How We Check for Completeness

We really care about the details. It is important to a fair review that all applicants competing together for funding have adhered to the same rules. It is also important that your application is submitted in a way that allows us to efficiently process your application and make it available for funding consideration. Consequently, your application will be checked at Grants.gov, by our eRA systems and finally by our staff before it is referred for review. These business rule checks, when systematically enforced, are also referred to as “validations”.

This may sound daunting, but the key to getting through this series of application checks is simple

  • Follow the application guide and funding opportunity announcement instructions
  • Submit early enough to allow time to address any system identified errors and submit a corrected application prior to the deadline
Validations Done by Grants.gov

Grants.gov processes applications for all federal agencies. Consequently, they only perform application checks that apply to all application submission to the federal government and the checks done are typically related to application processing rather than application content or completeness.

Common examples of Grants.gov checks:

  • Does the submitting organization have an active System for Award Management (SAM) registration?
  • Is the submitter authorized to submit on behalf of the organization?
  • Was the submission made after the funding opportunity open date?
  • Was the submission made to an active funding opportunity announcement?
  • Was the application package used active?
  • Did any of your submitted attachments contain a virus?
  • Do any of the submitted attachment filenames contain characters other than A-Z, a-z, 0-9, underscore, hyphen, space, period, parenthesis, curly braces, square brackets, ampersand, tilde, exclamation point, comma, semi colon, apostrophe, at sign, number sign, dollar sign, percent sign, plus sign, and equal sign?
Validations Done by eRA Systems

We receive a large number of grant applications and rely on eRA system validations to efficiently and consistently process them. Our system validations enforce many, but not all, application requirements. Read and follow all documented instructions rather than relying on validations to ensure your application is complete.

Common examples of eRA system validations:

  • Did you include the eRA Commons ID in the credential field of the R&R Sr/Key Person Profile form for anyone designated as PD/PI?
  • Are all your attachments in PDF format?
  • Did you follow the page limits documented in our Table of Page Limits (unless otherwise specified in the announcement)?
  • If you designated more than one PD/PI, did you include the Multi-PD/PI leadership plan attachment?
  • If Human Subjects or Vertebrate Animals are involved, did you include the appropriate attachments?

Our annotated form sets and avoiding common errors page are great resources to help you navigate through our eRA validations. If you really like nitty-gritty details, our validation document includes every system check we perform.

Checks Done by Agency Staff

We do our best to systematically help you identify areas of your application that don’t meet our requirements and would result in our not accepting it for consideration. Grants.gov and eRA systems are very good at consistently flagging errors or warnings on large numbers of applications. However, there are some agency business rules that are manually checked by our staff after you pass all the systematic checks in place.

Here are common examples of the type of checks performed by our staff:

  • Does the topic of the application fit NIH's mission?
  • Is the applicant eligible to apply?
    • For example, if applying to the AREA (R15) program do the applicant organization and PI meet the eligibility requirements specific to that program?
  • Does the application include all critical sections?
    • Our systems can tell if you attached a pdf document in a certain spot in the application, but can't assess the content of that attachment.
  • Does the application include information in inappropriate places to get around page limits?
  • Was the application submitted on-time?
    • Unlike many agencies, NIH does not shut down the ability to submit to a funding opportunity announcement at 5:01 pm on a due date. We keep the submission door open and assess the circumstances of "late" submissions on a case-by-case basis. Staff check your cover letter submitted with your application for documented circumstances allowed under our late policy. They check to see if the application falls under our continuous submission policy. They also check to see if you ran into any system issues along the way and appropriately notified the eRA service desk to document them.
  • Do you already have an application with essentially the same content under review?
    • You can't have overlapping applications under review at the same time (NOT-OD-14-074).
  • Does your application adhere to funding opportunity announcement specific instructions?
    • Instructions in this section are often not systematically enforced, since they are exceptions from our general guidance. So, don't rely on system checks to catch page limits and missing attachments specific to the announcement.
  • If reference letters apply, was the correct number of reference letters received by the due date?
  • Did you follow font and margin guidelines documented in the application guide when preparing all your attachments?
  • If requesting $500K or more in direct costs in any budget period, did you have institute permission to submit?
  • If human embryonic stem cells are indicated, were all restrictions for their use met?