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Frequently Asked Questions
Applying Electronically
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I. Preparing to Apply

  A. Registration Basics

  1. When should applicant organizations begin the registration process?

    Applicants are highly encouraged to start the registration process at least six weeks prior to the application due date.

    Foreign organizations and new businesses [i.e. those applying to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to complete the SAM registration] should allow even more time to complete the process.

    NIH will not make any allowances for submission delays due to incomplete registrations.

  2. Does a Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) have to register in and eRA Commons?

    A PD/PI does NOT need to register in but MUST be registered in the eRA Commons and be assigned the PI role prior to electronic submission of a grant application. If the PD/PI does not already have an eRA Commons account, he/she should register in eRA Commons through the organization’s Signing Official (SO; Commons equivalent to Authorized Organizational Representative) or Account Administrator (AA). If the PD/PI already has an eRA Commons account, he/she should ensure their account is 'affiliated' with the applicant organization.

    If the PD/PI and the organization's SO are the same person (sometimes the case, especially in small businesseses), then two eRA Commons accounts are needed - one with the scientific role of PI and the other with the administrative role of SO.

  B. Registration in

  1. What is is the federal-wide portal to find and apply for Federal grant funding. is used by all 26 Federal grant-making agencies.

    All competing grant applications to NIH are routed through

  2. What is involved in the registration process?

    Applicant Organizations need to complete a one-time registration process for that includes obtaining a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, registering in System for Award Management (SAM) and registering in Detailed steps for registration can be found on the website at:

    If your organization has already completed the registration process to submit electronically for another Federal agency, a separate registration is not necessary for NIH submissions. 

    Although your registration will not expire, you must complete an annual renewal in SAM in order to submit.

  3. Part of the process is registering in the System of Awards Management (SAM). What is SAM and how will an applicant organization know if they have already registered or have successfully registered in the SAM?

    SAM is a system required by the federal government to collect information on organizations applying for grants and contracts. requires that applicant organizations obtain a DUNS number and register with the System for Award Management (SAM)

    A yearly renewal with SAM is needed to keep your registration active.

  4. How often do I need to update my SAM registration?

    A yearly renewal with SAM is needed to keep your registration active. You will not be able to successfully submit an application to if your SAM registration has expired. See Quick Start Guide for Updateing/Renewing an Entity.

    NIH does not consider an expired SAM registration a valid reason for submitting late.

  5. My organization already has a DUNS number. Do we need to establish a different one for submissions?

    Your organization will need to determine if the already established DUNS number is being used for grant applications. Applications to the NIH have required a DUNS number since October 1, 2003 and many applicant organizations have already fulfilled this registration step.

    If your organization has multiple DUNS numbers, be aware that the same DUNS number must be used for your and eRA Commons registrations as well as on the application itself.

  C. Registration in Commons

  1. What is involved in the NIH eRA Commons registration process?

    Applicant organizations submitting grants to NIH must complete a one-time registration in the eRA Commons

    • To find out if an organization is already registered in eRA Commons, check our Commons Registered Organizations lsit.
    • The individual designated as the Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) on a grant application must also be registered in eRA Commons. The PD/PI must hold a PI account and be affiliated with the applicant organization. This registration must be done by an organization official or their delegate who is already registered in the Commons. To register PIs in the Commons, refer to the Accounts Module Online Help System.
  2. Who needs to be registered in the eRA Commons to submit a grant application?

    The following individuals must be registered in eRA Commons:

    • At least one Signing Official (part of eRA Commons organization registration)
    • PD/PI (Project Director/Principal Investigator) and multiple-PD/PIs
    • Sponsor on a Fellowship application (NOT-OD-14-129)
    • Component leads of multi-project applications
    • Candidates for diversity supplement support
    • Anyone doing application data entry in ASSIST

    Though not needed for a competing grant application, if awarded, the following additional individuals listed on RPPR progress reports will also need to have Commons IDs:

  3. Do the PD/PI and SO require separate accounts in eRA Commons (even if the PD/PI and SO are the same person)?

    Yes, both the PI and SO need separate accounts in eRA Commons. 

    Certain actions (e.g., rejecting an application) can only be done by eRA Commons users with the SO role. Other actions (e.g., viewing review outcome) can only be done by eRA Commons users with the PI role. If you are the SO for your organization as well as a PD/PI of the grant, you will need two separate accounts with different user names (one with the SO role and one with the PI role) in order for our systems to provide the correct authority to perform role-based actions.

    It is acceptable to combine scientific roles on the same account (e.g., PI, IAR, GRADUATE_STUDENT, POSTDOC, PROJECT_PERSONNEL, SCIENTIST, TRAINEE, and UNDERGRADUATE).

  4. I have an Internet Assisted Review (IAR) account. Will this satisfy the requirement for an eRA Commons account?

    No, the Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) designated on a grant application must have a PI role on their eRA Commons account. The PD/PI should work with a Signing Official or Account Administrator at their organization to verify that they have a PI role.

  5. Does a PD/PI who moves to another institution have to register again in Commons?

    No. A PD/PI's Commons account follows them throughout their career. The new institution will need to affiliate the PD/PI’s Commons account with their institution.  A single PI account can have multiple affiliations. 

  6. For consortium/subawards, do the sub-awardees need to be registered with eRA Commons and

    Sub-awardees are not required to register with eRA Commons. However, we do encourage them to be proactive and register to be ready to serve as primary awardees in the future. Also, sub-awardee registration helps staff process your grant more easily upon award.

  D. Software Requirements

  1. What software do I need to have loaded before I can begin using

    You need the following software:

    • Adobe Reader

      Adobe Reader software is needed to view PDF documents including the application image assembled by eRA systems and made available in eRA Commons.

      If using downloadable forms or workspace for your submission, be sure to use a version of Adobe Reader compatible with the forms. See Adobe Software Compatibility page. 
    • PDF conversion software

      NIH requires all text attachments to be submitted as PDF files, so NIH applicants  need a program to convert text documents to PDF format. Many word processing programs include options to save documents in PDF format. There are also free PDF conversion programs available on the internet.

    • Browser

      Web browsers supported by
      Web browsers support by eRA systems 

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II. Finding a Funding Opportunity
  1. What is a funding opportunity announcement (FOA)?
    A funding opportunity announcement (FOA) is a publicly available document by which a Federal Agency makes known its intentions to award discretionary grants or cooperative agreements.
  2. How do I submit an investigator initiated application?

    NIH and other HHS Agencies have developed generic Parent Funding Opportunity Announcements for use by applicants who wish to submit what were formerly termed “unsolicited” or "investigator-initiated" applications. See the Parent Announcements page for a list of current NIH Parent Announcements and further information.

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III. Application Forms, Form Updates, and Choosing the Correct Forms
  1. What application form set is used by NIH?

    NIH uses the Standard Form (SF) 424 Research & Related (R&R) family of forms. 

    The SF424 (R&R) is the government-wide data set for research grant applications. NIH application packages are a combination of forms used federal-wide (typically identified as R&R or Research and Related) and agency-specific forms (typically identifed as PHS for Public Health Services).

    The forms presented to an applicant will vary from one Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to another. Applicants must use the application package linked to the FOA to which they want to apply.

  2. Why do the SF424 (R&R) application forms change?

    NIH periodically implements updated versions of grant application forms in order to remain current with the most recent form sets available through and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

    NIH grant application forms can change for a variety of reasons:

    • Policy changes require new or different data collection

      A new policy may require that we ask applicants a specific question or ensure a topic is addressed in a new attachment. 
    • Usability

      Forms can be "tweaked" to make the data collection more intuitive.
    • Incorporating changes to forms used federal-wide

      Since NIH leverages forms that are used federal-wide, a change to shared forms also impacts NIH applications. For example, forms may be changed to remove the collection of sensitive data. 
  3. How will I know if grant application forms are changing?

    NIH announces upcoming form changes well before their use to ensure applicants have time to prepare. New application packages and instructions are released at least 60 days prior to the first due date to use them.

    Like all major eSubmission news, applicants can expect that forms changes will be announced in the NIH Guide for Grants & Contracts, on websites, and through various media outlets listed on our News and Events page.

  4. How can I ensure that I am using the correct forms?

    NIH gives each set of updated forms a version name for quick identification and easier communication. For example, our current version is referred to as 'FORMS-D'. Applications for due dates on or after January 25, 2018 will use updated forms versioned FORMS-E. 

    When NIH posts an opportunity and its application package to we provide some basic information (opportunity title and number, key dates, etc.). We also have the ability to provide a 'Competition ID' to further identify an opportunity. NIH uses the Competition ID to convey the form version name.

    The form version name shows up in the Competition ID field found on various screens and within the application package (see  “Do I Have the Right Forms For My Application?” (PDF - 176 KB) document).

    Form changes are announced via a notice in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. The notice will specify when applicants must use the updated forms (e.g., 'Use FORMS-E application packages for due dates on or after January 25, 2018').

  5. How can I tell if I’m using the correct application guide for my grant application?

    The How to Apply - Application Guide page includes the instructions needed to submit a grant application to NIH. 

    In the Application Form Instructions section of that page, you will find form-by-form, field-by-field instructions. During a form transition you may find multiple sets of instructions. You must use the version of instructions that corresponds to the version of forms you are using. For example, if submitting using FORMS-D version, you must use the instructions listed for Version D. The version of instructions is listed in the upper left hand corner of the HTML instructions and the upper right hand corner of the PDF cover page

  6. During a form update, which form version is used for Resubmission applications?
    Form updates apply to all types of applications (new, resubmission, renewal and revision). If you are submitting your Resubmission application to a due date on or after January 25, 2018 you must use FORMS-E application forms, even if you used FORMS-D forms for your New application on an earlier due date.
  7. When do I need to use updated FORMS-D application forms if I’m eligible to submit under the continuous submission policy?

    For continuous submission, use the due date you would have been held to if not eligible for continuous submission to determine which form version to use. The intended due date is the date listed in the Application Due Date or AIDS Application Due Date row of the Key Dates table in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and found by following the Standard dates apply link. 

    If the intended due date is before January 25, 2018 use FORMS-D; if on or after January 25, 2018 use FORMS-E.

    For example, NIH will accept applications intended for the January 7, 2018 AIDS due date from applicants eligible for continuous submission through February 7, 2018. Applicants to that due date (even if submitting between January 25 and February 7) must use FORMS-D.

  8. How do form transitions impact late applications?

    Applicants who submit late applications must use the application forms appropriate for the on-time due date. 
    If the intended due date is before January 25, 2018 use FORMS-D; if on or after January 25, 2018 use FORMS-E.

    For example, if you are submitting late to an announcement with a due date of January 19, 2018, then you must use FORMS-D application forms during the two-week late window of consideration (even if submitting between January 25 and February 1).

    Note: Some active FOAs (those posted on/before December 17, 2014) still follow our old late policy and may not have the two-week window of consideration.

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IV. Completing the SF424 (R&R) Application

  A. Application Instructions

  1. Where can I find application instructions?

    Application instructions are found in the following locations (listed in priority order):

    1. Notices in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts
    2. Funding Opportunity Announcement
      • Pay special attention to FOA-specific notices in the Related Notices section and to FOA-specific requirements in section IV - Application and Submission Information
    3. How to Apply - Application Guide

    Conformance to all instructions is required and strictly enforced.

    The How to Apply - Application Guide includes all general instructions and a link to the page is provided in every FOA. The FOA itself contains Program-specific application requirements. Notices in the NIH Guide provide clarifications to FOA instructions and alert applicants to new policy requirements that may not yet be incorporated into the applicaiton guide.  

  2. If the funding opportunity announcement and application guide instructions conflict, which should I follow?

    The funding opportunity announcement must be followed and wins over the application guide intructions.

  B. Formatting Your Attachments

  1. What attachment formats does NIH accept?

    All attachments in NIH grant applications must be in PDF format.

    Do not submit attachments in other formats such as Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. Other formats may be allowed through but are not accepted by NIH and will result in a submission error.

  2. What are NIH's font requirements for grant application attachments?

    For application due dates before Jan 25, 2017:

    • Font size:  must be 11 points or larger (smaller text in figures, graphs, diagrams and charts is acceptable as long as it is legible when the page is viewed at 100%)
      • Some PDF conversion software reduces font size. It is important to confirm that the final PDF document complies with the font requirements.
    • Type density:  must be no more than 15 characters per linear inch (including characters and spaces)
    • Line spacing: must be no more than six lines per vertical inch
    • Text color: must be black (color text in figures, graphs, diagrams, charts, tables, footnotes and headings is acceptable)

    For application due dates on/after Jan 25, 2017:

    Same as above except:

    • Text color: No restriction. Though not required, black or other high-contrast text colors are recommended since they print well and are legible to the largest audience.
  3. Does NIH have recommended fonts?
    Yes. NIH recommends the following fonts at 11 point or larger:
    • Arial
    • Georgia
    • Helvetica
    • Palatino Linotype
  4. How can I tell if my attachments meet the "line spacing must be no more than six lines per vertical inch" requirement?

    In most cases, fonts that meet the “no more than 15 characters per linear inch” requirement will also meet the line spacing requirement when “Line Spacing” is set to “Single”. When in doubt, print off a sample and use a ruler to verify you do not have more than 6 lines within an inch.

    Compliant example: Arial 11 pt font single-spaced

    Arial 11 pt font single-spaced

  C. Cover Letters and Other Additional Materials

  1. How is supplemental/additional/correction material submitted after application submission accommodated?

    NIH accepts limited information between the time of initial submission of the application and the time of initial peer review. See NOT-OD-10-115.

  2. How does an applicant submit video?

    In certain situations, the use of video technology can be vital in conveying key aspects of a grant application. In order to facilitate such applications, NIH issued Interim Guidance for Videos Submitted as NIH Application Materials (NOT-OD-12-141).

  3. How will administrative supplements be handled?

    For single-project activity codes, applicants have the option of submitting their administrative supplement requests electronically either through using the same process as electronic competing applications or through the eRA Commons. Funding Opportunity Announcements specific to administrative supplements include instructions for the various submission methods.

  4. Do applicants have the opportunity to include a cover letter?

    Yes. The Cover Letter is an attachment on the SF424 R&R cover form. If multiple corrective submissions are necessary, only the last cover letter submitted will be retained in the system.

  D. File Size, Page Limits and Special Characters

  1. Is there a limit on application files size?

    eRA systems cannot accept a 0 byte attachment. Although NIH does not have any file size restrictions, applicants are are reminded, that the larger the application the longer it will take for reviewers and staff to access your assembled application image. recommends limiting the total size of application packages (including attachments) to 200 MB and individual attachments to 100MB.

  2. Does eRA electronically enforce page limits?

    Most standard page limits are enforced by the eRA system. However, some page limits (especially those specific to a funding opportunity announcement) are checked by eRA staff after submission. Be careful to follow all specified page limits and not rely completely on system validations. 

  3. Are special characters like ñ and ß allowed in grant applications?

    Yes. NIH's eRA databases were updated to support all Unicode characters in May 2014. This allowed eRA systems to accept and store Greek and other characters as they appeared in the original scientific text attachments included with applications. It also allowed these additional characters to be included in summary statements, progress reports and reporting systems. 

    In February 2015, made similar changes to their systems which expanded Unicode character support to include free-text form fields within grant applications.

  E. Resubmission, Revision, and Renewal Applications

  1. What do I do if more than one application type seems to fit my situation?

    Only one option can be selected. An easy rule of thumb is that any application that is submitted in response to review feedback should be marked as a resubmission. So, if an applicant is submitting a resubmission of a renewal or a resubmission of a revision, then resubmission should be chosen as the single application type.

  2. What do I put in the Federal Identifier field of the SF424 (R&R) cover component?

    If "Type of Application" is "New", you can leave the Federal Identifier field blank. If "Type of Application" is "Renewal", "Revision" or "Resubmission", enter the IC and serial number of the prior application/award number (e.g. CA654321). For these types of applications, do not change the Federal Identifier field when submitting Changed/Corrected applications.

  3. What part of the application/award number is the IC and serial number?

    NIH's grant application/award numbers consist of the following parts:

    • A single-digit Application Type
    • A three-digit Activity Code
    • A two-letter IC Code
    • A six-digit Serial Number
    • A two-digit Grant Year (preceded by a dash to separate it from the serial number)
    • Additional suffix information that may include the letter "S" and related number for a particular supplement record, the letter "A" and related number to identify an amendment and/or the letter "X" and related number to identify a fellowship's institutional allowance record.


    For example, 3R01CA654321-04S1A1 would indicate an amendment (A1) to a supplemental (Type 3) application for a traditional research project (R01) referred to the National Cancer Institute (CA). The number further identifies the application serially as the 654321 new proposal submitted to the NCI, and indicates that this is the first supplemental application (S1) to the fourth year (-04) of the support to this project. In this example, the IC and serial number would be "CA654321".

  4. When submitting an application again to address errors or warnings, how do I indicate on the form that the current submission supersedes the previous?

    On the SF424 (R&R) cover component, field 1 Type of Submission should be set to "Application" on the initial application submission. Box #1 should be set to "Changed/Corrected" for all subsequent submissions of the same application to address errors or warnings. When submitting a Changed/Corrected application you must provide the Previous Tracking ID (e.g., GRANT12345678) in field 4c.

    Note that field 8 Type of Application remains the same from one submission attempt to the next within the same receipt deadline.

    See the section of the application guide titled "Correcting Errors" for additional information.

  F. Budgets and Subawards

  1. Is a DUNS number required for every subaward/consortium organization?

    The 'Organization DUNS' is a required field on the 'Research & Related Budget' form for both the applicant organization and subaward/consortium. Applicants should make every effort to provide accurate DUNS numbers for all subaward/consortium.

    NIH systems only check that 9 or 13 digits are provided and that the subaward/consortium DUNS is not the same as the applicant organization DUNS. However, providing inacurrate DUNS information can cause issues or delays in processing your application if chosen for award. 

  2. Is SAM & registration required for subaward/consortium institutions?

    Subaward/consortium organizations need not register with SAM or, unless they plan to submit some day as an applicant organization. This requirement may change over time.

  3. Is a Commons registration required for every subaward/consortium organization?

    Subaward/consortium organizations need not register in the eRA Commons, unless they plan to submit some day as an applicant organization. This requirement may change over time.

  4. For the Indirect Cost Rate (%) field in the budget form, I can only enter a value up to 100%. Our rate is 110%. How can I enter 110%?

    The recommended workaround is to split the Indirect Cost Rate into 2 lines on the budget form.

  5. Where should I enter the subawardee's indirect costs in the main project budget?

    When a grant involves a subaward, the total costs (Direct + Facilities & Administrative Costs) of all subawards are considered Direct Costs for the prime applicant. Therefore, for the parent budget, line F.5 (Subawards/Consortium/Contractual Costs) must reflect the total costs for all subawards. 

    NIH continues to have a policy that excludes the consortium F&A costs from any direct cost limit. The NIH systems will make the appropriate adjustments prior to determining if your application falls within any direct cost limits.

  6. An applicant may see both detailed and modular budget component options as part of the SF424 (R&R) application package. Which should be used?

    Applicants should refer to the instructions in their specific Funding Opportunity Announcement FOA and should carefully read the application guide for detailed instructions. As a general rule, if an application meets the modular limit of $250K in direct costs for all budget periods, the applicant must submit a modular budget. Similarly, if an application exceeds $250K in direct cost for any budget period, the detailed R&R Budget form must be used. Foreign applicants must use the R&R Budget form. The applicant should complete the budget component appropriate to their situation.

  7. The R&R cumulative budget page is 'automatically' filled-in by the system – correct?

    Yes. Cumulative budget periods are automatically populated and do not require data entry.

  8. What do I do if I have more Project Role categories than the R&R Budget form allows in section "B. Other Personnel"?

    Section "B. Other Personnel" of the R&R Budget form is for reporting aggregate information. There are 4 pre-defined project roles (Post Doctoral Associates, Graduate Students, Undergraduate Students, and Secretarial/Clerical) and the ability to name up to 5 additional project roles. 


    To remain within these 9 categories, you may need to broaden a project role to combine groups of Personnel. For example, you may combine "Laboratory Technicians" and "Laboratory Managers" into a single project role called "Laboratory Staff". The Budget Justification attachment can be used to provide specifics for each project role. 

  G. Application checks (Validations)

  1. What are validations?

    Validations are system checks against specific business rules that may result in an application receiving errors or warnings.

    There are multiple levels of validations:

    1. downloadable forms and ASSIST screens perform form field validations to ensure the data entered is in the appropriate format (e.g., $ fields only include numbers, email addresses include a @, dates are provided in the designated format.
    2. performs checks on submitted applications (e.g., verifies the submitting AOR is authorized to submit on behalf of the organization listed in the application). 
    3. eRA systems check application data against agency business rules. 
    Applications must pass all validation levels to successfully complete the submission process.
  2. What agency validations are checked by eRA systems?

    The complete list of agency business rule checks run by eRA systems against competing applications. The annotated form sets provide many of the standard validations in a more digestible format. 

  3. Can I check to see if my application will pass all validations before I submit?

    If you use downloadable forms to prepare your application, there is no way to systematically verify your application will pass agency validations before you submit.

    However, ASSIST includes a Validate feature that runs the same business rule checks pre-submission as would be run post-submission when your application is processed by NIH.

  H. Congressional District

  1. The SF424 (R&R) cover component requires you to enter your Congressional District as well as the Congressional District of your project's primary site. How do I locate my Congressional District?

    One way to locate your Congressional District is to go to the U.S. House of Representatives website at and enter your zip code in the "Find Your Representative" search box. The format used for Congressional Districts is the two-character state abbreviation followed by a dash followed by 3-digit district (e.g., MD-008).

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V. Submitting Your Application

  A. Submission Deadline

  1. When is my application due?

    Your application must be timestamped by by 5:00 pm (local time for the submitting organization) on the 'Application Due Date' or 'AIDS Application Due Date' (if applicable) listed in the Key Dates section of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). 

    In some cases the due date may say 'Standard dates apply'. Follow the Standard dates link to the due dates table and find the row appropriate for your activity code. The activity code (e.g. R01) is typically listed in parentheses at the end of the FOA title. Note that some activity codes will have different due dates depending on whether or not you are submitting a 'new' application. Using the 'Search for Activity Code' feature above the table will quickly identify if multiple dates are available.

    Per NIH policy, if the submission/receipt date falls on a weekend or Federal holiday, the submission deadline is automatically extended to the next business day.

    Applicants are encouraged to submit early - days, not minutes - to allow time to address any unforseen issues and to view your application prior to the due date. Applications must be error-free by the due date.

  2. What is the earliest date I can submit my application?

    When NIH issues a new funding opportunity announcement (FOA), the open date (the first date an application may be submitted) is generally 30 days before the application due date. 

    Many FOAs remain open for multiple reciept dates. NIH recommends you submit within the 30 days prior to the due date you are targeting. If you need to submit earlier, please include a cover letter so we know the application is not late for the previous due date.

    NOTE: Reviewers and others eligible for continuous submission may submit at any time but MUST include a cover letter identifying their eligibility.

  3. What is on-time submission?

    For an application to be considered 'on-time', an error free application must be accepted by with a timestamp on or before 5:00 p.m. local time of the submitting organization on the application due date.

    If errors are identified in your application after submission, you must make any needed corrections BEFORE the due date/time for your application to be considered on-time.

    Only your latest submission is considered. If you submit an on-time application and submit again after the due date, the later application will overwrite the one submitted on time and your application will be considered 'late'.

  4. What is the application viewing window?

    Once an error-free application is submitted through to eRA, the eRA system assembles an application image and posts it in the PD/PI’s eRA Commons account. The PD/PI, any delegated Assistants and the Signing Official (SO) have a two (2) business day “application viewing window” during which they can view the assembled application in the Commons – just as a reviewer would see it. The application viewing window is linked to the time of submission (i.e., the window begins the day after the assembled application image is posted in the Commons).

    Within the viewing window, the SO can “reject” the application, stopping the application from moving forward to the final steps of the submission process. Rejections cannot be reversed, so this action should be taken cautiously. Once an application has been rejected, applicants can submit a changed/corrected application to However, if the final submission is not made by the application due date, the application will not be considered on time and will be subject to the NIH policy for late applications.

    Once the application viewing window has passed, the application automatically moves forward for further consideration and the submission process is complete. Any subsequent changes to the application must be made through and are at the discretion of the assigned Scientific Review Officer (if not prohibited in the Funding Opportunity Announcement or by NIH Policy on Post-Submission Application Materials).

  5. What is NIH's policy for late applications?

    The NIH late policy is explained in the following NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-15-039.

  6. Can I still submit my application to if the opportunity has expired?

    NIH posts all opportunities in a way that allows submissions through to continue for a short period of time following the FOA expiration date. This 'grace period' accommodates late submissions allowed under NIH’s late policy (when applicable), and submissions made under NIH’s system issue policy. The grace period also provides NIH with the flexibility to institute contingency plans when needed.  The grace period allows for the submission of applications to; however, applications will be accepted at the discretion of NIH.

  B. System problems

  1. What contingency plans are in place in case the and/or eRA Commons systems have technical problems on a submission/receipt date? If an application has to be submitted again because of system problems, will it be considered "late"?

    Most system issues are technical problems with federal systems used for electronic submission of grant applications (SAM, or eRA Commons) that keep an application from successfully submitting online. If you think that you are experiencing a systems issue that could threaten your ability to submit on-time, please be sure to follow NIH's Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Isssues.

    BE ADVISED - Problems with computer systems at the applicant organization, failure to follow instructions in the Application Guide or Funding Opportunity Announcement, or failure to complete required registrations by the submission deadline are not considered system issues. NIH is under no obligation to accept applications that are late for these reasons.

    If or eRA Commons is unavailable for a significant period of time leading up to a deadline, then NIH may extend the deadline or allow additional time for applicants to check submission status, address errors and view their applications. The NIH Guide and the Electronic Submission Program email lists are the primary vehicles used to communicate any due date extensions.

  2. I experienced a problem with the submission of my application and contacted the Help Desk, but have not yet received a response and the submission deadline has now passed. What should I do?

    The eRA Help Desk makes every effort to respond to all inquiries in a timely manner. However, applicants should remember that Help Desk demand is greatest on and around large submission deadlines and occasionally response times may slow down as a result of the increased call volume during those busy times. As always, we encourage applicants to submit their applications early to allow extra time to work through any unforeseen issues. Additionally, applicants are reminded that the answers to their questions can often be found in their Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) or in the SF424 Application Guide, and are encouraged to check these resources before contacting the Help Desk or while waiting for a response.

    Lack of Help Desk response does not excuse applicants from on-time submission requirements if the applicant’s question is addressed in the application guide or FOA. Federal system issues that are beyond an applicant’s control will be evaluated and considered on a case-by-case basis. Please remember that all system issues must be reported to the eRA Help Desk on or before the submission deadline and only the eRA Help Desk can determine if an encountered problem qualifies as a system issue.

  C. Letters of Reference

  1. Can I submit a reference letter for any type of grant application?

    Reference letters are only permitted when specifically requested in the funding opportunity announcement or SF 424 (R&R) application guide instructions. Reference letters are typically requested for Fellowship and mentored Career Development programs.

  2. Is a specific form or format required for reference letters?

    No. At one time fellowship applications required a specific reference form, but it is no longer requried. A

    Letters should be submitted on organization letterhead and should provide any specific information requested in the funding opportunity announcement and application guide instructions.  

    Letters can be addressed to "To whom i may concern" or "Dear Reviewer" or whatever you feel is appropriate. We have no specific requirement.

  3. How does a referee submit a reference letter for an applicant?

    See the demo on Submitting Reference Letters through eRA Commons.

    Referees must submit a reference letter directly to eRA Commons, using the Submit Reference Letter link on the home page. Letters must be submitted by the same due date as the grant application and can be submitted before the application itself, as early as the opening date of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).

    The referee does not need to be registered in Commons to submit a reference letter. The referee will enter the following information online at the time of submission:

    Referee Information:

    • Referee First Name (Required)
    • Referee Last Name Required)
    • Referee MI Name (Not Required)
    • Referee Email (Required)
    • Referee Institution/Affiliation (Required)
    • Referee Department (Required)

    Applicant Information:

    • PI Commons User ID (Required)
    • PI Last Name, as it appears on the PI’s Commons account (Required) (will be validated to ensure they match)
    • Funding Opportunity Announcement Number (Required, and this must be the same as the FOA used for the current application submission)
    • Reference letter/form Confirmation # (Required only if re-submitting a letter or form; not required otherwise)
    • Reference letter (For Career and other select programs) – two pages maximum; PDF format
    • Reference form (for individual fellowships only; see FAQ #2) – two pages maximum; PDF format

    After the referee submits the reference letter (or reference form for individual fellowship programs), both the referee and the applicant will receive a confirmation of receipt by email. The confirmation email sent to the applicant will include the name of the referee and the name and the date the letter or form was submitted. However, the letters and forms are confidential and the applicant will not be able to access the letters or forms themselves. The email confirmation will include a Reference Letter Confirmation Number. The confirmation number will be required when correcting previously submitted letters or forms. Please print the confirmation email for your records.

    Please check the SF 424 (R&R) application guide  for complete instructions.

  4. Does a referee need to register in eRA Commons to submit a reference letter for the applicant?

    No. The referee does not need to register in Commons to submit a reference letter. However, the referee does need to know the Commons User ID of the applicant.

  5. Can reference letters be submitted prior to the submission of the application and, if so, how long before?

    Yes. Reference letters can be submitted as soon as the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) opens. Letters submitted prior to the agency recieving an applicatin for the PI Commons ID & FOA number for which the letter is being sent will be held until a matching application is submitted.

  6. How are the letters linked to an application, and what happens to letters that are not linked to applications?

    Reference letters are linked to an application using the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) number and the Commons User ID of the applicant, as supplied by the referee. It is very important that the referee provide accurate information; if this information is not provided or is provided incorrectly, the reference letter  will never be linked to the application. Letters  that are not linked to an application will be deleted from eRA Commons after six months.

    Note: If the applicant must submit a Changed/Corrected application to address eRA identified errors/warnings, the reference letters  will automatically transfer to the most recent application submission for a specific opportunity due date.
  7. Can reference letters be sent on paper or via email directly to NIH?

    No. Reference letters for SF424 (R&R) grant applications  must be uploaded electronically via eRA Commons.

  8. What is the deadline for reference letters to be submitted?

    Reference letters, including corrected or revised letters, must be submitted by 5 PM local time of the applicant organization on the application due date. Reference letters can be submitted as of the FOA open date, regardless of when the application is submitted.

  9. How does the applicant track the reference letters submitted by his or her referees in eRA Commons?

    The applicant may track the status of reference letters submitted by his or her referees by logging into his or her Commons account, clicking the Personal Profile tab and clicking on the Reference Letters tab on the second header row. On the List of Reference Letters screen, the applicant will see the referee’s name, grant number, Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) number, project title, organization/affiliation, department, the referee’s e-mail address, and the date the reference letterwas submitted. While the applicant is able to track the status of the letters, he or she will not be able to see the letters or forms themselves due to the confidentiality of their contents.

    The applicant also can track the status of reference letters  matched to a specific application by clicking on the application ID number (once a number has been assigned) from the List of Applications/Grants screen in Commons Status. On the Status Information page, reference letter or reference form information is available for the PD/PI, PD/PI’s assistant(s) (ASSTs) and SO to view, including: referee’s name, organization/affiliation, department, the referee’s e-mail address, and the date the reference letter or reference form was submitted.

    The applicant is responsible for tracking his or her reference letters  in the eRA Commons and contacting referees to ensure that the letters are submitted and matched to the application by the application due date.
  10. If the applicant’s original application was not funded and they submit a Resubmission application, can the reference letters submitted with the original application be used?

    No. New reference letters  must be submitted for each opportunity due date.

    Note: Attempts to use the Reference Letter Confirmation Number associated with reference letters  submitted to previous due dates will result in an error.

  11. How does a referee make a correction to a submitted letter?

    To correct/update a letter  (i.e., replace original letter  submitted), the referee needs to know the Reference Letter Confirmation Number.

    On the Submit Reference Letter screen in Commons, the referee should enter all the required fields, as well as the confirmation number, and click on ‘Continue.’ A second screen where he/she can upload the revised letter  will appear. Once the revised letter  is uploaded, it overrides the previously submitted letter.

    Note: It is extremely important that the referee use the confirmation number in submitting the revised reference letter. Applicants are allowed only a specific number of reference letters, and if the referee submits a second letter  without entering the confirmation number, both letters  will be counted toward the number of letters  allowed with the application, but two letters submitted by the same referee will not both count toward the required three letters.

  12. What is the deadline for correcting/revising a letter?

    Corrected/revised reference letters  must be submitted by 5 PM local time of the applicant organization on the application due date.

  13. Why is the applicant being informed that a reference letter has not been submitted, when the applicant has been notified via email that the referees' letters have been received?

    Signing Officials and Principal Investigators (PIs) should first check the detailed Status Information screen for the application in eRA Commons to ensure the reference letters  were properly submitted and linked to the application. If the reference letters are not listed, the PI can check the Reference Letter section of their Profile to see if the reference letter(s)  was received and the correct Funding Opportunity Number (FOA) was used in their submission. The issue may be that the referees were given an expired FOA number (e.g., the old FOA expired and the opportunity reissued under a new FOA number.

  14. May a mentor or co-mentor submit a reference letter?

    No, the mentor and any co-mentors provide their input via the application. If a mentor or co-mentor submits a reference letter, this will NOT be counted toward the three required reference letters. Since an application is allowed only a specific number of reference letters, reference letters written by mentors and/or co-mentors may block the submission of the required reference letters by other individuals.

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VI. Submission Status

  A. Email Notifications

  1. What kind of email notifications are sent to applicants by and eRA Commons during the submission process?

    A detailed listing of the email notifications sent by both and eRA Commons can be found at Chart of Email Notifications.

  2. Who receives the email notifications during the submission process? emails are sent to the email address on file with for the submitting AOR.

    NIH eRA emails are sent to the three email addresses listed on the SF424 (R&R) cover form (field #5 person to be contacted, field #14 PD/PI, and field #19 AOR).

  3. I am an AOR/SO and I have received my email notification from but have not received any notifications from eRA Commons indicating the application has been processed. What should I do?

    Email can be unreliable. It is the applicant’s responsibility to periodically check the eRA Commons for the status of their applications.

    If you do not receive any notifications from eRA Commons and do not see the application status in eRA Commons then verify that the appropriate Commons ID for the PD/PI was included in the Credential field of the Sr/Key Person Profile form. Without this information, your application will not be visible in Commons. If the Credential information is included and it has been a few hours since your submission (it can take some time for your application to work through the systems), then contact the eRA Commons Help Desk.

  B. Checking Your Submission Status

  1. How can a PI or a Signing Official track their application?

    Authorized Organizational Representatives can track their applications through

    After the application is processed by eRA Commons, the PI, delegated ASST and SO can log in to the eRA Commons and view the status of the application.

    Viewing the assembled application image in eRA Commons is the best way to tell that the application has made it all the way through the process and is viable for funding consideration.

  2. I submitted my application to but cannot see any status regarding the application within the eRA Commons.
      1. The application did not contain a valid Principal Investigator (PI) eRA Commons user ID in the 'Credential, e.g., agency login:' field in the 'Profile - Project Director/Principal Investigator' section of the Senior/Key Person Profile(s) form of your application . This field is not marked as required on the government-wide form, but it is required by NIH.
      2. NIH has not yet processed the application. It can take some time to for your application to work through and eRA systems. Check your application status in to ensure it was not Rejected with Errors. If the application does not process within a few hours, contact the eRA Commons Help Desk for assistance.
    2. If you cannot see the status of your application, it may be due to one of these two reasons:

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VII. Viewing Your Assembled Application
  1. Can I see my complete application as it will be seen by reviewers?

    Yes. After NIH receives an error-free application package, all the submitted forms and attachments are combined to create an assembled application image that is placed in the PIs Commons account. The PI, delegated ASST, and SO have two full business days (Monday - Friday, excluding Federal holidays) to view the application after which the submission process is complete and the application moves forward to NIH Receipt and Referral. If your application is assigned for review, that same assembled application image would be accessed by reviewers.

  2. Will the AOR/SO and PD/PI be notified to check the assembled application?

    Yes, eRA systems will send notifications to the three email addresses included on the SF424 R&R cover form of your application (contact in item #5, PD/PI in item #14, and AOR in item #19). However, applicants are reminded that email can be unreliable and it is their responsibility to check their submission status in the eRA Commons.

  3. What can I do if I find a problem after the application moves forward for processing?

    Once the application moves to the Division of Receipt and Referral, the helpdesk staff can no longer assist with changes to the application. You can contact the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) assigned to your application for advice and guidance. However, NIH has a strict policy on Post-Submission Application Materials and you may need to decide whether you want to allow your application to go forward 'as is' or withdraw it and submit for a later date.

  4. The bookmarks in my assembled application in eRA Commons do not work as expected; I am sometimes sent to the incorrect page. What should I do?

    This is an issue that some users have run into, especially if using Adobe Acrobat Professional. The control icons at the bottom of the Adobe display allow you to set the viewing mode to Single Page, Continuous, Continuous Facing or Facing. The default, Single Page, is the viewing mode that has given users trouble. You can click on the icons to change the viewing mode setting. Applicants are advised to set the page layout option to Continuous mode to ensure that the bookmarks function properly (just to the right of Single page mode; the Continuous mode icon shows one page on top of the other).

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VIII. Rejecting an Application
  1. Who can “Reject” an application?

    Only Signing Officials (SOs) for the applicant organization have the ability to “reject” an application.

  2. What happens if I accidentally Reject the wrong application?

    Once an application is Rejected, the action cannot be reversed.

    If prior to the deadline, the application that was Rejected by mistake can be submitted again as a Changed/Corrected application. NIH does not consider having an application Rejected by mistake sufficient cause for a late submission

  3. Do I need to Reject my current application in order to submit a Changed/Corrected application?

    Once eRA systems have processed an error-free application an assembled application image is made available in eRA Commons and you have two business days to view your application before it moves forward to NIH staff for further processing and consideration.

    You can make changes to your application within that viewing window as long as you are before the application due date.

    You should always Reject an application you do not want to go forward to staff prior to submitting your Changed/Corrected application.

    There is currently a system implementation 'quirk' that will (in many cases) allow you to submit a corrective application without first Rejecting your processed application. Relying on this system 'quirk' to get your application to NIH is not a good idea, does not work under all scenarios and will, at some point, stop working altogether once the system is adjusted to match NIH submission guidance.

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IX. Submitting Changed/Corrected Applications
  1. How are changes or corrections to applications submitted?

    It is sometimes necessary to submit changes or corrections to an application submission. For example, if any errors are identified in a submission they must be corrected and the entire application submitted again on or before the submission deadline in order to complete the process.

    Steps to submit a corrected application are available at:

  2. Is a cover letter required with Changed/Corrected applications?

    A cover letter is not required for Changed/Corrected applications submitted before the application due date.

    Any application submitted after the application due date must include a cover letter that explains why the application has been submitted late. The cover letter is not saved from one application submission attempt to the next, so the cover letter submitted with the final assembled application should include ALL the information that you want to convey to NIH.

  3. Is there a specific format that should be used for the Cover Letter?
    The application guide provides guidance on cover letter attachment content and format.
  4. How do I attach a cover letter to my application?

    Use the Cover Letter Attachment field (item #21) at the bottom of the SF424 (R&R) form within your application. 

    The eRA systems know to keep this attachment separate from your assembled application image and to limit access to it. If you attach it someplace else (e.g., Pre-application attachment on the SF424 (R&R) cover form, Other Attachments on the R&R Other Project Information form) it will become part of your assembled application image and will be visible to everyone with access to your application including reviewers.

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X. System-to-System (S2S)
  1. Where can I find information on the XML schema used for system-to-system transmissions?
    The development of a system-to-system interface with is between the applicant institution and Therefore, the best source for this information is the Applicant System to System Integration webpage on the website.
  2. How will System-to-System Trading Partners know if forms changes are planned?
    All of the form components are subject to change, including the SF424 (R&R) and agency-specific forms used by NIH (labeled PHS 398). Although NIH is an active member of the Research and Related Working Group that makes form change recommendations to, has responsibility for change management of the government-wide form components. For the PHS 398 components, NIH will have to schedule requested changes with the forms development team. When any such plans are made, NIH will post the pending change and approximate timing on our Applying Electronically website.
  3. Which forms will NIH use for its opportunities?
    For each grant program (activity code or mechanism) NIH will use a combination of government-wide and agency-specific forms (PHS 398 and SBIR/STTR) listed on the website under SF424 R&R Family. Since NIH requires eRA Commons registration for electronic submission, the Research & Related Personal Data government-wide form will not be used by NIH.
  4. Will a System-to-System Trading Partner need to accommodate different versions of application forms?
    Yes. A System-to-System Trading Partner will need to have the flexibility to develop and maintain multiple schemas in order to support different form versions. Remember that some NIH funding opportunities stay in place for up to three years. NIH will not always go back to previously posted opportunities to have them pick up the latest forms, so System-to-System developers will want to be able to support either form - the original and the latest form.
  5. If a System-to-System Trading Partner generates the application image, does the applicant also need to check the image in Commons?
    Although some System-to-System Trading Partner may have built their own system to generate applicant images, NIH strongly recommends that the applicant still check out the grant image of their assembled application in eRA Commons and not rely solely on the developer-generated image.

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XI. Multi-project Applications & ASSIST

  A. About ASSIST

  1. What is ASSIST?

    NIH is now accepting some multi-project (also known as multi-component or complex) applications electronically through using the SF424 R&R form set.  The downloadable forms currently used for most NIH opportunities cannot support our multi-project requirements. Consequently, we have developed a web-based front-end called ASSIST (Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking) for the preparation and submission of multi-project applications.

    ASSIST allows applicants to:

    • Use current eRA Commons credentials to access ASSIST
    • Delegate application preparation responsibilities to multiple users within and outside the applicant organization while maintaining appropriate access control and security
    • Populate data from established eRA Commons profiles
    • Run validations on federal-wide and agency business rules prior to submission
    • Take advantage of automatic generation of the table of contents, headers, footers, page numbers, etc.
    • Print/preview applications in the format used by the agency prior to submission
    • Present to reviewers clear, color PDF images, rather than scanned versions of the application
    • Avoid the hassle of preparing and shipping multiple paper copies
  2. When can I start using ASSIST?

    NIH piloted ASSIST with eight specific Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) from November 2012 to August 2013.

    NIH is currently transitioning multi-project programs to electronic application submission using the SF424 (R&R) data set on an activity code by activity code basis. Once an acitvity code transitions, all applications (new, resubmission, renewal and revision) to an FOA for that code must be submitted electroinically. No paper applications will be accepted.

    Timeline of NIH Multi-project Activity Codes Transitioning to Electronic Submission

    Guide Notice: NIH Announces an Adjustment to Transition Timeline for Electronic Submission of Multi-Project Applications

    See NIH Announces Plans to Transition to Electronic Submission of Multi-Project Applications (NOT-OD-12-161) for additional details.

  3. Can my organization continue to use our own system-to-system solution to submit multi-project applications or do we need to use ASSIST? and NIH can support both single-project and multi-project applications submitted via system-to-system solutions. However, we expect it will take some time for system-to-system solution providers to adjust their systems to accommodate the changes needed to support multi-project applications. Please check with the folks responsible for supporting your solution regarding their ability to support multi-project application preparation and submission.

  4. What is the relationship of ASSIST with

    To meet NIH’s long standing goal of receiving all grant applications electronically, NIH and the program management staff worked together to develop ASSIST to accommodate electronic submission of NIH’s multi-project applications. made significant changes to their system to accommodate the posting of multi-project Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) and the processing of applications submitted for those FOAs.

    Although NIH developed ASSIST to meet the needs of our applicants, its implementation is flexible enough to allow for expansion to accommodate other agency programs. The Program Management team has expressed interest in leveraging this collaborative effort to develop an online forms capability for the entire federal grants community. NIH looks forward to working with them on this future endeavor.

  B. Multi-project Application Terminology

  1. What is a 'multi-project' application

    A Multi-Project Application is a single submission with multiple, interrelated components that share a common focus or objective.

  2. What is a 'component'?

    For the purposes of applications and progress reports, a component is a distinct, reviewable part of a multi-project application or progress report for which there is a business need to gather detailed information identified in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).

    • Components typically include general information (component organization, project period, project title, etc.), performance sites, personnel, and budget.
    • The FOA defines the construction and naming convention for the application; the funded application defines the construction and naming convention for the progress report.
    • Components may also be referred to as “cores” or “projects.”
  3. What is a 'component type'?

    A 'component type' is a named, agency-defined collection of forms that may be repeated within an application. 

    Let's say a specific multi-project application includes one Administrative Core, two Core and three Project components. In this example, the application includes 6 components using three different component types (Administrative Core, Core, Project). 

    'Overall' is a special component type with a single occurrence in every multi-project application.

  4. What is a 'form'?

    A 'form' is a named collection of data fields approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

    Each component of a multi-project application is made up of a subset of the following forms:

    • SF424 R&R Cover
    • PHS 398 cover Page Supplement
    • R&R Other Project Information
    • Projec/Performance Site Locations
    • R&R Sr/Key Person Profile (Expanded)
    • R&R Budget
    • R&R Subaward Budget Attachment
    • PHS 398 Research Plan
    • Planned Enrollment Report
    • Cumulative Inclusion Enrollment Report

  C. System Requirements & Technical Limitations

  1. What are the browser requirements for using ASSIST?

    ASSIST supports the same browsers as eRA Commons, published at:

  2. Are there any file size limits with ASSIST?

    We expect most applications will be 100 Mb or less, but the system can handle applications up to 1.2 Gb.

    Individual attachments within an application can be up to 35 Mb.

  3. Does ASSIST have an inactivity timer?

    Save often! ASSIST will log you out after 45 minutes of inactivity. The following activities reset the timer:

    • Saving data on a form
    • Adding an attachment
    • Adding an additional block of data on a form (e.g. Sr/Key person, performance site)
    • Validate application
    • Preview application

    Note that typing information into the fields of a form without taking an action to Save or Add will not reset the timer.

  D. Getting Ready to Use ASSIST

  1. What registrations are required to use ASSIST?

    ASSIST uses the same user authorization service as eRA Commons. All ASSIST users must use their existing eRA Commons IDs or work through their organization to obtain them. In order to submit an application, the submitter must have active Authorized Organization (AOR) credentials in and be a Signing Official (SO) in eRA Commons.

    Commons IDs with any of the following roles can be used to initiate and prepare applications using ASSIST:

    • Signing Official (SO)
    • Administrative Official (AO)
    • Principal Investigator (PI)
    • Assistant Role (ASST)
    • Account Administrator (AA)

    A Commons ID with the SO role and active Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) credentials are needed to submit an application.

  2. How is access to ASSIST established?

    ASSIST leverages account credentials from eRA Commons and 

    Work within eRA Commons and to establish your accounts and be sure you log in to those systems before using you accounts with ASSIST.

    If you have password or other account issues, return to eRA Commons or to work through those issues.

  3. Are registrations required for collaborating or contributing organizations that lead components?

    The federal-wide forms do require that each organization have a valid DUNS number.

    Although not required, NIH recommends that all organizations named on a multi-project application be registered in Commons. Commons registration facilitates access to ASSIST for data entry, autopopulation and other system features.

    In addition, a valid eRA Commons ID for the Project Lead of a component must be included. If the project lead of a component does not have a Commons ID and works for an organization that is not registered in Commons, then the collaborating organization can register and provide a Commons ID for the Project Lead or  the applicant organization can create a Commons ID for the Project Lead. Remember, component Project Leads do not need to have the PD/PI role just a valid Commons ID (even an ASST role is acceptable).

  E. Developing Your Multi-Project Application

  1. How are complex applications structured in ASSIST?

    NIH has worked with applicants and staff to define a common application format for multi-project applications that allows for some customization to accommodate the needs of our various programs.  All electronic multi-project applications will include:

    • A single Overall Component: The Overall component will have data collection comparable to a single-project application that describes the entire application and how each of the components fit together.
    • Additional Components: Some number of additional component types (e.g., Admin Core, Project, Core, FOA-specific, etc.) Funding opportunity announcements will clearly specify the types of components that will be required in complex application submissions for that opportunity. 
    • Summaries: As part of the application image creation process, ASSIST will automatically generate summaries of budgets and other information compiled from the data provided in the individual components (e.g., component and categorical roll-ups of budget data).  These summaries help reviewers and NIH staff work with the application. 
  2. How can I control the order in which components appear in the application image?

    Components of the same type are presented in the image in the order they were created in ASSIST.  Therefore, some planning should be done before initiating components. Once you know the general structure of your application (number of components and the title, project start/end dates of each) you can initiate all the components in the desired order providing only the minimal data requested to save each component. This will give you a basic application shell that everyone working on the application can fill out over time. 

    Note: Our original funding to build ASSIST only covered the functionality necessary for a 'basic' system. However, NIH maintains an ASSIST enhancement wish list. The ability to reorder components is a frequent applicant request and is on that list. We hope to be able to build this functionality in the future.

  3. How do I differentiate the PDs/PIs for the entire application from the lead of an individual component?

    The contact Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) and any multiple-PDs/PIs for the entire application must be listed on the R&R Senior/Key Person Profile form of the Overall component. Only the PDs/PIs for the entire application can use the role of PD/PI.

    Within components, ASSIST will default the role in the PD/PI section of the R&R Senior/Key Person Profile form to ‘Project Lead’.  The default value should be used unless there are explicit announcement instructions to change it. An error is generated if the role of PD/PI is designated on any component other than the Overall.

    The eRA Commons IDs for both the PDs/PIs for the entire application and the component Project Leads must be included in the Credential field of the R&R Senior/Key Person Profile form.

  4. Can a PD/PI be included on more than one component?

    Absolutely, we expect it to be fairly common for the PD/PIs to have roles on multiple components in addition to the Overall component.

    PD/PIs for the entire application are identified on the Overall component and the role of PD/PI should be used. In other components, their role should reflect the work they are doing in that component (e.g., Project Lead, Center Director). Also, since there is no budget form in the Overall component, their effort should be recorded on the budget form in the components in which the work takes place. 

  5. Can someone be listed as a Senior/Key person on multiple components?

    The same person can be listed as a senior/key person on multiple components. However, only a single 4-page biosketch is allowed for each senior/key person regardless of the number of components they participate on.  When the applicant organization attempts to change the status of a component to Final, ASSIST will automatically alert the user that multiple biosketches for a single person have been included and the user will have the option to select which biosketch to include with the submission.

  6. How do I add a cover letter to my application?

    The Cover Letter attachment can be found at the bottom of the Overall R&R Cover form.

    Although it is part of the SF424 R&R Cover form, it will not appear in your Application Preview or your assembled application image in eRA Commons. It is kept separate to ensure that only a limited number of agency staff have access to the cover letter information and that it is not part of the application documentation seen by reviewers.

  7. Where do I find guidance for application form fields not specifically mentioned in the Funding Opportunity Announcement?

    The Application Guide and the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to which you are applying are the two main sources of guidance when filling out your application. The Application Guide provides general guidance that applies to all multi-project applications. The FOA provides guidance specific to that opportunity. If the Application Guide and the FOA ever provide conflicting instructions, the FOA instructions should be followed.

    The 'Application Guide SF424 (R&R) - Forms Version C' must be used with multi-project applications. It includes a new 'Supplemental Instructions to the SF424 (R&R) for Preparing a Multi-Project Application' section (section #9). This new section outlines any special guidance for multi-project applications above the standard guiduance provided in earlier sections.

    You will also find helpful tips at the top of many screens within ASSIST.

    The ASSIST on-line help and ASSIST User Guide are great resources for understanding the mechanics of using ASSIST to prepare an applicaiton and link back to the Application Guide for assistance with application content.

  8. What do I include in the attachments in the Overall component versus the attachments in the other components?

    The general rule is that the Overall component should explain the application as a whole and how all the components fit together. Information provided for the other components should be specific to those components.

    Many Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) provide very specific guidance on what to include in the attachments of various components. This guidance should always be followed.

    If an FOA does not provide specific guidance, then the instructions in the Application Guide should be followed. Be sure to check both the general application guide instructions and the additional instructions in Section 9 -  Supplemental Instructions to the SF424 (R&R) for Preparing a Multi-Project Application.

    A few notes:

    • The Project Summary/Abstract attachment on the R&R Other Project Information form is required for the Overall and all other components.
    • The Project Narrative attachment on the R&R Other Project Information form is required for the Overall component, but is optional for other components (see FOA instructions). Although ASSIST shows a '*' next to this field (part of the OMB-approved form), ASSIST and NIH systems only enforce the requirement for the Overall component. Applications submitted with other components that do not include the Project Narrative attachment will be accepted without any error.
    • The Specific Aims attachment on the PHS 398 Research Plan form is required for the Overall and all other components.

    The Multi-project Annotated Form Set - C Series includes handy tips on filling out applications.

  9. Why can't I provide all the requested Human Subjects information on the R&R Other Project Information form of my component?

    Although all the Human Subjects information can be provided on the R&R Other Project Information form of the Overall component, only the 'Are Human Subjects Involved?' and 'Is the Project Exempt from Federal regulations?' questions can be answered in other components.

    The R&R Other Project Information form is an Office of Management and Budget approved federal form and we must present the form exactly as it was approved. However, collecting the additional data at the component level is not allowed per an NIH policy decision. Without the ability to customize the form for NIH specific needs, ASSIST presents the fields but actually blocks the ability to fill out the additional information.


  10. Do I need to provide the Human Subjects and Vertebrate Animals attachments at both the Overall and component levels of my application?

    The short answer is Yes.

    If the 'Are Human Subjects Involved?' question is answered 'Yes' on the R&R Other Project Information form, then the Protection of Human Subjects attachment must be included on the PHS 398 Research Plan form. In addition, if exemption number 4 is not checked, then the other Human Subject attachments (Inclusion of Women and Minorities and Inclusion of Children) must also be included.

    Similarly, if the 'Are Vertebrate Animals Used?' question is answered 'Yes' on the R&R Other Project Information form, then the Vertebrate Animals attachment must be included on the PHS 398 Research Plan form.

    These rules are system enforced (i.e., failure to follow them will result in errors preventing submission) and apply to both the Overall and other components of your application.

  11. Are Multi-Project Director/Principal Investigator applications allowed in response to multi-project applications?
    Yes, unless the funding opportunity announcement specifically specifies otherwise.
  12. Are multi-component leads allowed for components in a multi-project application?

    NIH doesn’t have a policy either for or against multiple leads for a component. If an applicant chooses to propose them and the FOA doesn’t explicitely say they can’t, then you can. We don’t have any systematic support for it, so we won’t enforce a multi-pd/pi leadership plan (we also don’t prevent anyone from using it). We don’t recognize the co-leads in our databases or RePORTER, though their roles will show on the grant application image. 

  F. Multi-project Application Budgets

  1. What is the best way to structure my multi-project application from a budget perspective?

    A:  NIH has provided a basic framework for multi-project applications. However, there is some flexibility within that framework regarding how to put together an application. Some applicants decide to structure their applications with the applicant organization leading every component within the application.  Other applicants have collaborating organizations lead a subset of components within their applications.

    Many factors can influence how you decide to structure your application. An application’s budget is important, but it should not be the primary consideration in your decision. Funding Opportunity Announcement guidelines, NIH policy, your own organization’s policies, the role any collaborating organizations will play in the proposed research, where the research will be carried out, and other factors should also be considered. In the end, your multi-project application should be structured to reflect the scientific and administrative needs of the proposed research.

    Once you decide how you are going to structure your application, filling out the component forms (including budgets) is fairly straightforward. Treat each component like it is a standalone application. If the applicant organization is leading a component, then all the forms in that component should be completed from the perspective of the applicant organization. If a collaborating organization is leading a component, then all the forms in that component should be completed from the perspective of the collaborating organization.

  2. When a collaborating organization leads an entire component, is it still considered a subaward/consortium to the applicant organization?

    Yes. The R&R Cover form within each component is used to identify which organization is leading the component. Having a DUNS on the component R&R Cover that is different than the DUNS provided on the Overall R&R Cover form informs NIH systems that the information included in the component should be considered subaward/consortium to the applicant organization.

    Even when a collaborating organization leads a component, the applicant organization is still ultimately responsible for the entire application.

  3. When a collaborating organization leads an entire component, should the Budget Type on the R&R Budget form be set to ‘Project’ or ‘Subaward/Consortium’?

    ASSIST automatically marks the Budget Type field on the R&R budget form to ‘Project’.  The ‘Project’ designation simply indicates it is the main budget for the component.  NIH systems use the DUNS number and not the Budget Type field to determine if the budget form is completed from the perspective of the applicant organization or a collaborating organization.

  4. Why doesn’t the Overall component include a budget form?
    Electronic multi-project applications are made up of an Overall component that describes the entire application and some number of additional components where the work is actually carried out.  Although the SF424 R&R Cover form includes an estimated Project Funding section that must be completed, the Overall component doesn’t have a dedicated budget form that applicants can fill out. Instead, applicants fill out an R&R Budget form for each of the additional components and any related subaward budget forms. NIH systems present a summary of the budget information with the Overall component.
  5. How are the system-generated summaries that are displayed with the Overall component calculated?
    Assembled application images include three budget summaries: a Composite Application Budget Summary, a Component Budget Summary and a Categories Budget Summary. A resource that describes the different parts of a multi-project assembled application image (including the various system-generated summaries) can be found at:
  6. Why don't budgets marked Subaward/Consortium show in the Component Budget Summary?
    The summaries provide a roll-up of the activity across the components of the application. The Component Budget Summary is just that - a summary of the main budgets for each component. It is not meant to be a listing of the cumulative budget pages of every budget form included in the application. The detailed budget forms supporting the summaries are included in the application image within their components.
  7. How do you change the DUNS and Organization information displayed on a component budget form?
    In ASSIST, the DUNS and Organization Name fields from the R&R Cover automatically populate the DUNS and Organization Name fields on the R&R Budget form. Although the fields on the budget form are not editable, edits to the R&R Cover form are reflected on the R&R Budget form.
  8. Should I include cents in the dollar fields on the budget form?
    Per Application Guide instructions, all dollar fields should be presented in whole numbers even though the fields allow cents to be entered.
  9. Why is the R&R Budget form tab missing from my component?
    You may not have the authority to view or edit budget data for the component. Have a Signing Official (SO) or someone with the Access Maintainer role check your privileges using the Manage Access action in ASSIST. They can add the ability to View or Edit budget data for the component or the entire application as appropriate.
  10. How do you add subaward budget forms to a component in ASSIST?

    Many component types include the optional form necessary to add additional subaward budgets to a component. Since the form is optional, it will not automatically appear in the form tab navigation of the component. While on the Summary page of the component, click on the Add Optional Form button under Actions. You will be presented with the list of available optional forms. Select Subaward Budget and the form will be added to the form tab navigation.

    ASSIST automatically marks the Budget Type field of each subaward budget form to Subaward/Consortium. Carefully enter the DUNS number of the subaward organization. eRA systems use the DUNS information when doing summary roll-ups.
  11. Does ASSIST automatically add up the costs of subawards within a component to populate line F5 – Other direct Costs Subaward/Consortium/Contractual Costs on the main budget form?
    No. Remember, F5 - Other Direct Costs Subaward/Consortium/Contractual Costs can include contractual costs in addition to the Subaward/Consortium costs found on the subaward budget forms; auto calculating this field would limit the ability to add those additional costs. The total direct and indirect costs for all subaward/consortium budgets within a component (along with appropriate contractual costs) must be manually entered on line F5 of the component’s main budget (the one with Budget Type Project).
  12. How can I tell if my application falls within the direct cost limit designated in an FOA?

    NIH continues to support the policy established in 2004 regarding applications that involve consortium/contractual F&A costs (see NOT-OD-05-004). This policy allows applicants to exclude consortium/contractual F&A costs when determining if an application falls at or beneath any applicable direct cost limit.

    There are two ways to determine if an application falls at or beneath a direct cost limit: 

    1. Easy way: The assembled application image includes a 'Total Direct Costs less Consortium F&A' table just below the Composite Application budget summary that systematicallycalculates and displays the values that can be compared against the direct cost limit amount.
    2. Hard way (manual): For each budget period, take the Direct Cost amount from the Composite Application Budget Summary and subtract the Indirect Costs from the main budget of any component not led by the applicant organization. The 'R&R Budget Section H. Indirect Costs' category within the Categories Budget Summary lists the F&A of all components in one place and is a handy reference while doing this part of the calculation. Then subtract the Indirect Costs from all subaward budget forms associated with components led by the applicant organization.
  13. How do I complete the R&R Budget form for a component or subaward that is not active for all periods of the entire application?

    Simply fill out the minimal required information for the inactive budget periods and complete all information for the active periods.

    For example, let’s say Project-004 of your multi-project application does not start until budget period 2. In the Project-004 R&R Budget form for period 1 you would:

    • Select the appropriate Budget Type (the selection of Project or Subaward/Consortium is already made for you in ASSIST)
    • Provide the Budget Period 1 Start and End Dates (the Start Date is already pre-populated for you in ASSIST)
    • In Section A - Senior/Key Person, include the project lead specifying their role, .01 effort under Calendar months, $0 for Requested Salary and $0 for Fringe Benefits
    • Attach your Budget Justification including an explanation for the delayed start

    Complete the remaining budget periods following standard instructions.

  14. Our organization’s F&A rate uses a modified total direct cost base which excludes sub-recipient charges after the first $25,000. How do I account for the first $25,000 in my multi-project budget?

    Many negotiated F&A rate agreements use a modified total direct cost (MTDC) base rate and include the following language:

    “Modified total direct costs, consisting of all salaries and wages, fringe benefits, materials, supplies, services, travel and subgrants and subcontracts up to the first $25,000 of each subgrant or subcontract (regardless of the period covered by the subgrant or subcontract). Modified total direct costs shall exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, student tuition remission, rental costs of off-site facilities, scholarships, and fellowships as well as the portion of each subgrant and subcontract in excess of $25,000.”

    Section H - Indirect Costs on the R&R Budget forms allow you to specify an Indirect Cost Type, Rate and Base and multiple entries in this section are allowed. The first $25,000 of the Total Direct and Indirect Costs of each Subaward/Consortium organization for which you have an agreement can be included in the Indirect Cost Base. This is pretty straight forward and works well for single project applications. However, it is a bit more complicated with multi-project applications. Let’s look at a few scenarios.

    Scenario 1: Organization A is the applicant organization on a P01 and has structured their application such that they lead all the components of the application. Organization B is a subaward on Project-001 with a total cost of $50,000 and a subaward on Project-002 with a total cost of$25,000.

    Although A has listed B under two projects, generally A can only apply the first $25,000 of organization B’s total costs to the Indirect Cost Base.

    Scenario 2: Organization A is the applicant organization on a P01 and has structured their application such that they lead all but two components of the application. Organization B leads the remaining two components with total costs of $50,000 and $25,000. None of the components have subawards.

    In this scenario, Organization B is actually a subaward to organization A and the Overall budget (calculated by eRA systems and presented as the Composite Budget Summary) should allow for the first $25,000 of organization B’s costs to be applied to the Indirect Cost Base. However, an issue has been identified with the system-generated Composite Budget Summary. When an application includes components that are for organizations that have different DUNS than the Applicant Organization DUNS, the Indirect Cost calculation may appear less than expected since the first $25,000 of those organization costs are not applied to the applicant budget. No action is required from the applicant, although applicants always have the option to document any concerns over system-calculated information in the budget justification of any component. The application review is not affected by this issue and NIH will correct the budget calculations administratively.

  15. Based on internal organization rules, we do not allow collaborating organizations to lead components within our multi-project applications. ASSIST does not allow the R&R Cover of a component and the main R&R Budget form to have different DUNS. How do I fill out the budget form for components where the project lead and all incurred costs are actually at a collaborating organization?

    If you feel strongly about retaining leadership of a component, but only have subaward/consortium costs associated with that component, then you will need to fill out the main Project budget for the component using the information from the applicant organization with the minimum required information and fully complete the subaward budget for the collaborating organization.

    For the Project Budget you will need to:

    • Provide the Budget Period 1 Start and End Dates (the Start Date is already pre-populated for you in ASSIST)
    • In Section A - Senior/Key Person, include the project lead specifying their role, .01 effort under Calendar months, $0 for Requested Salary and $0 for Fringe Benefits
    • Attach your Budget Justification including an explanation that costs are actually reported in the Subaward/Consortium budget forms for the component
  16. Who should I contact when I have a budget question?
    Although the eRA Commons Help Desk is well versed in handling questions related to  eRA systems, including ASSIST, they may not be able to address all your budget questions. The Financial/Grants Management Contact listed in Section VII – Agency Contacts of each FOA  is your best bet for budget questions beyond the mechanics of entering budget data in the electronic forms.

  G. Managing Application Access

  1. What privileges are automatically available in ASSIST based on the role associated with my eRA Commons account?

    Some privileges are automatically available based on the organization and roles associated with the eRA Commons ID used to access ASSIST. Since these privileges cannot be individually granted or revoked in ASSIST, the Manage Access interface does not display all users that hold these automatic privileges.

    Signing Official (SO) at the lead application organization:

    • Initiate application
    • Assign, modify, or revoke application access for other users
    • Delegate ability to assign, modify, or revoke application access for other users
    • Edit entire application
    • Submit application (must be SO at lead applicant organization AND have valid Authorized Organization Representative credentials)

    Administrative Official (AO) at the lead applicant organization:

    • Initiate application
    • Edit entire application

    Principal Investigator (PI) identified on an application:

    • Initiate application
    • Edit entire application

    Application Initiator

    • Edit entire application

    Once the DUNS number is entered on the SF424 R&R for a component, then similar automatic privileges apply for that specific component. 

    You cannot revoke the automatic access given to the SOs or AOs of the component through Manage Access. However, when the component is in any status other than Work In Progress, the component can only be edited by individuals that are granted edit access to the entire application (the automatic access provided at the component level alone is insufficient). This provides the applicant organization with the ability to limit editing as they are pulling together the application.

    Access for the PD/PI(s) of the entire application can be restricted from Edit to View only through Manage Access.

    Access for the component lead can be restricted/removed through Manage Access at any time and when the component is in any status.

  2. How do I allow a user without automatic access to work on an application?

    ASSIST allows application access to be controlled across three variables:

    • Edit vs. View
    • Entire application vs. specific component within an application
    • Budget data vs. Non-Budget data

     Signing Officials (SOs) at the applicant organization automatically have the Access Maintainer role which allows them to manage access for other users using the Manage Access Action.

  3. How do I change the automatic access given to the Project Lead of a Component?

    The Project Lead of a component is designated in the Project Lead section of the Sr/Key Person Profile form. Once the Commons ID for the Project Lead is entered he/she automatically gets Edit privileges for that component.

    An SO or someone with Access Maintainer authority can restrict access to the Project Lead using the Manage Access action.

    1. Select Manage Access action.
    2. Find the Project Leads User name in the User Acess Summary. There may be multiple rows for a given user to identify their access on multiple components. Selecting the hyperlink of any of the user rows brings you to the same User Information screen, so just pick one.
    3. From the User Information screen you can select the appropriate component and adjust the access by using the drop down to pick from None, View or Edit. Automatic access is typically shown as 'Edit' under the All column. Changing the access to 'None' in the All column removes their access. Any access given at the Entire Application level takes precedence. So, to remove the user's access to all components at once, set the Entire Application row to None in each of the columns.
  4. A collaborating organization is leading a component on my application. When I filled out the SF424 Cover for that component the SOs and AOs at that institution were automatically given access to the application. How do I block that access?

    You cannot revoke the automatic access given to the SOs or AOs of the component through Manage Access. However, when the component is in any status other than Work In Progress, the component can only be edited by individuals that are granted edit access to the entire application (the automatic access provided at the component level alone is insufficient). This provides the applicant organization with the ability to limit editing as they are pulling together the application.

    Note: Automatic access is given when the DUNS is entered on the SF424 R&R form of a component. Leaving the DUNS off of the component until you are are close to moving the component out of WIP status is one way to limit edits by others.

  H. Checking Your Application Against and NIH Business Rules

  1. Does ASSIST check applications against both federal-wide and NIH business rules?

     Yes, ASSIST performs multiple levels of business rule checking.

    1. ASSIST checks application data as it is entered against the rules defined by for each form.
    2. ASSIST provides the option to ‘Validate’ the application against NIH’s agency-specific business rules prior to submission.
    3. ASSIST checks for the most frequent rejection errors prior to submission.

    Note: The Annotated Forms found on the public Applying Electronically website ( are a good reference for the data collection included with each form and the validation rules enforced by ASSIST.

  I. Previewing Your Application

  1. Will I be able to see my application the way NIH would present it to reviewers before I submit?

    ASSIST has a Preview feature that allows users to view a draft of the application image. With the exception of tracking number and submission timestamp in footer, the image will be exactly the same as will be seen by reviewers and NIH staff. The Preview feature is available to any user with sufficient application privileges to view the entire application (i.e., any SO/AO at the applicant organization, and PD/PI in the Overall component, and other users that have been granted View or Edit access to the entire application.)

  2. How is the application image assembled? Is the data compiled in a specific order?

    The table of contents, summaries, bookmarks, headers, footers, and page numbers are automatically generated.

    The application image will display the Overall component first, followed by summaries, and then the additional component types in alphabetical order. Components of the same type will be grouped together and will be displayed in the order in which they were created in ASSIST.

    Example 1: Opportunity has an Overall component and some combination of Admin Core, Core and Project components.

    • Overall
    • Summaries
    • Admin Core
    • All components of type Core (in the order created in ASSIST)
    • All components of type Project (in the order created in ASSIST)

    Example 2: Opportunity has an Overall component and some combination of Admin Core, Clinical Core, Research Core, Service Core and Project components.

    • Overall
    • Summaries
    • Admin Core
    • All components of type Clinical Core (in the order created in ASSIST)
    • All components of type Project (in the order created in ASSIST)
    • All components of type Research Core (in the order created in ASSIST)
    • All components of type Service Core (in the order created in ASSIST) 
  3. What types of data summaries are automatically included in the application image?

    Summaries compiled from component data will be included for:

    • Project Performance Sites
    • Human Subjects, Clinical Trial, HESC, and Vertebrate Animal information
    • Budget Information
    • Sr/Key personnel
      • PD/PIs for the entire application are listed first followed by all other Senior/Key personnel in alphabetical order. Biosketches follow the list of personnel in the same order and are not repeated within the individual components.
  4. Are all forms and attachments included in the assembled application image?

    The Cover Letter and any Appendix attachments are not part of the assembled application image. After submission, you will see these documents listed separately in the other Relevant Document section of the Commons detailed status screen. Prior to submission, with appropriate access you can view these documents individually by navigating to the form and field and clicking view.

    The Cover Letter is only seen by a small number of NIH staff and is never shared with reviewers. The Appendices can be very large and, although they are made available to everyone with access to the application image, keeping them separate makes managing the application easier and more efficient.

  J. Submitting and Tracking Your Application

  1. Who can submit an application in ASSIST?

    In order to submit an application, your Commons ID used to login to ASSIST must have the Signing Official (SO) role with the applicant organization. In addition, you will need to provide active Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) credentials.

  2. How do I prepare my application for submission?

    Once all application components have a status of ‘Final’, you will need to set the Application Status to ‘All Components Final.’ Go to the Application Information screen (you may need to use the bread crumbs at the top of the page) and use the Update Submission Status button under Actions to change the status.  

    Before an application can be submitted, it must pass validations. To perform validations against the application use the Validate Application button from the Actions section while on the Application Information screen. When an application passes validations (i.e., no Errors identified), its status is updated to ‘All Components Validated’.

    You can then update the status to Ready for Submission and submit the application.

  3. How do I track my ASSIST submission?

    In December 2012, NIH will release new ASSIST features that will allow users to track and eRA Commons submission status within ASSIST. Until then, standard and eRA Commons tracking features can be used.

  4. If I’m the Project Lead of a Component, can I track the application submission status?

    Submission status can only be tracked in by an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR).

    Submission status can only be tracked by applicant organization Signing Officials (SOs), applicant organization Administrative officials (AOs), the Project Directors/Principal Investigators (PIs) for the application and Assistants (ASSTs) with delegated Status authority.

  K. Working with Multi-project Application Images - Review Staff

  1. How are electronic multi-project applications structured?

    NIH has worked with applicants and staff to define a common application format for multi-project applications that allows for some customization to accommodate the needs of our various programs.  All electronic multi-project applications will include: 

    1. A single Overall Component: The Overall component will have data collection comparable to a single-project application that describes the entire application and how each of the components fit together.
    2. Additional Components: Some number of additional component types (e.g., Admin Core, Project, Core, FOA-specific, etc.) Funding opportunity announcements will clearly specify the types of components that will be required in complex application submissions for that opportunity. 
    3. Summaries: As part of the application image creation process, eRA systems will automatically generate summaries of budgets and other information compiled from the data provided in the individual components (e.g., component and categorical roll-ups of budget data).  These summaries help reviewers and NIH staff work with the application. 

    Applicants currently have little control over the order of their components once their application data is entered. For example, the first component of type ‘Project’ entered becomes ‘Project-001’, the second ‘Project-002’, etc. An enhancement to allow applicants to reorder the components within a component type is planned for 2014.

    Similarly, NIH staff currently cannot control the order they would like the component types to appear for a specific FOA. The Overall component always appears first, followed by the additional component types listed in alphabetical order (e.g., ‘Cores’ before ‘Projects’).

    Note: Reviews may not be conducted in the order that components appear in the application image. The Scientific Review Officer should provide guidance on review order.

    Detailed information on Electronic Application Images can be found at:

  2. Where are the Project Summary/Abstract and Project Narrative for the Overall component of a multi-project application?
    The Overall Project Summary/Abstract and Project Narrative appear near the end of the Overall Component section. The provided bookmarks can be used to navigate to these sections. In a future release, these documents will appear in the same order as they are displayed in other components.
  3. Why aren’t the biosketches included in the components?
    NIH only allows a single biosketch for each Sr/Key person participating on a multi-project application regardless of the number of components they are involved in. Consequently, a summary of all Sr/Key Personnel including their organization, component and role for that component is included near the top of the application. The PD/PI and any multi-PD/PIs for the entire application are listed first followed by additional Sr/Key personnel in alphabetical order. The biosketches follow the summary in the same order.

    Consequently, if you print out a particular component to prepare for review you may want to also print the individual biosketches included from the summary.
  4. Where do I find Appendix information for a multi-project application?
    Appendix information is not included in the assembled application image. All appendix attachments are found as separate documents in the grant folder organized by component. Keeping appendix material separate from the application image for multi-project applications is consistent with NIH processing of applications to all other grant programs.

  L. Getting Help

  1. Who do I ask for help with the ASSIST system?

    Please contact:

    eRA Commons Help Desk
    Toll-free: 1-866-504-9552
    Phone: 301-402-7469
    TTY: 301-451-5939
    Hours: Mon-Fri, 7a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time

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XII. FAQs Foreign Organizations
  1. I am an international registrant and cannot access the SAM website. Why and what do I do?

    A technical or security issue may be preventing you from accessing the SAM website. Please visit this Federal Service Desk FAQ for guidance on how to proceed:

  2. I am an international registrant and cannot access the NATO CAGE Code website. Why and what do I do?

    In certain circumstances, specific locations may be blocked for technical or security reasons. If you cannot access the website, please visit this Federal Service Desk FAQ for guidance on how to proceed:

  3. I am an applicant who lives outside the U.S. and am unable to access the System for Award Management (SAM) site. What should I do?

    A few countries may have trouble accessing the SAM website. The applicant should send an email to and copy the NIH Electronic Submission mailbox at

  4. Can I register my organization in Commons in my native language?

    We can accept any foreign names that use the english alphabet. Unfortunately our systems cannot accept special characters.

  5. Are there any tips to assist foreign organizations while registering in eRA Commons?

    Keep these handy pointers in mind while registering in eRA Commons. Applicant organizations:

    • Must have a DUNS number before registering in the eRA Commons. This DUNS number must match the DUNS number provided at the SAM registration with
    • Must have a valid e-mail and should ensure that any filters on their email do not interfere with NIH email. Must also keep in mind that the sooner they reply to emails, the faster NIH can complete their registration.
  6. Some of the data fields in the 424 (R&R) do not really apply to foreign organizations. How will this be handled?

    For some of the data, special instructions are included in the Application Guide for foreign organizations.

  7. Are International organizations required to obtain an EIN number as part of the grant submission process?

    NIH does not require international organizations to obtain an EIN number for application submission. International organizations may use 44-4444444 for the Employer Identification field in the SF424 (R&R) Cover Component of the application package. [See NIH eSubmission Tips for International Applicants (PDF - 343 KB)].

  8. How do I know if a foreign organization is eligible to apply?

    Each funding opportunity has a section for Eligibility. In that section there will be a clear statement about whether foreign institutions are eligible to apply

  9. Which budget form should I use if I am a foreign organization?
    Foreign institutions must use the Research and Related Budget form.
  10. On the SF424 (RR) application the field for "state" appears to be required. What do I do?
    Make sure you select your country first.  If you select a country other than the US or Canada, the state field will become optional. Inclusion of Providence is required for Canada.
  11. How does the system handle phone numbers in different formats?
    The phone number field on the SF424 (RR) application has a 25 character limit, but no specific format requirements.
  12. What should I include in the Congressional District filed?
    Foreign institutions should use 00-000 for the Congressional District.

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XIII. FAQs for Small Businesses
  1. Please see OER Website for Small Business Frequently Asked Questions.
    Please refer to the Small Business FAQs on the OER website for information about preparing and submitting a Small Business application

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XIV. Using a Service Provider
  1. What is a Service Provider?

    A Service Provider is a commercial company that assists applicants, for a fee, in submitting grant applications electronically to NIH.  For more information visit the Service Providers page.

  2. Could NIH recommend a particular Service Provider?

    No. NIH works closely with the Service Providers but cannot endorse any one Service Provider.

  3. If an applicant organization uses a Service Provider, who is responsible for completing the application, the PI, the organization, or the Service Provider?

    The Authorized Organizational Representative is the person responsible, but how this process works within an organization and a service provider system varies.

  4. Where can I obtain information on service providers?

    Please visit the Service Providers page. NIH cannot endorse any service provider or commercial business.

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