The purpose of this policy is to create a mechanism for a faculty member, with approval of his/her chair and the Dean’s Office, to buy-out more than the standard amount of time supported by the School during the academic year to work on sponsored projects. The standard amount is typically 40% of the academic-year effort for tenure-track faculty and 25% for faculty on the practice track, but it depends on the faculty member’s required teaching load. The faculty member, division chair, and senior associate deans for academics and research must mutually agree on how teaching and other duties will be covered in the event of a buy-out. In cases where there is agreement and the faculty member is permitted to expand his/her research effort beyond the standard amount, the faculty member’s sponsored research support will offset a portion of the resources that the School budgeted for the faculty member’s academic-year salary. This policy explains how those savings will be distributed.

This policy is intended primarily to allow faculty to expand their research effort when appropriate and approved. It is also meant to create bridge-funding reserves in order to keep research labs running smoothly despite fluctuations in external funding.


Faculty may, with the prior approval of their department chair and the senior associate deans for academics and research, buy-out up to 75% of their academic-year salary for research using external funding obtained through grants. Academic-year salaries are fully budgeted on School funds. Any approved buy-out will create savings. These savings will be distributed as follows:

  1. First to cover any costs to replace teaching or student advising that the faculty member will not perform due to the research buy-out.
  2. Second to cover summer salary, not already funded through the PI’s research portfolio per the approved budget with the sponsor.
  3. Any remaining savings will be allocated to the PI but will be split 50/50 between the PI’s discretionary account and a centrally held reserve. The half transferred into the PI’s discretionary account can be used per the discretion of the faculty member according to University rules on faculty discretionary accounts, GAP 200.410
  4. The half transferred into the centrally held reserve will be used as a bridge fund for the faculty member to cover research expenses and research support during times when sponsored funds are not available. These funds should be tapped as a last resort, after discretionary funds are expended, and are intended to keep extraneous costs off division and School accounts when sponsored funds are not available and continuity in a research projects is needed.

The bridge fund may accrue money over several years. The priority use of these funds is to maintain a faculty member’s research infrastructure, when all other funds have been expended. Such expenses might include staff salary or student support, summer stipends for graduates on school funding, lab or field expenses and supplies, or maintenance or repair of equipment. Summer salary for the faculty member will be supported only when other funding commitments have been met. To access bridge funds, a faculty member should submit a request to their division chair, who will review it in consultation with the dean.

If a faculty member leaves Duke University, any discretionary or bridge funds booked in their name will revert to the Nicholas School, effective on the date of termination of employment.


  1. A faculty member obtains research awards that extend his/her academic-year research effort beyond the standard amount, and he/she cannot or chooses not to negotiate a reduced effort on the project(s).
  2. He/she consults with the division chair about the impact on how much effort will be reduced for non-research duties during the academic year.
  3. The division chair and Dean’s Office approves this reduction and determines the necessary expenses needed to backstop the non-research duties that will not be performed by the faculty member.
  4. This information is provided to the grant manager who will calculate the effort changes. He/ she will provide that information to the senior associate dean for administration and finance who will confirm the resulting impact on the budget and remaining funds available for distribution per the policy.
  5. This information: the impact of the reduction, additional human resources needed to manage the teaching and the distribution of effort and funds, are presented to the Dean for his/her approval.


Research Effort - See GAP 200.170

Discretionary Accounts - See GAP 200.410

Effective Date: July 1, 2019

Policy owner
Dean's Office