Participant Support costs are direct costs for stipends, subsistence allowance, travel allowances, or registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees in connection with sponsored-funded conferences or training projects. A participant is someone whose function is to learn something. Participants cannot be employees. [2 CFR 200.75]

Participant Support costs are only allowed on an award when Participant Support is defined by the sponsor in the Request for Proposal/Funding Announcement, or specifically identified in the award document. [2 CFR 200.456]

F&A is not allowed on Participant Support costs [2 CFR 200.68].

The intent is to use Participant Support costs for participants in conferences or training projects, not to reimburse for the costs of putting on the conference or training project. Costs associated with putting on the conference or training project should be budgeted and charged to the parent budget, not the Participant Support sub budget.

Examples of costs for putting on the conference or training project are:

  • Conference speaker fees
  • Conference trainer fees
  • Room rental fees
  • Catering costs
  • Supplies
  • Human subject payments
  • Indirect costs

See NSF: Policy Update, December 2017, slides 14-15


Most federal sponsors restrict re-budgeting of participant support costs.  For this reason, Participant Support is set up as a sub-budget under the Parent Award.


NSF, through implementation of the Research Terms & Conditions, specifies prior approval requirements for rebudgeting participant support funds in the Prior Approval Matrix.

Participant Support funds are restricted and require approval of the cognizant NSF program officer to reallocate funds out of the Participant Support sub budget.

Rebudgeting costs into Participant Support does not require NSF approval unless funds are moving into the “other” category of participant support.

Non-NSF Sponsors

Generally, recipients may not rebudget funds from Participant Support to other categories without prior written approval of the sponsor. However, this is not the case for all sponsors. As always, read your award document, along with any applicable terms and condition or agency specific regulations, for guidance on rebudgeting Participant Support funds. A Table of Select Federal Agency Regulations may be found at the PAFC website.

Several sponsors have implemented the Research Terms & Conditions, which includes guidance as to whether or not prior approval is required to rebudget Participant Support funds. Please see the Prior Approval Matrix for additional information.