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Costing a research study

How much will it cost?

  • You will need to work out the costs reasonably accurately at a very early stage to ensure that the grant you apply for can meet the costs, and that the amount awarded will allow you to deliver the study.
  • Please talk to us and/or your university finance department early - we can help put costs together, and ensure that salaries especially are calculated accurately.
  • The major cost on most grant applications will be salary costs.
  • For specialist equipment, or for studies involving drugs, you will need to get costs directly from the supplier, often having to negotiate. For some studies a commercial company will fund the cost of the drug.
  • There will be "hidden" costs, such as university estates and indirect costs, and NHS overheads (this is known as a "full economic cost", or FEC). Some funders allow these costs to be applied for, and some will not pay them. Universities especially have to agree that they will underwrite their indirect costs when these are not paid by the funder.
  • The NIHR will pay university indirect costs (up to 80% of the FEC) in some but not all of its awards, so please check the guidance carefully.
  • Charities will not pay any indirect costs - again check guidance carefully.
  • For NIHR and some charity applications, costs need to be divided into "research, support and treatment" costs.

Costing Checklist

The following are items that need to be costed for (not all will apply to your applications). You can also download the list


  • The Principal Investigator and co-applicant (not all grant applications allow this if e.g. the Principal Investigator is already employed full time by a university)
  • Research assistants (usually employed through a university)
  • Research nurses
  • Database manager
  • Health economist
  • Statistician
  • Qualitative researcher
  • Admin support
  • Trials unit staff and resources


  • Computers; annual service fee; specialist software; printers
  • Audio recording/transcription devices
  • Cameras
  • Centrifuges
  • Measuring devices e.g. pedometers, actigraphs, scales
  • Specialist lab equipment
  • Additional/specialist diagnostic equipment

Travel and Subsistence

  • Travel expenses for participants
  • Research team travel and subsistence
  • Travel to and from any meetings for investigators at other sites
  • Patient/public representative expenses
  • Travel and subsistence for any training events
  • Travel and subsistence for any conferences


  • Consumables used for taking/analysing samples e.g. needles, gloves, vials etc
  • Assay kits
  • Stationery - paper, envelopes, printer ink, folders, pens etc
  • Printing costs - are specialist documents required?
  • Postage