Best Practices: Meetings and Conferences

Guidelines  on covering costs of meetings and conferences, per OMB Circular A-21 guideline J.32,

Costs of meetings and conferences, the primary purpose of which is the dissemination of technical information, are allowable. This includes costs of meals, transportation, rental of facilities, speakers’ fees, and other items incidental to such meetings or conferences. But see section J.17, Entertainment costs.

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 key phrase is, the primary purpose of which is the dissemination of technical information. 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.

Even though the costs are allowable per OMB guidelines, 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 College to RSP to Sponsor – the rebudgeting request template available at 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 for further details.

Further questions about the application of meeting or conference costs to extramurally sponsored projects, please contact Sandy Fowler in CALS Research Division at 2-3947.