NIH ERA COMMONS WORKING GROUP ANNOUNCEMENT/SOLICITATION

Release Date:  October 3, 2000

NOTICE:  OD-01-001

National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is in the process of establishing a 
Project Management Team to oversee the continued design, development and 
implementation of the NIH electronic Research Administration (eRA) system.  
The eRA system, when fully implemented, will support the electronic 
administration of the entire NIH grants life cycle.  Information will be 
received from applicant organizations into a database called the NIH Commons.  
Following data and business rule validation, information will be transferred 
to the NIH enterprise database, IMPAC II, for processing by NIH 
Institute/Center (IC) staff.

To ensure that all relevant business areas (e.g. application receipt, 
referral, review, council, grants management, program administration) are 
represented in the continuing NIH eRA efforts, a Management Team is being 
formed that will be comprised of representatives from various user groups.  
For aspects of the eRA system designed for NIH IC staff use, such user groups 
will involve key NIH IC administrative staff and/or information 
technologists. 

Given the extensive and diverse nature of the grantee organizations that will 
be using the NIH Commons, the NIH wishes to convene an NIH Commons Working 
Group, to serve as a counterpart to the various NIH IC functional groups. The 
Commons Working Group will serve under the Peer Review Oversight Group 
(PROG), a formal NIH Advisory Committee established under the provisions of 
the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).  Individual recommendations made 
by members of the Commons Working Group covering topics such as establishment 
and monitoring of eRA priorities, assistance in analysis of maintenance, 
operations, anticipated enhancements, and eventual redesign of dated NIH 
Commons interfaces will be submitted to the PROG for consideration and 
communication to the NIH eRA Project Management Team.  The Commons Working 
Group, as envisioned, will provide input to the PROG for consideration toward 
the goal of completing the requirements of the eRA system during the next two 
years.

With this announcement the NIH is seeking to recruit faculty and/or grantee 
organization professionals to participate on the NIH Commons Working Group.  
Prospective members are sought both from the faculty and from grantee 
organization professionals having administrative and/or technical expertise..  
It is anticipated that the Working Group will be made up of 12 to 18 
individuals, representing a cross-section of the diverse grantee organization 
community.  Affiliation with any grants administration professional society 
or association is not a prerequisite for participation on the Working Group.  
To assist in the facilitation of Working Group’s efforts,  the NIH has 
identified an eRA Commons Grantee Organization Liaison.  The Commons Liaison 
will assist in the establishment of the Working Group, scheduling of 
meetings, and work closely with the Working Group to meet specific objectives 
put forth by the eRA Project Management Team. Once the Working Group is 
established, a facilitator from among the Working Group member may be 
designated.  If so, arrangements will be made for the facilitator to actively 
participate in eRA Management Team meetings, so as to be able to apprise 
other members of the Working Group on the primary issues outstanding.   The 
final composition of the Working Group will be determined by the NIH eRA 
Project Management Team as a recommendation to the PROG who will formally 
request for participation of prospective Commons Working Group members.  All 
members of the Working Group will serve in a volunteer capacity, and be asked 
to contribute in the following ways.

o  The Working Group will be expected to be engaged in dialog via e-mail 
and/or conference calls on an as-needed basis, as well as to meet regularly 
(3-5 meetings/year) to discuss and/or review planning documents related to 
NIH Commons design, deployment, operations, maintenance, and/or enhancements. 
The NIH Commons Liaison will assist in the coordination of such meetings, as 
well as provide a suggested agenda.  

o  One of the initial efforts assigned to the Working Group will be to 
provide opinions relative to the establishment of new, and/or refinement of 
existing Commons assessment criteria in an effort to standardize the 
prioritization of Commons software design, development, deployment, 
operations, maintenance, and enhancement.  The Working Group will solicit 
input from the extramural grantee community, and convey individual 
recommendations to the PROG for consideration and communication to the NIH 
eRA Management Team. 

o  At this time, due to budgetary constraints, no financial support for 
travel for Working Group’s members is anticipated.  NIH budget will, however, 
allow for administrative support (e.g. Xerox, making arrangements for meeting 
rooms, etc.).  As an alternative to meeting in Bethesda, the Working Group 
will be encouraged to hold meetings in conjunction with either regional or 
national meetings of professional societies or associations.

o  In order to better understand issues outstanding in the eRA users’ 
community, Working Group members may be requested to solicit input from 
groups of users identified to the NIH by grantee organizations and/or 
professional societies.  The NIH Commons Liaison will facilitate such 
interactions.  

o  The Working Group will not be expected to play any formal role in making 
budget recommendations.  This will fall within the purview of the eRA 
Management Team.  However, extramural budgetary concerns will be discussed 
with members of the Working Group, and their individual perspectives may be 
solicited. 

eRA Management Team plans call for the Commons Working Group to be 
established and begin fulfilling prescribed objectives by the end of CY2000.  
The first step toward this goal is to recruit Working Group members.  All 
interested members of the extramural grantee community – administrative staff 
or scientific faculty - are encouraged to submit a short (< 1 page) statement 
of qualifications: relevant experience, demonstrated interest in 
implementation of eRA at their institution, and formal commitment by their 
institution for their active participation in the Working Group. Such 
statements, and any questions regarding this initiative should be directed to 
the NIH Commons User Support Branch Help Desk [(866) 504-9552; 
commons@od.nih.gov].  In order for the timely establishment of the Working 
Group, formal statements should be received by October 31, 2000.


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