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    Hi! I’m working on my Phase I application for an SBIR grant through NSF, and I’m struggling through some of the budget documentation. I see a few things:
    1. Senior personnel salaries may only be funded for 2 months: Does this restriction only apply to the PI/co-PI? For reference, I’m looking to hire a full stack developer to do the development, and I would need him/her on board for more than 2 months. Would this person go under “Other Professionals” and then have more than 2 months of salary?
    2. My project will use an existing LLM (likely gpt 3.5) and thus we will have expenses incurred for per-token costs, as well as Azure costs. Do these go under computer costs? Or under materials and supplies? Or under a completely different line item?
    Thank you very much!


    Hello! Thanks for your questions.
    1. For an NSF Phase I, the solicitation ( states that, for Senior Personnel, “The PI must be budgeted for a minimum of one calendar month of effort per six months of performance to the NSF SBIR/STTR Phase I proposed project.” Therefore, for a year-long project, the PI must be paid for at least 2 months, if not more. The full stack developer you want to hire can be paid for as many months as makes sense for the project.
    2. You can put those items under Materials and Supplies. NSF is not concerned that items are placed under the correct category and will work with you at the time of award to move things around as needed.

    Good luck with the proposal! Let us know if you have additional questions.


    Thank you! I’m getting a little confused because when I made my original budget, I was using the guidelines that you had cited from the solicitation you linked. Then I went to this page: and I saw this text under Section F(i)(a):
    As a general policy, NSF limits the salary compensation requested in the proposal budget for senior personnel to no more than two months of their regular salary in any one year. (See Exhibit II-3 for the definitions of Senior Personnel.) It is the organization’s responsibility to define and consistently apply the term “year”, and to specify this definition in the budget justification. This limit includes salary compensation received from all NSF-funded grants.
    So now I’m really unsure if it’s actually a maximum of two months, or if it’s a minimum of two months. Argh… Do you know if one of these pieces of conflicting guidance is out of date? Or is there some aspect I’m misinterpreting?
    Thanks so much!


    The conflicting instructions you are referring to are from the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) proposal preparation guidelines.

    Please note that in the NSF SBIR Phase I solicitation (, it states that “This solicitation contains information that deviates from the standard NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) proposal preparation guidelines. Please see the full text of the solicitation for further information.”

    So, if something conflicts with the PAPPG but is in the SBIR solicitation, go with the SBIR solicitation’s instructions. The PAPPG is geared more towards academic institutions and the types of NSF grants to which they apply.

    Good luck!

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