Budgets

in this next part of the book, we discuss what to put in a fieldwork budget…
9.3 Budgets

Budgeting requires research. If your budget looks unrealistic to the reviewers of your proposal, they are unlikely to award you the grant. If you don’t ask for enough funds, you will either need to apply again to finish the research or make up the short-fall yourself. On the other hand, if you overbudget and end up with a lot of extra funds, you’ve unnecessarily deprived someone else of funding for their project.
There are core elements of field budgets (such as money to pay consultants, report production, travel to and from the site, and recording media), and there are many grey areas. Most funding bodies have a guide as to what counts as a legitimate expense. A good rule of thumb is that anything that is not directly related to the field trip, or any expenses that you would have incurred anyway, are not legitimate grant items. Bernard (XX) has some discussion on the ethics of field budgeting. Keep in mind that there are many more projects worthy of funding than will get funded every year. Fieldwork research is cheap in comparison to most clinical research, but there are also comparatively few funding sources. So, don’t pad your budget with things you don’t need, and it goes without saying that embezzling grant monies or trying to defraud grant bodies are unlikely to win you friends, future grants, or tenure.


9.3.1 Personnel

  • Money for paying your consultants
  • casual help, if appropriate, e.g. for help with data entry and processing.
  • Your stipend (not all grants will let you claim this)
  • overheads for employment (e.g. insurance, payroll tax)

To estimate how much you will need to pay your consultants, find out what the going rate for language work is in the area you will be going to. Of course, it varies a lot between countries, and sometimes between regions of the same country. Work out how you will get the money to your consultants. It may be possible for you to pay them directly, but in many areas this contravenes taxation legislation (see Section 8.8 for discussion on payments).
You also need to estimate how much time you will spend in elicitation. That will depend on how long you intend to be in the field, how many people you want to work with, and how much time your consultants will probably have available. If you spend much more than two hours a day in working with speakers on new material, you will probably not have time to process all the data, and it will be counterproductive. On the other hand, if you need a speaker’s help with transcription and translation (and just about everyone working on textual materials will), it would be better to budget more time with consultants.
Find out if you will need to take overheads into account, such as payroll tax, superannuation and insurance, and who this will apply to. Generally it will apply to anyone on a ‘salary’, but not necessarily to casual workers. It is also a very good idea to try to work out at this stage how people will be paid.
In general, you can only claim a salary for yourself if you are not a student or receiving money from another source. Some doctoral grants include a stipend, but others do not.

9.3.2 Travel

  • travel to and from the field site
  • travel to neighbouring areas, if you need to visit speakers who live away from your main field site. This may also include a few of your consultants.
  • lodging costs while in the field. Not all grants will let you claim this, and some will only let you claim extra expenses over your regular costs.
  • per diem while travelling to the sites (again, not all grants allow this)
  • insurance (vehicle rental insurance, health insurance – rental vehicle insurance is usually compulsory under the terms of the grant (that is, you cannot use grant money to hire a vehicle unless you are also fully insured) while health insurance may or may not be covered; it is unlikely to be covered if you already have it.

Travel can be very expensive; vehicle hire, for example, can comprise a large part of the budget. There are some areas where you can skimp and save money, and others where you can’t. Trying to save money on recording equipment is a false economy, but travel is one area where money can often be saved. If you are thinking of renting a car for the whole time, consider whether you actually need it. Investigate alternative ways of getting to your field site. If you are going for a long period and need a vehicle, it may well be cheaper to buy one and sell it again at the end of the trip.

9.3.3 Equipment

  • primary recording device
  • microphone
  • backup microphone
  • backup recorder
  • tripod
  • video camera (and/or stills camera)
  • computer (not all grants will cover computers)
  • any special software that you don’t already own

This requires no comment; equipment was discussed extensively in Chapter 2. You may need to document price quotes for the grant application. The easiest way to do this is to use an online shopping site and print out the information (or compile a ‘shopping cart’ of all the items and print it).

9.3.4 Consumables

  • blank media
  • paper
  • pens
  • batteries

Don’t be stingy with media. Assume at least an hour of recording per day, and round up generously. Make sure you have enough batteries of each type (A, AA, etc) and have at least one spare battery for your video and computer. Make sure you know approximately how long your recorder can record from a fresh battery (or set of fresh batteries, if it takes more than one). Don’t forget to include enough media for copies for archives.

9.3.5 Other costs

  • postage
  • phone
  • internet

Postage and phone costs will always be more than you expect. If you are providing copies of learner’s materials, don’t forget to budget for the cost of posting them from your university or the printer. For the learner’s materials I have produced for Bardi and Yan-nha?u, I emailed a pdf to a printer in Canberra, and my long-suffering parents picked up the copies and posted them to the right places. That saved many hundred of dollars.
To budget internet costs, get an idea of the cost of internet cafes in the area, or get your own ISP and account; what’s feasible will depend on your access to services. You might be able to negotiate internet usage through a school or university. If so, you should pay for your usage. Bear in mind that in many countries internet usage is charged by amount of bandwidth used.

  • any supporting materials, e.g. copies of previous publications on the language, photocopying of others’ unpublished field notes
  • maps of the area
  • elicitation/stimulus prompts. such as picture books, flora and fauna guides
  • other equipment, e.g. charcoal, brushes, mirrors etc for palatography

Finally, there is the category of semi-personal items which represent costs you would not have incurred if you had not been going to the field but are not necessarily directly related to your research:

  • vaccinations
  • visa fees
  • other equipment necessary for you to do your work in the field (possibilities are almost endless, but might include GPS, binoculars, mosquito net, etc)

Grant organisations differ on whether these count as legitimate expenses. In general, personal items do not.

9.3.6 Report production

  • copies of original materials, such as recordings, photos and field notes for the grant body, the community, and other interested parties
  • paper copies of analysed materials, such as a dictionary, story books, articles, your dissertation.
  • archival copies of all materials

Many copying places will give quotes based on the binding, number of pages, and so on. If you are making large numbers of CDs, it may be worth it to buy a CD duplicator rather than burn them all from your computer. Many universities have a Media/IT centre with equipment like this which students may be able to use.

9.3.7 Miscellaneous

If you are applying outside the country in which the majority of the funds will be spent, make sure that your calculations of exchange rates are correct. Do the costings in the currency in which the funds will be spent, and then convert the numbers.
Exchange rates change over time, and if the currency in which the grant is awarded falls in relation to the currency of the country in which you will spend the funds, you may be out of pocket (of course, if it rises, you will get some extra money!). It is always wise to have a few items in the grant that you could do without if you had to, so that your core areas of research will still be able to be done if you have unforeseen expenses or currency fluctuations.
If the grant is a multi-year grant, there is often provision for inflation; that is costs for certain items in the second year of the grant may be higher than for the first year.
Make sure that your costings reflect what you actually intend to do. It is quite easy, especially in multi-year grants, to make errors. For example, if you are planning two field trips, you will need two sets of travel funding (one for each trip), but you will only need one item of final report funding. Make sure that the items occur in the correct year; while it is usually possible to roll over funds, funds are usually released only once a year.

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