant that requires a specified portion of the cost of a supported item or project be obtained from other sources. Matching grants usually award a clearly defined amount and require that a specified matching sum be obtained before any award is made. The required match may be more or less than the amount of the grant. Some matching grants require that the additional funds be procured from sources outside the recipient organization. Compare with Challenge Grant.

Primary Grant

Sometimes used to indicate a grant that has a matching requirement. Also used to indicate the grant that provides the greatest portion of the support of a project, with additional support termed Secondary Grant(s).

Project Period

The total time for which support of a project has been approved, including any extensions thereof. A project period may consist of one or more budget periods.

Research (n, v)

Investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories in the light of new facts, or the application of such new or revised theories. The systematic gathering of knowledge for the purpose of desemination of information.

Unrestricted (adj)

Having no requirements as to use or disposition. Grants are sometimes considered to be unrestricted if they do not require line-item accounting of expenditures, either in the grant application or in the use of granted funds. Truly unrestricted grants are rare in the sciences – most require, at a minimum, that granted funds be used to pursue the stated mission of the recipient institution.

The information provided above is the result of compilation from a wide variety of resources over the years. The following are specifically noted:
SCI/GRANTS News 1(6), June 1989