No Cost Extensions and your Current and Pending

Jun 04 2014 Published by under [Education&Careers]

I am in agreement with a post at DrugMonkey's regarding the No Cost Extension on grants. A one year extension to the time allotted to spend the grant money from your original budget is a welcomed window of time to tie things up. The benefits of the added time are obvious, especially with NSF grants that typically run only three years, the fourth year stretches that dollar a bit further. And if you've been smart about how you spent along the way, it all works out fairly well.

But the idea of an active project has different consequences and connotations at NSF than NIH. Whereas NIH does not limit the number of awards a PI can have at one time, that's a little more of a touchy subject at NSF. I've heard from multiple POs that there's a blurred line around the two core grant line where the funding of a third becomes questionable. Obviously there are a variety of factors to weigh here and one's status on the grant and time remaining are certainly big.

So where does the NCE fit in? Say one is early into one grant and has a second about to go into an NCE. Is that extra year considered a "current" grant, potentially excluding the PI from additional funding, or does it not matter because NSF has already spent all the money they are going to on that grant? Have people found that having NSF grants in NCE has hurt their chances with funding recently, or is the bar so high this hasn't been much of an issue?

6 responses so far

  • Chris Cramer says:

    I think what matters most is not whether you have a project in an extension year, but how much BUDGET you have left to expend. I speak from personal experience. Last year, I had almost an entire year's worth of funding left in a project that was in a NCE (student had won fellowship, postdoc got a job early, blah, blah, ...) My submitted proposal reviewed VERY strongly, but I wasn't funded. And, the no funding decision came AFTER an email from a program officer asking me about those unexpended funds in both my single-investigator NSF and another NSF grant on which I am a co-PI. This year, essentially the identical proposal (with no criticisms, what was I supposed to change?) again reviewed very well, and was selected for funding, in part, I have to believe, because my NSF well was now tapped. I imagine that program officers see themselves to some extent like rescuers on a boat with a few hundred life preservers but a few thousand people in the water, all of whom are getting great reviews, but, hey, they've only got these few hundred life preservers... So, they throw them out based in part on who is closest to drowning. If you're still swimming ok, you're good until next year. Moral of the story? Sounds risky, but I'd say, spending aggressively to generate results and to demonstrate a need for continued funding may be a better strategy than nursing n-year grants into (n+1)-year grants. Mind you, for drips and drabs, I think it's perfectly fine to use the NCE to wrap things up (and benefit the project, 'natch).

  • MediumPriority4Life says:

    So I'm looking to do the NCE at the end of the year. I only have this one NSF grant and the switch to the preproposal system means that even if my next proposal is funded, I would not have access to its funds for half a year from when the funded proposal was set to expire.

    How long does it take to set up a NCE? Can you wait to set it up until after you hear about the results of a full proposal?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I'm inclined to think the life preserver analogy isn't too far off right now.

    As far as setting up an NCE goes, it can be done very quickly through FastLane. You basically put in the request, your uni approves it and the PO usually does the rest on their end rapidly. For a yr4 NCE, my turn around time was a few hours.

  • Josh says:

    Side note : I was recently at an AFOSR program review, and we were told that except in very special circumstances they would not allow any more no-cost extensions. There was a program officer from another DOD agency there who said that this was the case there as well (I think ONR but I'm not sure). They also seemed to be getting much stricter on the rate of spending - you better be about 1/3 spent after year 1 of a 3-year grant, for example, or money may disappear.

  • cookingwithsolvents says:

    I also had a DOD situation where I was told a NCE wasn't in the cards. I didn't ask any details or think much of it since there wasn't much left money-wise or work-wise to tie up the last bits of the project. It's interesting that they may be wholesale turning off NCE's.

    The other thing that's really affecting things across the board is the new rule to fully fund all years of a project. The next few years will be...bumpy....until we turn over all projects. Or so I've heard.

  • Eli Rabett says:

    The DOD nix on NCEs is because of how they do their budgeting, the costs would go to the next year's budget limiting new starts.

Leave a Reply