At the conclusion of a research project, what is normally done if there is an underspending of the research grant? Is the remainder returned to the funding agency? If this is true, how is it possible to build one's funding over the years?

  • NSF calls it a "No cost extension." I believe it is discretionary. Unfortunately their website is not currently operating. May 14, 2016 at 6:56

1 Answer 1


First, you need to plan expenditures to make sure you don't end up with too much money at the end of the project. If you have grants, you're essentially running a small business. It's your job and responsibility to have a budget, plan with and for it, and to track expenditures.

If, however, for reasons that may not have been under your control, you end up with unspent money at the end of the grant period, you can often ask funding agencies to give you an extension of the project. For example, the National Science Foundation pretty regularly provides a one-year no-cost extension on "normal" grants. To get a second year, however, you probably need to have good reasons, or they will take the money back.

  • I've had several no-cost extensions on a single grant, but this may depend not only on the funding agency but on the director of the particular program. My impression is that the NSF would rather not have to take money back if you can legitimately spend it; if they take too much money back, they might get less money next year. May 16, 2016 at 2:02
  • Yes, I think that is correct. May 16, 2016 at 3:25
  • Is this applicable to the US only or can it be generalised to other countries?
    – adipro
    May 26, 2016 at 15:11
  • I have no idea. You'd need to ask someone in the country you care about whether they have no-cost extensions. May 26, 2016 at 22:49

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