Expanding Support of Unicode Character Set in Grant Applications Submitted after February 17, 2015

Notice Number: NOT-OD-15-058

Key Dates
Release Date: January 27, 2015

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)


This notice informs the community of support for the full Unicode character set (including Greek and other special characters) in the free-text form fields (e.g., project title) of cooperative agreement and grant applications submitted through Grants.gov to the NIH and AHRQ after February 17, 2015.


In May 2014, NIH and AHRQ databases were updated to support the collection of data using the full Unicode character set. This allowed eRA systems to accept 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. See NOT-OD-14-071.

However, at that time Grants.gov was unable to support the expanded character set. Consequently, applicants could use Unicode characters in their PDF attachments, but still could not use Greek and other special Unicode characters in the free-text form fields of their applications (e.g., project title, name, address, organization name, etc.).

As of February 17, 2015, Grants.gov forms and systems will also support Unicode characters.

Note: Grants.gov refers to their changes as 'UTF-8 support'. UTF-8 is one standard for encoding the Unicode character set. Though the terms are different, the efforts provide the same benefit - support for the use of an expanded character set which includes the Greek and other characters and symbols often found in research documentation.

Important notes:

  • Grants.gov has a planned system outage from Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 12:01 AM ET to Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 6:00 AM ET to implement this change. NIH and AHRQ due dates that fall on or between February 13 and February 18, 2015 will move to February 19, 2015. See NOT-OD-15-057.
  • eRA systems validate information contained in an application against information contained in eRA Commons institutional and personal profiles (e.g., PD/PI names, organization names). Make sure your application and eRA Commons information is consistent. Changes to eRA Commons profiles to include Unicode characters should be made on/after February 12, 2015.
  • Carefully check your assembled application image in eRA Commons to ensure all data provided is rendered in the application image correctly. If you encounter any issues, contact the eRA Service Desk immediately.
  • Changes to organization name or PD/PI name may impact the results of searches in some systems. For example, if you are searching in eRA Commons using the last name 'Peña' you may also need to search under 'Pena' to find all records.
Although NIH, AHRQ and Grants.gov can support the full character set, check with your sponsored projects or other administrative office to see if your organization can also support the expanded characters before updating your eRA Commons account or using special characters in your application.


Please direct all inquiries to:

NIH Grants Information
Email: grantsinfo@od.nih.gov (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-945-7573