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NIH eRA eSubmission Items of Interest – New Year, New Rules

Posted on January 4, 2011 at 5:41pm

NIH eRA eSubmission Items of Interest – December 30, 2010

from Sheri Cummins & Scarlett Gibb

Customer Relationship Managers

eRA External Services – eSubmission & Commons

NIH Office of Extramural Research



New Year – New Rules

Over the last few months many notices have been posted in the NIH Guide for Grants & Contracts regarding application process and policy changes to take place in January 2011 (NOT-OD-11-021).

I’ve polled some of my colleagues to see what advice they would give to our applicants in the coming year. Here is what they had to say…

“Something as important as a grant application deserves the time and attention needed to submit it error-free and on-time. Please take advantage of the application guide; it is here to help you.”
Advice from the Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration (these folks literally write the policy and the application guide)

We are often asked, “Do you really expect us to read the Application Guide – it’s over 250 pages?” To which we always reply with an unapologetic “Yes!” OK, it isn’t a gripping piece of literature. It does, however, hold all the information needed to submit your grant application to NIH. So, read through the applicable sections at least once and then use it as an on-line resource as you fill out your applications.

Your applications propose to spend large amounts of tax dollars to perform important scientific studies.  Getting the application right is just the first step to successful completion of a research project – give it the same care and attention to detail. 

Remember, you will no longer have the “error correction window” as a safety net to work through any errors encountered by eRA Commons beginning with the January 25 deadlines (see NOT-OD-10-123). An application submitted beyond the due date to correct errors/warnings will be considered late and not assigned for peer review or funding consideration. Carefully reading and following the provided instructions is critical to successful, on-time submission.

 “Don’t ‘Overstuff’ Your Applications”
Sage advice from the NIH Division of Receipt and Referral (these folks are usually the first NIH eyes to look at your application after submission – of course, they still see it after you)

With shorter applications and tighter restrictions regarding what can and can’t be included in your application or submitted post submission, it is tempting to find ways to stuff more information into areas of the application that were never intended to collect it.

A few reminders…

  • NIH has policy guidelines regarding materials that are acceptable in a grant application appendix.  Some opportunities have additional restrictions or don’t allow appendix material at all. Be sure to check your Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) instructions. Remember, FOA instructions supersede application guide instructions.
  • Your research strategy must be self-contained and can’t link out to Web sites or include embedded files to provide additional information.  In fact, such links will be inactivated during processing.
  • Only use the Other Attachments section of the R&R Other Project Information Form when explicitly instructed to do so in the FOA or application guide instructions.

I think this excerpt from NOT-OD-10-077 brings the ‘overstuffing’ point home quite nicely…

If inappropriate material is included in an appendix (e.g., an extension of the Specific Aims or Research Strategy section) then the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) will instruct peer reviewers not to read or consider the material in their review of the application.  In particularly egregious cases NIH has the authority to withdraw the application from review or consideration for funding.

‘Nuff said.

“Use the Application Viewing Window”
Advice from your eRA Customer Relationship Manager for eSubmission (that’s me)

Yes, the “error correction window” is going away. But, the “application viewing window” is here to stay. You have two-business days, after your application is error free and the assembled application image is available in eRA Commons, to preview the same document that will be seen by reviewers.

It is important to catch errors while you still have time to correct them. Build enough time into your submission schedule to carefully review the application image and make any needed adjustments BEFORE the deadline. The new NIH policy on post-submission application materials (NOT-OD-10-115) restricts post-submission changes to those resulting from unforeseen administrative issues and eliminates the chance of replacing an out of date biosketch or incorrect version of Specific Aims post-submission.  Once your application viewing window elapses or the deadline hits (whichever comes first), you’re submission must be complete.

In case you’re still not convinced…Checking your application image in Commons is also the only definitive way to verify that NIH has successfully received your submission. If you can’t VIEW it, we can’t REVIEW it!

“Help Us Help You!”
Plea from our User Support Branch (these folks work tirelessly to answer your questions and resolve your issues)

There are several things you can do to improve your customer service experience:

  • Submit early. Allow plenty of time to resolve unexpected submission problems and correct any errors encountered. If you wait until the last minute, you will be competing for limited support resources and increase your stress level!
  • Take advantage of available resources. You’ll find the answers to many of your questions in the FOA and application guide instructions. The Applying Electronically site is another great resource – check out the Resources page for annotated form sets, tips and more.
  • Give us a call. If you have a time-sensitive question threatening your ability to meet a deadline, then pick up the phone and give us a call (see Finding Help). Submitting a ticket via the Web is a great way to document your issue when working through a confirmed system problem.
  • Check access to key accounts well before your deadline. Grants.gov and Commons passwords expire every 90 days. Login 1-2 weeks prior to your deadline to avoid last minute scrambling. Both Grants.gov and eRA Commons provide links to Reset or Unlock passwords just below where you enter your credential information on the login screens. Take advantage of these self-help tools.
  • Keep your Commons profiles up to date. You will need access to the email address in your Personal Profile if you need to reset your password. We may also use this information to contact you when needed.

Thought for The Day
–lyric from “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers

Good things might come to those who wait
Not to those who wait too late.

Well, there you have it – the last eRA eSubmission Items of Interest for 2010. We hope you find these informal tip & advice emails useful. As always, we welcome your feedback on how we might improve. Drop us a note at askera@mail.nih.gov if you have any ideas or suggestions.

On behalf of Scarlett, myself and the whole eRA team – Have a Happy & Safe New Year!

Take care,


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