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Frequently Asked Questions

Prepare Application
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Prepare Application

     Application Guide
  1. Where is the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide available?
    The application guide can be found on OER’s SF424 (R&R) Application and Electronic Submission Information page.

  2. Where will an applicant need to look to find application instructions?
    As with our current business process, there are essentially two places an applicant looks for instructions. First is the application guide. This document will be posted with every Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) posted in Grants.gov. Second is the FOA itself. Program-specific application requirements will continue to be part of the actual announcement.

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     Resubmission, Revision, Renewal
  1. NIH and Grants.gov seem to use different terminology for application type, how do I know which term is correct for my situation?
    Grants.gov has brought us new terminology for the Type of Application field of the SF424 (R&R) Cover Component (box #8). NIH is trying to change all of its materials to correctly reflect the new terminology, but it will take some time. Please use the handy chart below as we work through this terminology change.

    New Grants.gov Term Old NIH Term Notes
    New New An application that is submitted for funding for the first time. Includes multiple submission attempts within the same round. (Type 1)
    Renewal Competing Continuation Previous years of funding for the project have elapsed. Competing for additional years of funding to continue original project. (Type 2)
    Revision Competing Supplement Request for additional funds for a current award to expand the scope of work. Applicants should contact the awarding agency for advice on submitting any revision/supplement application. (Type 3)
    Resubmission Revision or Amended Application Application previously reviewed. A revised or amended application addresses reviewer feedback. (A1/A2)
    Continuation Progress Report NIH does not use the SF424 (R&R) for Continuation Applications. (Type 5; Progress Reports for Simplified Non-competing (SNAP) are submitted directly to eRA Commons for others paper is still submitted)

  2. What do I do if more than one application type seems to fit my situation?
    In the PHS 398 paper world, applicants could identify more than one application type for a single application. However in the new SF424 (R&R) world, 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.

  3. 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 on the first submission attempt. However, the Federal Identifier field becomes a required field when submitting a Changed/Corrected application to address errors/warnings. When submitting a Changed/Corrected "New" application, enter the Grants.gov tracking number of the previous submission attempt (e.g. GRANT00123456). If you are unable to find the tracking number, enter "N/A".

    If "Type of Application" is "Renewal", "Revision" or "Resubmission", enter the IC and serial number of the prior application/award number (e.g. CA123456). For these types of applications, do not change the Federal Identifier field when submitting Changed/Corrected applications.

  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, box #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.

    Note that box #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.

  5. 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, 3R01CA123456-04S1A1 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 123456 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 "CA123456".

    Additional information on the NIH grant application/award identification numbering system can be found at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/ac.pdf (PDF - 622 KB).

  6. Is it OK to scan portions of the original PHS 398 application when submitting a revision, renewal or resubmission?
    If you are making the move from paper to electronic forms, please resist the temptation to scan sections of the paper forms. There are times when scanning simply can't be avoided, but (when possible) it is best to work from the original documents that can be appropriately edited for the current submission, converted to PDF format and attached to the new application. Additional benefits of working from original documents include clearer images and the ability to extract text from the application image. (PDF Tips)

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     SF424 (R&R) Form

       Application Form
  1. Which form will applicants use to submit applications to NIH via Grants.gov?
    Applicants will use the Standard Form (SF) 424 family of forms. SF424 consolidates grant applications, related data and forms currently used by Federal grant-making agencies to enable applicants to use familiar forms regardless of the program or agency to which they are applying. The SF424 Research & Related (R&R) will become the government-wide data set for research grant applications. The SF424 (R&R) will replace the Public Health Service (PHS) 398 form at NIH.

  2. What components make up the SF424 (R&R) grant package?
    The SF424 (R&R) grant package includes the following components (included components will vary by mechanism):
    • R&R Application/Cover Component
    • R&R Project/Performance Site Location(s) Component
    • R&R Other Project Information Component
    • R&R Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) Component
    • R&R Budget Component
    • R&R Personal Data Component
    • R&R Sub-award Budget Attachment Component

  3. How will NIH collect information contained in the PHS398 form that is not included in the SF424 (R&R) form set?
    The SF424 accommodates agency-specific data collection. The following new application forms may be included with NIH's SF424 (R&R) grant packages:
  4. I see that some of the application components are labeled as "PHS 398". Will the reference to the "PHS398-specific" data elements cause confusion to the applicants? Why not use "NIH"?
    The use of the term PHS398 was chosen since that is the OMB-approved data collection instrument that gives NIH and other PHS agencies the authority to collect those specific items. Keep in mind that the data included in those components are only those items that are not included elsewhere in the SF424 (R&R). Using the more generic term PHS398 rather than "NIH" allows other HHS agencies that currently use the PHS398 to use these Grants.gov developed components as well.

  5. From time-to-time new application data requirements are necessary. What will be the process to add such data elements to the SF424 (R&R) application?
    It will now be a two level decision process. If the data requirement effects the majority of agencies using the SF424 (R&R) application, then there will be a process by which new data elements are discussed and approved for addition to the SF424 (R&R). If the data requirement affects only the NIH, then we will request Office of Management and Budget permission to add it to the agency-specific data requirements.

  6. Are application packages/forms portable? Can components be reused for other applications?
    Currently there is no way to reuse the forms from one opportunity to another.

  7. Where is Other Support located?
    NIH will continue to collect Other Support information via the Just-In-Time process; it will not be part of the initial application submission.

  8. The SF424 (R&R) Personal Data page includes very sensitive personal data, like the Social Security Number. Is there concern about the security of such data?
    Grants.gov is a secure, reliable source to apply for Federal grants. However, since NIH requires that all PIs also be registered in the NIH eRA Commons before submitting through Grants.gov, NIH will already have all the pertinent personal information in their profile. Consequently, electronic submissions through Grants.gov will not include the Personal Data component.

  9. Will there be any impact on the way the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) refers applications to IC Referral Offices?
    The referral guidelines for ICs and study sections will not be changed by this process. The referral will be done using the electronic image, rather than paper. Division of Receipt and Referral staff will continue to make assignments for primary and dual ICs and review location (IC or CSR).

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       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 http://www.house.gov/writerep/, select your state and enter your zip code. Then click the “Contact My Representative” button. The screen that pops up will list your representative as well as your congressional district. If outside the U.S. enter 00-0000 for both Applicant and Project.

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       Budget (including Subaward)

  1. Is a DUNS number required for every subaward/consortium organization?
    Ideally yes. The 'Organization DUNS' is a required field on the 'Research & Related Budget' form, regardless of the budget "type"-project or subaward/consortium. However, at the subaward level, neither Grants.gov nor NIH currently validates on the accuracy of that field. For subaward organizations, eRA Commons only validates that the DUNS field contains a value and that the value is not the same DUNS number provided by the prime applicant. At this time the eRA Commons does not do any further validations on the accuracy of the number. So for now, if a subaward/consortium organization is unable to secure a DUNS number in time, then a value of nine zeros can be entered in the DUNS field on the subaward/consortium budget component. This requirement may change over time.

    Remember that the prime applicant uses the R&R Subaward Budget Attachment form to generate a copy of the Research & Related Budget form that can be sent to the subaward/consortium organization, filled out, sent back to the prime and attached to the R&R Subaward Budget Attachment form.

  2. Is CCR & Grants.gov registration required for subaward/consortium institutions?
    Subaward/consortium organizations need not register with CCR or Grants.gov, 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 up to 2 numbers. Our rate is 110%. How can I enter 110%?
    The two digit restriction is due to a Grants.gov forms limitation. Grants.gov is working on a solution. Until one is implemented, 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 subcontract, the total costs (Direct + Facilities & Administrative Costs) of all subcontracts 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 subcontracts. NIH continues to have a policy that excludes the consortium F&A costs from any direct cost limit. Our systems will do this calculation for us.

  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?
    The rules are the same as those for paper applications. If an application meets the modular limit of $250K or under, the applicant must submit a modular budget. Likewise, if an application exceeds $250K, it must come in as a detailed budget. The applicant should complete the budget component appropriate to their situation.
    In 2005, NIH removed modular budgets for the SBIR/STTR applications. Therefore, SBIR/STTR applications will have only a detailed budget in the application package.

  7. The R&R cumulative budget page is 'automatically' filled-in by the system – correct?
    The cumulative budget is system-generated and PIs will see it as part of the R&R detailed budget component or a modular component. They do not have to do any data entry.

  8. On the page for the Research & Related Budget, Sections F-K, Budget Period 1, there is a box in the upper right hand corner that states ‘Next Period.’ However, it is grayed out and we cannot access the next period forms. How does one navigate to the screens for the next budget period?
    You must complete all the required information (i.e., those fields that are highlighted and noted with an "*") on this page before the "Next Period" button is activated.

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       Person Months

  1. How should we list partial months? In the budget period on the SF424 (R&R) application, the number of calendar months that a senior key person worked on a project may be listed as between 1 and 12 months. However, some of our key personnel are only putting in half a month effort toward the project. How do we enter that information in the budget period? Do we change the 1/2 month to 1 month without changing the requested salary or do we need to adjust our entire budget so everyone on the project team puts forth more than 160 hours?
    Originally the eRA Commons system only allowed whole numbers 1-12 for the number of calendar months that a senior key person worked on a project. The system has been fixed to accommodate partial months up to two decimal places (e.g., 2.55 is an acceptable value). The system had also not been accepting partial months less than one (e.g., .65). e actual effort/person months. However, NIH has since fixed that issue and now accepts partial months less than one.

  2. Using person months rather than percent effort is a big change, where can I find out more?
    The NIH Office of Extramural Research has created a Person Months FAQ page dedicated to this topic. Included in the FAQs are instructions on how to calculate person months and an interactive Excel Conversion Table (Excel - 20 KB).

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       Administrative Supplements

  1. How will administrative supplements be handled?
    The current practice for administrative supplements will not be changed at this time. They will continue to be handled by the individual Institutes and Centers (ICs).

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       Application File Size

  1. Is there a limit on application files size?
    Neither Grants.gov nor NIH has set limits for application size. NIH has successfully tested applications up to 140 MB. However, based on an analysis of current paper application size and experience gained from grant programs that have already transitioned to electronic submission, NIH expects an average R01 application to be in the 6-10 MB range with 99% of applications falling under 40 MB. If your application has grown substantially larger than these ranges and you are having difficulty working with the application due to its unwieldy size, here are some tips for keeping file size under control:

  2. NOTE: If you have difficulty submitting your application and believe application size may be an issue, please open a ticket with the eRA Helpdesk at http://ithelpdesk.nih.gov/eRA/. Helpdesk staff will escalate the issue to appropriate technical resources and can work with you to get your application submitted.

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  1. There are a number of places where an attachment is uploaded. What type of attachments will NIH accept?
    NIH application submissions will accept only PDF attachments. Users will find a variety of information on tools and software that can be used to generate PDF attachments on Grants.gov’s Software webpage (http://www.grants.gov/agencies/asoftware.jsp) under the header ‘Convert Documents to PDF’ (http://www.grants.gov/agencies/asoftware.jsp#3).

  2. How will appendix material be accommodated?
    There is an attachment upload available for Appendix material. Up to 10 separate PDF attachments can be included. The appendix attachment upload feature is Item 15 in the PHS 398 Research Plan Component.

  3. Scientific Review Administrators currently assess appendix material for appropriateness. Will this business practice be altered?
    This business practice will not be altered at this time.

  4. How will supplemental/additional/correction material submitted after application submission be accommodated?
    The current practice will not be altered at this time. This supplemental/additional/correction material may only be submitted with the permission of the assigned Scientific Review Administrator (SRA), and the submission is made directly to the SRA.

  5. Will applicants be permitted to submit supplemental/additional/correction material without SRA permission?
    At this time the process for submitting supplemental material will continue to be at the discretion of the SRA, and directly to the SRA.

  6. How does an applicant submit appendix material that cannot be transmitted electronically?
    "Hard" appendix materials like a video or heart valve have to be physically sent to the Scientific Review Administrator and then to the reviewers.

  7. How will the scientific text of an application be submitted?
    The research plan sections of an application will continue to be prepared by the Principal Investigator (PI). Sections will be uploaded as individual PDF attachments.

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  1. Will PIs have to generate the PDFs?
    Responsibility for generating the PDF attachments depends on the business rules of the applicant organization. In most cases, the PI is given that responsibility.

  2. How do I avoid PDF problems?
    To avoid PDF problems, keep these guidelines in mind:

    1. NIH only accepts attachments in PureEdge or PDF format. Do not submit attachments in other formats such as Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, etc. Other formats may be allowed through Grants.gov but are not accepted by NIH.

    2. It is recommended that applicants avoid scanning text documents to produce the required PDFs whenever possible. Instead, NIH recommends producing the documents electronically using text or word-processing software and then converting documents to PDF. Scanning paper documents, without the proper Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process, will hamper automated processing of your application for NIH analysis and reporting. For additional information on PDF conversion software, visit the Software webpage on Grants.gov website and click on the header ‘Convert Documents to PDF’ (http://www.grants.gov/agencies/software.jsp#3).

    3. A 0 byte attachment is an invalid PDF.

    4. Only use standard characters in file names:
      A through Z, a through z, and 0 through 9, Hyphen (-), underscore ( _ ).

    5. Disable all security features in the PDF document.
      Protected documents prevent NIH from opening and processing the document. Security settings vary by PDF tool, but please ensure security settings are not marked. The applicant needs to look at the Document Security tab under Document Properties (directly from the tab) and set the security parameters to ensure open access so NIH can process the content. For instance, do not password protect the document and do not mark Content Extraction or Copying; Document Assembly, etc as “Not Allowed.”

    6. If you are having trouble fixing the PDF settings, simply cut and paste from the PDF document into a Microsoft Word document and then reconvert (in some cases it may be better to use another PDF converter).

    7. One of the PDF tools that have been working without issue for most applicants is CutePDF.
      Note: NIH had previously suggested that applicants not use active links in PDFs. NIH has since addressed the issue and applicants can now include active links in PDFs.

    8. Do not include any information in the header or footer area of the attachments. A header will be system-generated that references the name of the PD/PI. Page numbers for the footer will be system-generated in the complete application, with all pages sequentially numbered. Applicants are encouraged to use Section Headings within the document.

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       Multiple PI

  1. I have heard that NIH is planning to formally allow more than one Principal Investigator — i.e., Multiple PIs — to be recognized on an individual grant application. When will Multiple PIs be allowed on a grant application submitted electronically?
    Beginning with research grant applications submitted for February 2007 receipt dates, the NIH will allow applicants and their institutions to identify more than one Principal Investigator (PI). The Multiple PI option will be extended to most research grant applications submitted electronically through Grants.gov (http://www.grants.gov/) using the SF424 R&R application package. Grant applications that will accommodate more than one PI beginning in February include: R01, R03, R13/U13, R15, R18/U18, R21, R21/R33, R25, R33, R34, R41, R42, R43, R44, and C06/UC6 (see http://era.nih.gov/ElectronicReceipt/strategy_timeline.htm). Some types of applications including individual career awards (K08, K23, etc.), individual fellowships (F31, F32, etc.), Dissertation Grants (R36), Director’s Pioneer Awards (DP1), and Shared Instrumentation Grants (S10) will not accommodate more than a single PI. The restriction to a single PI will be described in announcements for those programs.

    The NIH will extend the multiple PI option to most research grant applications when they transition to an electronic format. Some paper applications submitted on PHS 398 application forms also will allow inclusion of more than one PI, but only when the multiple PI option is clearly specified in the soliciting Request for Applications (RFA) or Program Announcement (PA). Other paper applications listing more than one PI may be delayed in the review process or returned to the applicant.

    The decision to apply for a single PI or a multiple PI grant will be the responsibility of the investigators and the applicant organization. Those decisions should be consistent with and justified by the scientific goals of the project. As described on the Multiple Principal Investigator website at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/multi_pi/, the NIH expects the availability of the Multiple PI option to encourage interdisciplinary and other team approaches to biomedical research.

    For updates, please visit the Multiple PI Website at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/multi_pi/.

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       Page Limitations

  1. Will mechanism-specific instructions like page limitations still apply?
    Yes, page limits still will apply and some will be system enforced. For example, the system will check the combined page limit for the Specific Aims, Background and Significance, Preliminary Studies/Progress Reports and Research Design Methods sections but will not enforce the recommendations provided in the Application Guide for each of these subsection (e.g., Background and Significance should be 6 to 8 pages). Note that while these computer validations will help minimize incomplete and/or non-compliant applications, they do not replace the validations conducted by NIH staff. Applications found not to comply with the requirements may be delayed in the review process.

  2. What happens to page limits if the formatting changes when a PDF is generated?
    NIH validations include checks for page limits. Some accommodation will be made for sections that when combined must fit within a specified limitation. While each section of the Research Plan needs to eventually be uploaded separately, applicants are encouraged to construct the Research Plan as a single document, separating sections into distinct PDF attachments just before uploading the files. In this way the applicant can better monitor formatting requirements such as page limits. When validating for page limits, the eRA Commons will not count the white space created by breaking the text into separate files for uploading. Applicants may receive a warning message similar to the following: “The Research Plan is limited to 25 pages. This may span 28 pages due to page breaks. If the total space occupied by text does not exceed 25 pages then no action is needed.” If you provide 26-28 pages of text, the system will allow the application to proceed, but remember the application is subject to further conformance checking by NIH staff.

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       Character Limitations

  1. Is there a character limit on organization names in the R&R Budget form and the R&R Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) forms?
    Yes. You can only use 60 or less characters in the following fields:

    • 'Enter name of Organization' field on the Research & Related Budget - Section A & B form
    • 'Organization Name' field on the Research & Related Senior/Key Person (Expanded) form

    There is an anomaly in the PureEdge forms that allows you to enter up to 75 characters but in fact, it gets cut to 60 characters and this causes processing delays during validations at Grants.gov.

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       Cover Letter

  1. Will applicants still have the opportunity to include a cover letter?
    Yes. One of the PHS398 optional components is the Cover Letter. If multiple application submissions are necessary to correct errors, only the last cover letter submitted will be retained in the system. Therefore, applicants must ensure that they include all information from previous cover letters in the final cover letter.

  2. Will the cover letter include all the information currently allowed?
    Yes. The instructions for the cover letter remain the same. At this time it will be a PDF upload of the relevant information, not structured data.

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     Application Checks (Validations)
  1. Can you explain the differences in the checks that Grants.gov does on the application and those done by NIH?
    The Grants.gov validations are minor and straightforward - things like checking to make sure no viruses are attached to the application and checking to ensure the DUNS number is correct. At the NIH level, the application is checked against business rules - such as whether you have an assurance number if the human subjects is marked "yes".

  2. Could you detail what will be the validations (business rules) that an application will be checked for - such as page limits?
    The list of errors and warnings that an applicant may encounter during the validation process, along with tips to help you understand these better, are available on the Prepare Application page.

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