Research Needs Should Motivate No-Cost Extensions

Funding News Edition: November 16, 2022
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As a researcher, you’ve probably found yourself wishing you had more time as the end of a project period approaches. Depending on the reason you’d benefit from an extension, you may consider requesting a no-cost extension (NCE).

Be aware though that in some situations an NCE is not allowed. To find out whether that’s the case for you, check the terms on your Notice of Award.

An NCE: What It Is     

NIH defines an NCE as an extension of time to a project period or budget period to complete the work of the grant under that period, without additional federal funds or competition.

NIAID’s No-Cost Extension SOP puts it more simply, describing it as a way “to extend a grant's project period without additional funding.” Within an NCE, your project’s originally approved scope cannot change. That means you may not use an NCE to pursue a new line of investigation at the twilight of a project period.

In most cases, awardees can successfully request a grant’s first NCE in eRA Commons without NIAID’s prior approval.

Note that NIAID 1) rarely approves subsequent extension requests and 2) almost never approves a third extension and considers such requests only if strongly justified based on an exceptional and unusual circumstance.

Clearing Up a Misconception

Some investigators mistakenly believe that stringing along a grant in NCE has value as a demonstration to peer reviewers that they have an active award when they Apply for a Renewal—thus improving their chances of being funded. This is a fallacy.

You can use an NCE to maintain unique resources until new funding arrives. Or you can continue your ongoing research absent additional support while your renewal application is under review. But you shouldn’t think that persisting with an NCE will improve your chances of success at a renewal. Bottom line: It won’t matter to peer reviewers that a current grant is technically still active.

Keep in mind that you should request a second NCE only if you need to and you have remaining funds. As we mentioned earlier, it’s rare that NIAID approves more than one extension; the first needs to have been necessary and the second warranted by unforeseeable circumstances.

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