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Answers to Frequent Award Administration Questions

When is my grant "official"?
Program Officers "recommend" proposals for award but lack authority to commit NSF funds. After recommendation, applications are reviewed, primarily by non-scientist NSF grant administrators, for technical correctness. This process can take up to two months and an electronic award notification is then sent to the grantee sponsored research office. No grant is official and no NSF commitment final until this time. I almost always contact the Principal Investigator directly when I make the recommendation. This allows for a pleasant exchange in the midst of more difficult ones and also permits the applicant to plan ahead. It is extremely rare for a recommended project not to become an award and most researchers and institutions act with this realization in mind.

When can I start to spend money?
Although it can be some time between notification that a proposal has been recommended for support and the official award, NSF rules and grantee institution policies often allow investigators to receive money within several days of award recommendation. Expenditures incurred within 90 days before the official award date can be charged to the grant and reimbursed by NSF. Institutions understand that most recommendations result in awards, are willing to take a slight risk and advance funds to the investigator on this basis. If you wish to take advantage of this possibility, as many researchers do, you should call me for specific guidance and then contact your sponsored research office.

What is the difference between a "standard" and a "continuing" award?
In a standard award, the entire grant amount is provided at one time and both single and mulit-year projects can be funded in this way. If the award is multiyear, the Principal Investigator is required to submit both annual and final reports. In multiyear grants funds are often provided on a continuing basis with each annual increment dependent on satisfactory progress during the last. (Only in very infrequent and unusual circumstances might an increment be denied.) Progress reports are required eight weeks before the increment award date.

When my grant is official, can I shift funds between budget categories?
With the exception of changes in participant support costs and subawards which must be approved by NSF, investigators may move funds between categories with institution permission. This happens regularly and in most cases such changes are routinely approved.

If circumstances require, can I change the plan of research described in the proposal?
The Program recognizes that uncertainties inherent in archaeological research may necessitate changes in research design. If these are minor they can be approved at the institutional level. If you wish to make a major change in research direction, you should contact the Program Director. Such requests are infrequent, normally reasonable and are likely to be approved.

I recognize that NSF policy requires use of US airlines but I can save money if I use a non-US carrier. Is this OK?
The US government has strict rules which regulate use of non-US air carriers and investigators should consult section 10 of the General Grant Conditions (GC-1). Cost considerations are not a relevant factor in determining when an exemption applies.

How long should my annual and final reports be?
Both annual and final reports must be submitted by Fastlane and a template guides the investigator through the required sections. From a Program perspective these reports are important because they permit progress to be monitored and allow the Foundation to note results worthy of widespread public dissemination. At the time of submission however, final results are usually not available and inordinate effort should not be put into report preparation. A two page summary in the "Activities and Findings" section is normally sufficient.

Can I extend the expiration date of my award?
One must distinguish between when the research is completed and when all grant money is spent. If you think that NSF funds may remain unexpended after the expiration date, it is reasonable to request a "no-cost extension" Grantee institutions may extend an award by 12 months without requesting NSF approval and you should contact your sponsored research office well before the grant expires. If you need more than 12 months or if you need a second no-cost extension please contact the Program directly. Such situations are not uncommon and requests are regularly approved.

What can I do now? My award expired and money is still left in the grant?
You should make an effort not to find yourself in this situation. However such cases do arise, and NSF can grant a "retroactive no cost extension." It is in no-one’s interest to see a research project remain unfinished and a Fastlane request with appropriate "mea culpa" and an explanation of why remaining funds are essential to successful completion of the project normally result in an award’s resuscitation and extension. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you should first contact the Program Officer directly.

I need more money. Can you give me a supplement without a full new proposal?
Program Officers can recommend supplements, normally not to exceed 20% of the original award on the basis of a brief written request. The formal procedure is described in the Grant Proposal Guide. Within the Archaeology Program this however is rarely done. Given the unpredictable nature of archaeological work, most researchers could legitimately use additional funds and it seems unwise to open too widely the door to such requests. However exceptional circumstances sometimes arise and the Program normally awards one or two supplements a year. The investigator is asked to write a justification of several pages and advice from a review panel is sought. In very unusual and urgent situations faster action is possible. If a situation arises where you think a supplement is necessary, please contact the Program Director.

Can I submit a new proposal when I still have an active award?
To maintain an uninterrupted flow of research, many investigators must submit a renewal proposal while a current award is still active. This is a permissible and frequent occurrence.