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NIH eSubmission Items of Interest - March 17, 2014

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 9:26am

NIH eSubmission Items of Interest – March 17, 2014

 

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”

-Hal Borland

 

It sure feels like spring lost its place and went to the back of the line. It’s March 17 and Federal offices are closed again today due to snow. As I look outside at the white blanket covering, well, everything, I find it hard to believe that the cherry blossom trees are expected to peak in three weeks. My sweater-clad, humiliated hound dogs and I are ready for warm weather and walks in the park and I’m sure we’re not alone. For now, it’s hot chocolate and teleworking…so, let me take this opportunity to get you caught up on some stuff going on in NIH’s world of electronic grant application submission.

 

Application Due Dates and Weather

 

Despite the icky weather today, Federal staff are teleworking, help desks are open, grant application due dates are on and our standard submission policies are in place. If your organization is closed due to weather, you can submit on the first day your organization reopens. Don’t forget to document your reason for the late submission in your cover letter.

 

Applications & Project Titles

 

NIH’s eRA systems can now accept project titles (item 11 on the SF424 R&R cover form) of up to 200 characters. That’s right – eRA systems will no longer truncate your project titles to 81 characters. Over the years we have seen some rather unfortunate truncations so this is a welcome and long overdue change.

 

Keep in mind that when submitting a Revision application, you must use the exact project title displayed in eRA Commons for the awarded application.  If the project title of the awarded grant was truncated to 81 characters, then only those 81 characters can be used for the Revision application.

 

eRA Systems Will Soon Support Greek & Other Unicode Characters

 

Over the long Memorial Day weekend, eRA systems will be upgraded to support the Unicode character standard (see NOT-OD-14-071). Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world’s writing systems (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicode). What did we do before Wikipedia? Anyway, the bottom line is we will soon be able to recognize and store Greek and other scientific characters our systems can’t handle today.

 

Although Grants.gov limits the characters allowed in application form fields, you can (and do) use a broader range of characters in your PDF attachments within your applications. eRA systems already extract information from your Project Summary/Abstract, Specific Aims and other application attachments for use in Summary Statements and reporting systems. However, since our databases don’t currently recognize all the characters, quite a bit of manual manipulation of the data is needed. The Unicode character support will greatly reduce the need to manually edit the data pulled from these attachments.

 

The effort to implement Unicode support touches every eRA service from eRA Commons through all our internal grants administration systems. Each of these systems will be updated over the Memorial Day weekend downtime. We have made some adjustments to our application due dates to accommodate the downtime and to ensure all our systems are ready to go (see NOT-OD-14-070).

 

We will also be bringing down our non-production environments, including eRA Commons Demo and External User Acceptance Test (Ext-UAT), for an extended period (March 25-April 5) to update these systems and use them as a ‘practice run’ for our production changes. 

 

Reference Letters & Fellowship Applications

 

Along with our upgrade to the latest OMB-approved application forms (FORMS-C), there was a change to our handling of reference letters for Fellowship applications. In the past, NIH had required the use of a specific ‘Fellowship Reference Form’ to be filled out by referees. NIH is no longer requiring that specific reference letter format. Be sure, however, to follow the new instructions outlined in the Individual Fellowship Application Guide SF424 (R&R) Section 5.4 Letters of Reference, Part B. Instructions for Referees.

Submitting Change of Institution (Type 7) Requests & Relinquishing Statements Electronically

 

Do you need to submit a post-award Change of Institution (Type 7) request to NIH? If so, have you tried the electronic processes NIH has in place? NIH announced the piloting of electronic Type 7 applications (NOT-OD-12-134) and associated Relinquishing Statements (NOT-OD-12-132) in August 2012. We are moving towards requiring electronic processes for these actions and now is the time to become familiar with them.

 

Don’t forget, you must use the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) specifically published for Type 7 requests – Change of Grantee Organization (Type 7 Parent) – PA-14-078.

 

Come See Us at the NIH Regional Conference

 

NIH will be back in Baltimore, MD June 25-27 for the 2014 NIH Regional Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration.  I know budgets are tight, but this is a great event for anyone new to the NIH grant process.

 

Hope to see you there!

 

In the meantime, think Springy, happy, warm thoughts and take care.

 

Sheri

 

Sheri Cummins

Communications & Outreach

NIH Office of Extramural Research

cumminss@mail.nih.gov

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