Division of the Social Sciences Grant Policy


Faculty in the Division of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago have contributed to some of the world’s greatest discoveries, advancements, and bodies of knowledge. In order to continue our leadership in social scientific research, the Division must recruit and retain the most promising faculty and provide that faculty with many forms of support to facilitate and enhance their research leadership. Currently, the Division maintains one of the most generous faculty Research Leave policies in higher education, provides faculty members with start-up funding to pilot new research initiatives and bridge funding to sustain research through down-turns in external support, and sustains a strong Divisional culture of inquiry and debate to test and refine the best ideas – achieved in part through our investments in sustaining top graduate programs and myriad workshops, conferences, seminars, and laboratory and other research infrastructures.

The Social Science Divisional grant policy is designed to provide faculty with the freedom and flexibility to pursue lines of inquiry wherever they may lead, to sustain an institutional environment capable of catalyzing and advancing field-defining research, and to balance the pursuit of faculty research opportunities with other responsibilities (teaching, student advising and mentorship, and departmental service), while at the same time ensuring compliance with University and governmental regulations.

In cases where research is supported by extramural funding, the Division’s policies and practices must also provide strong pre-award and post-award support, proper institutional oversight, and align the facilities and administrative (indirect) cost allowance to the full scope of the Division’s considerable research investments.


Any grant proposal on which a faculty member with primary academic appointment in the Division of the Social Sciences serves as Principal Investigator must be submitted through the Division of the Social Sciences.


Responsibility for setting the course of research at the University of Chicago is vested with the faculty. Full time, salaried members of the faculty are eligible to serve as principal investigator (PI) on proposals submitted to outside funding agencies in support of research, training, or other sponsored activities. On sponsored awards, in addition to directing the project’s research activities and overseeing the scientific integrity of the project, the PI also bears responsibility for financial oversight and regulatory compliance (for example, authorizing spending of funds, addressing potential conflicts of interest or allegations of academic fraud, ensuring proper access controls for use of restricted data, and ensuring that research activities with human and animal subjects meet standards of ethical treatment, to name a few). In order for the Division of the Social Sciences and the University to support the PI across the range of roles and responsibilities, and to provide strong facilities and administrative support, faculty members must conduct their sponsored research activities primarily within the Division.

The Division of the Social Sciences anticipates that faculty members conduct much of their research activity during the summer quarter (July-September); grant-funded summer research may include up to 2.5 months’ additional compensation from grant funds, commensurate with the effort committed. All faculty members also have discretion to dedicate effort toward their research program during the 9-month academic year (October-June). It is difficult, however, to segregate grant-funded research during the academic year from the PI’s other areas of research, and unless required by the funding agency, the Division will not approve voluntary cost-sharing.

During the 9-month academic year, the Division expects a faculty member’s extramurally-funded research activities be managed in balance with departmental and other University responsibilities. When a PI, in consultation with his/her chair, determines that a worthwhile research agenda demands more effort than can be managed in balance with other departmental and University obligations, the department chair may submit a request to the Dean for the PI to buyout a limited amount of teaching responsibilities using grant funds. Such requests are reviewed by the Dean of the Division of the Social Sciences and the Master of the Social Science Collegiate Division. The request must describe measures the faculty member will take to maintain advising responsibilities to his/her students, as well as measures the department will take to meet its curricular and governance needs. Generally, course buyouts are limited to one per year, although in select cases approval may be granted for two course buyouts in a single academic year. The cost for course buyouts are as follows: 12.5% base salary/benefits for a one-course buyout, and 37.5% base salary/benefits for a two-course buyout (for faculty on a three-course teaching plan, the cost of course buyouts is 16.7% salary/benefits for a one-course buyout and 49.7% salary/benefits for a two-course buyout).

Research funded by non-University sponsors typically  includes an allowance for Facilities and Administrative costs (frequently referred to as “Indirect costs”, or IDCs), costs that are not directly attributable to a specific sponsored research project but are essential for research and training (ex. costs associated with building operations, utilities, and administrative services). Indirect costs are calculated as a percent of a project’s total direct costs according to rates negotiated by University Research Administration. The Division of the Social Sciences does not share or return any portion of IDCs to investigators except in very rare exceptions when an enduring large-scale research enterprise requires specialized facilities and/or administrative support.

When a research project led by a faculty member with primary academic appointment in the Division benefits from facilities and/or administrative resources outside the Division, or is co-led with investigators in another Division/School or at another university or research institution (including grants with co-PIs at multiple institutions), arrangements must be made to identify the responsibilities of each institutional partner and ensure an equitable assignment of IDC revenue. These arrangements should be completed in advance of grant application, however, in the interest of meeting application deadlines on short-notice opportunities, an IDC-sharing agreement may also be negotiated following receipt of a grant award notice (note: all IDC-sharing arrangements must be agreed to by all parties before spending begins on a grant-funded project). In certain cases, the depth and frequency of the Division's collaboration with other University and external partners is sufficient to merit negotiation of blanket IDC-sharing agreements; the Division currently has standing agreements governing the Social Science faculty member’s sponsored research activities with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) and with the Urban Labs.

Faculty members with joint appointments that cross Divisional lines should negotiate with their cognizant Deans prior to submitting any proposal for sponsored research, so that responsibility for facilities and administrative support and assignment of IDCs may be agreed to in advance.

Faculty members also have opportunities to participate in academic research primarily directed by an organization other than the University of Chicago, and/or to participate in outside professional and commercial activities (compensated or uncompensated). In such cases, when the faculty member is providing limited subject matter expertise, no other University resources are involved in the activity, and the engagement is short-term (i.e. a single summer appointment, or other engagements that can be met within the allowable limits under the University’s conflict of commitment policy), the faculty member may enter into an independent consulting agreement directly with the sponsor (note: faculty members are required to disclose all consulting activities before work begins). If the work exceeds the allowable consulting days, the work may proceed under an agreement such as an Inter-institutional Personnel Agreement or Salary Reimbursement. Whenever the contributions of a Social Sciences faculty member amount to intellectual leadership beyond limited subject matter expertise, or any time other University resources are involved (laboratories or other facilities, technicians, data management, student research assistance, administrative support, etc.), an official contractual agreement must be filed between the funding party and the University. 

Transition Period

Effective beginning January 1, 2016, all new grant proposals submitted by faculty members with primary academic appointment in the Division of the Social Sciences shall be submitted through the Division per the above guidelines. Grants currently awarded to a Division of the Social Sciences faculty PI through an institution other than the University of Chicago may continue under current institutional sponsorship if the project period will end on or before summer 2017; if the project period will extend beyond summer 2017, the PI should begin as soon as possible making arrangements to transfer institutional sponsorship to the University of Chicago Division of the Social Sciences no later than the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

Posted 11/2015