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eRA Commons & eSubmission Items of Interest - April 22, 2008

Change to Processing of No Cost Extensions
The April eRA Enterprise Release included a change to how the eRA system will process No Cost Extensions. Now any No Cost Extensions made to the parent grant or any of its subprojects will automatically extend all records associated with the grant - regardless of whether the change was made via Commons or by a direct request to NIH Grants Management staff. System synchronization of these dates removes confusion and manual clean-up effort.

NIH & Adobe Forms
Other Federal agencies are moving to Adobe forms, why not NIH? We are getting this question more and more frequently. It is good to know that applicants are generally pleased with the new Adobe forms and are anxious for NIH to make the move. We look forward to the change, too…we also have good reasons to wait for the right time to make the move.

At any given time, NIH has over 700 active Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) posted on Multiply that by the number of applicants per FOA and that’s a lot of “in progress” applications at play. Every time a form change is made, NIH must replace all active application packages with updated ones rendering the old packages, and any applications based on them, unusable. Applicants that recognize a change has occurred must download the updated package and cut and paste any “in progress” information from one package to the other. Applicants that are unaware of the change will find out their application is no longer viable at time of submission - often just prior to deadline when it is too late to do anything about it. I think we can all agree this process isn’t much fun for anyone and not one we want to go through on a regular basis.

So, when is the right time to bite the bullet and make the move? NIH and some other agencies that use the SF424 (R&R) form set have pondered this question and decided the best course of action is to hold off transitioning until the end of the calendar year when as many pending form changes can be combined as possible. Of course is moving from PureEdge to Adobe forms, but you may not be aware that the following form changes also are in progress (with expected delivery dates through August followed by agency coding and testing):

Each of these changes would require the reposting of all active opportunities. Did we mention that the reposting process is fun-challenged?

In order to be ready to go when all the various form changes are completed, NIH will “pilot” the use of Adobe forms with a few specific FOAs (strategically selected to have single submission dates to avoid the reposting issues mentioned above). We are tracking one additional item that must be addressed before we can even take that step. Only specific versions of Adobe reader are compatible with An application that is opened with an unsupported version can become corrupted without any indication of the corruption until time of submission. To mitigate this issue, has implemented a pretty nifty safeguard. Rather than allowing the application to open when an unsupported version of Adobe Reader is used, a pop-up window is displayed that clearly indicates the issue and provides instructions for obtaining a supported version. Unfortunately, this safeguard is not yet available for Adobe forms that are attached within the main form (i.e. the form-in-form solution used for R&R Subaward Budget forms). NIH is waiting for to extend this safeguard to all forms prior to posting any pilot FOAs. We expect to be positioned to post a pilot FOA in August for an October receipt date. If everything goes well with the pilot, then full transition will begin in December.

NIH is in full support of’s move to Adobe-based forms and we want to use the new forms. We just want to transition to Adobe forms in a way that minimizes applicant impact.

Be in the Know when Adobe Forms Go
Sure, downloading a new Adobe package and cutting and pasting information from one application to another is a drag, but imagine not even knowing that a new package exists until your submission fails. has implemented a new feature to improve the system-generated emails that go out every time an agency changes a Funding Opportunity Announcement. Agencies can now add to those automated emails their own comments to indicate the specific changes to the announcement and any potential impact or special applicant instructions. NIH plans on taking full advantage of this feature going forward and we recommend that applicant’s sign up to receive opportunity updates. (Visit to Subscribe)

eSubmission Transition of Career Development (K), Fellowship (F), and Training (T) Grant Programs
New forms are needed in order to transition the Career Development (K), Fellowship (F), and Training (T) Grant Programs to electronic submission. Since all new form development will be done in Adobe format, these transitions will not take place until after we move to Adobe-based forms. For planning purposes, it is safe to say February 2009 would be the earliest any of these programs will transition. A notice will be placed in the NIH Guide for Grants & Contracts once plans are confirmed.

eRA Presence at NIH Regional Seminars on Program Funding and Grants Administration
We enjoyed meeting quite a few of our eRA Commons users at the regional seminar in San Antonio. There is still limited space available for the June seminar to be held in Chicago. It really is a great opportunity to interact with NIH experts in a wide variety of grants administration topics. See for details.

Sheri Cummins & Scarlett Gibb
Customer Relationship Managers
eRA External Services – Commons & eSubmission
NIH Office of Extramural Research

This page last reviewed: April 29, 2008