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Each role in the submission process carries specific responsibilities. Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs) work with their institute or organization to prepare the application, and pass the completed application on to their Authorized Organization Representative (AOR). Only AORs have the ability to actually submit a grant application to NIH via Grants.gov.
The resources below explain the different eSubmission roles and will help guide you in choosing the appropriate individuals to fill each role.
- Definitions of roles in eRA Commons and Grants.gov
- Chart showing Roles of AOR/SO and PI in electronic submission process (PowerPoint - 66 KB)
Applicant organizations must determine how best to submit their application(s) to NIH via Grants.gov. Applicant organizations can choose from one of these three options:
- Grants.gov Forms-Based Submission
Organizations download and complete application forms from Grants.gov. These forms require the use of a Grants.gov compatible version of Adobe Reader, which can be can be downloaded free of charge through the Download Software page of the Grants.gov website.
Organizations wanting to develop their own technical solution for transmitting data can work with Grants.gov to develop their own data exchange system (XML datastream)
- Service Providers
Applicant organizations or individuals may choose to establish an agreement with an established commercial company (known as a Service Provider) that has a system-to-system interface with Grants.gov to submit applications on their behalf. Service Providers offer a wide range of services — from low-cost, single transaction options through full scale, end-to-end grants management solutions. These solutions are an alternative to using Grants.gov’s forms-based approach and offer benefits such as error-checking based on NIH business rules prior to submission and the ability to print the entire application before submission.
Applicants must download a Grants.gov compatible version of Adobe Reader software in order to view and complete the application forms. Users can identify and download Grants.gov compatible versions of Adobe Reader by visiting the Download Software page on the Grants.gov Web site.
NIH requires that all application attachments be submitted in PDF format. Users must have PDF creation software installed in order to create the necessary PDFs. Grants.gov has published a list of recommended PDF Conversion Programs to assist you in obtaining the necessary software. To avoid PDF problems, keep these guidelines in mind.
Note: The free Adobe Reader used to complete an application cannot be used to create PDF attachments.
For more information, see our list of Software FAQs
Prior to submitting a grant application online through Grants.gov to NIH, an applicant organization must complete registrations for System for Award Management (SAM), Grants.gov and eRA Commons. Having an active registration with SAM (which must be renewed yearly), is required before registering with Grants.gov. or submitting an application Principal Investigators do not have to register at Grants.gov, but must register with Commons. Please view an overview of steps for registering (PDF - 110 KB) in both Commons and Grants.gov to learn more.
Each registration is a multi-step process. Completing both registrations can take up to 6 weeks so be sure to start early!
New businesses [i.e. those applying to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to complete the System for Award Management (Sam.gov), formerly Central Contractor Registration (CCR) registration] should start the process at least two months (eight weeks) prior to the grant submission date.
- eRA Commons Registration (Required by Applicant Organizations and Principal Investigators)
eRA Commons requires registration by both the applicant organization and the Principal Investigator. The Principal Investigator must register through the organization’s Authorized Organizational Representative (also known as the Signing Official).
- SAM.gov Registration (Required for Grants.gov prior to submission)
The System for Award Management (SAM) is combining federal procurement systems, including Central Contract Registry (CCR). SAM replaced CCR in July 2012. Because of the transition from CCR to SAM, it can take a significant amount of time (days/weeks) in some scenarios to complete the registration or renewal process. Please be sure to initiate your SAM registration or annual renewal at least 6 weeks prior to you submission date.
- Grants.gov registration (Required by Applicant Organizations Only)
Grants.gov requires registration by the applicant organization.
- Grants.gov Registration Instructions for Domestic and Foreign Organizations
- Link to Organization Registration (Grants.gov website)
- Need Assistance? Contact the Grants.gov Contact Center
- Important Resources for International Applicants
- Common Questions & Answers for International Applicants (PDF - 36 KB)
- Contact Support for International Applicants (PDF - 26 KB)
For more information, see our list of Registration FAQs
- Important tips
- If an applicant has started the eRA Commons registration process at least two weeks in advance of the submission date, NIH will consider it a “good faith” effort to prepare for electronic submission and the applicant will not be penalized for any NIH-caused registration processing delay.
- The applicant organization must include its DUNS number in its Institutional Profile in the eRA Commons. This DUNS number must match the DUNS number provided at System for Award Management (Sam.gov), formerly Central Contractor Registration (CCR) registration with Grants.gov and the DUNS number used to complete any Federal Grant Application.
- NIH requires the Principal Investigator to fill in his or her Commons User ID in the PD/PI section Credential log-in field on the Senior/Key Person Profile Component.