We know a lot of investigators plan for projects that last about 3 years, but did you know 5 years is the maximum duration for new awards? Regardless of the planned duration of a project, there are opportunities to extend that through no-cost extensions (NCEs) to allow you to complete your project. It’s important to note NCEs are not for the purpose of using up unliquidated balances. See the PAPPG: https://beta.nsf.gov/policies/pappg/23-1/ch-6-nsf-awards#6D3c.
There are certain situations that could limit the number of no-cost extensions available for a given project, e.g., the type of award (standard versus continuing) and the original duration of an award. The issue is usually the availability of unspent funds because you cannot get a no-cost extension if you don’t have any funds left to use, and federal funds expire after 7 years. See our [NSF Award Spending – Some Things to Know] post.
If you plan on submitting a request for a no-cost extension, you need to do so BEFORE the final annual report is submitted.
Here are the key points around no-cost extensions from our How to Write a Great Annual Report Office Hours:
- Grantees (your institution) are pre-authorized by NSF to receive a one-time extension of the end date of the grant (up to 12 months) if additional time is required to assure completion of the original scope of work with existing funds. All “grantee-approved” extension requests must be signed and submitted by your institutional representative (SRO) via NSF’s electronic systems. If you are going to request a no-cost extension, always first request the “grantee-approved” type.
- If additional time beyond the first NCE is required, and exceptional circumstances warrant, a formal request for a second NCE to NSF must be signed and submitted by the institutional grants officer via NSF’s electronic systems. The request should be submitted at least 45 days prior to the end date of the grant. This is called an “NSF-approved” no-cost extension and is a bigger deal than the “grantee-approved” type. You will need to provide the current balance (funds remaining) of the award and your plans for spending it.
- Regardless of which type of no-cost extension you may request, it’s critically important to understand that remaining funds can only be spent on work described in your funded proposal (i.e., within the original scope of your award). If you have questions about this, it’s best to call the NSF Program Officer who is managing your award. Although work must remain within the scope of the original award, PIs are free to move funds among most budget categories (e.g., Materials & Supplies, Publication Costs, etc.) without formal approval from NSF. Changes to “Participant Support Costs”, however, do require permission.
As always, any questions you have about your award can be directed to the managing Program Officer.