We recently worked very hard to obtain no-cost extensions on a number of grants for several faculty we work with, and it was very difficult, and it’s taking longer to get approvals for these extensions. When you make your case to your grants officers, it’s best to be buttoned up.
These particular faculty thought of NCE’s in the same way that I would imagine other faculty might – the funds are left over, they need the funds to finish their work, and how hard could it be to write a letter and receive approval to use the funds, right? Eh – not always. We just had a no-cost extension take five months to approve!
SOME COMMON MISTAKES FACULTY MAKE AND HOW YOU CAN HELP THEM:
We are working with a faculty member now who is under her first NCE. She’s still confused about it. Admittedly, no-cost extension is not the best name for this time period. This faculty member thought that because she didn’t receive additional money that the rules of the grant aren’t extended during this period – and we quickly disavowed this notion! Of course, for as long as the no-cost extension is in effect, the rules of the grant are extended and the expectation is that all milestones are to be met.
Another common misconception is that the purpose of a no-cost extension is that the faculty member is able to obtain the remaining funds in order to finish their work for however long the remaining funds last. No, no, NO!
The purpose of a no-cost extension is to complete the scientific aims of the grant – if there are funds left to complete the work, that’s fine, but sometimes there are not. A no-cost extension can be requested in either case. It should be requested to complete the aims of the grant, for the time period needed (a year or less). Do not – EVER – justify a no-cost extension by asking to spend remaining funds. The request needs to be driven by the work remaining to do and the personnel and resources needed to accomplish that work.
The justification for a no-cost extension comes down to this: How does the use of the remaining funds help to accomplish the scientific aims of the grant?
Be sure to outline this carefully, before the project close date, so that the funds are available to you just prior to the close of your award. Careful tracking and a thoughtful justification can help you support your PI as you work to fully utilize the awards your PI has worked hard to earn.