OMB, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Award, Subpart E, §200.432, Conferences, states:
A conference is defined as a meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium, workshop or event whose primary purpose is the dissemination of technical information beyond the non-Federal entity and is necessary and reasonable for successful performance under the Federal award. Allowable conference costs paid by the non-Federal entity as a sponsor or host of the conference may include rental of facilities, speakers’ fees, costs of meals and refreshments, local transportation, and other items incidental to such conferences unless further restricted by the terms and conditions of the Federal award. As needed, the costs of identifying, but not providing, locally available dependent-care resources are allowable. Conference hosts/sponsors must exercise discretion and judgment in ensuring that conference costs are appropriate, necessary and managed in a manner that minimizes costs to the Federal award. The Federal awarding agency may authorize exceptions where appropriate for programs including Indian tribes, children, and the elderly.
Costs to host and attend (including travel) meetings and conferences are allowable costs as long as the costs are allocable to the sponsored project that will be assessed the cost. The sponsored project must benefit. The key phrase is, primary purpose is the dissemination of technical information beyond the non-Federal entity and is necessary and reasonable for successful performance under the Federal award. Travel to attend such conferences should not be placed on a sponsor project solely because conference travel is allowable. The conference needs to relate to the research goals and to the scope of the sponsored project.
Important note – UW Travel Regulations, when more restrictive, supersede a sponsor’s travel regulation. For example, locating dependent child care services is allowable per federal guideline; per UW guidelines, it is not.
In addition, even though conference costs are allowable per Uniform Guidance, there may be agency specific regulations that do not allow such costs without prior approval. For example, many sponsored agreements do not allow out-of-state travel. If a research meeting is being held out-of-state, then prior approval is needed from the sponsoring agency approving assessment of costs to the sponsored project for meeting attendance. Requests for approvals of this type should route from PI to Department to CALS Business Services to RSP to Sponsor – the rebudgeting request template available at http://bussvc.cals.wisc.edu/forms/ may be used for this purpose. As always, the terms of agreement should be reviewed for specifics and approvals should be verified before assessing any cost.
UW Madison also has a policy in place regarding meeting and conference expenses. Please see http://www.bussvc.wisc.edu/acct/policy/meetcon/meetcon.html for further details.
Further questions about the application of meeting or conference costs to extramurally sponsored projects, please contact a CALS Business Services Accountant.