Appropriate Use of University Research Funds

Research funds awarded by the provost support a broad range of research, teaching, and other university business conducted by members of the Yale faculty. These awards may not be used to cover personal expenses or any other costs that are not directly related to research, teaching, and other university business. Some research funds are provided for specific research purposes, and those stipulations must be observed.

The list below provides examples of expenses that typically may—and may not—be charged to research accounts that are not designated for specific purposes. It is a given that all funds should be expended prudently, and that the level of expenses should be governed by need and common sense. Grants provided by external sponsors (e.g., government agencies or private foundations) may include constraints that are more restrictive than these guidelines; for information about particular grants, please consult the Office of Sponsored Projects. Some kinds of expenditures, such as air travel, are also governed by specific university policies, including those that prohibit anything but coach travel except for reasons of health or when traveling especially long distances. It is also important to remember that equipment and furniture purchased with university funds are the property of the university.

It is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of items and expenses that qualify or do not qualify as research expenses; in many cases, it is the purpose of the expenditure rather than the item or service that determines whether it is a legitimate research expense. Thus, items on the normally appropriate list can be included only if they are being used for research purposes. Conversely, some of the items on the normally inappropriate list could be included if it can be demonstrated that they are essential to a research project. The underlying test is whether the expense is directly relevant to the sponsored research. For all of these matters, consult the appropriate policies in the Faculty Handbook and at the Yale Policies & Procedures site.

Normally Appropriate University Research Expenses

The following items may be appropriate to be charged to university funds, but may not be allowable expenditures from sponsored awards.

  • Books
  • Cell phones, Blackberries, PDAs (not including connectivity costs)
  • Clerical and administrative help
  • Computer hardware and software
  • Conference registration fees
  • Food while traveling
  • Hotel costs
  • iPads, Kindles, Nooks, etc. (not including connectivity costs)
  • Library fees
  • Long-distance calls
  • Meals and other local expenses for research collaborators
  • Membership in professional organizations (not allowable on federal grants)
  • Page charges for articles in scholarly journals
  • Photocopy costs
  • Photographs
  • Professional journal subscriptions
  • Research assistants
  • Student assistants
  • Transportation to conferences, libraries, or research sites
  • A faculty member may purchase from their research funds up to 20 copies of their own books for specific reasons that include providing copies to contributors to the book.

Examples of Inappropriate Research Expenses

  • Academic robes
  • Advertisement for books
  • Business or first-class travel (except as allowed by university policy, as described above)
  • Child care
  • Clothing (or care/maintenance thereof)
  • Club memberships
  • Cost of commuting between home and campus
  • Framing of pictures or maps as office decor
  • Gifts
  • Home or office furniture
  • Home or office renovations
  • Library fines
  • Luggage
  • Moving expenses
  • Network connectivity costs (locally) – e.g. subscription fees for iPads, cell phones, other devices
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Salary paid to any faculty member (unless specifically authorized)
  • Spousal, partner, or other family member travel

Last updated:  February 5, 2014