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Frequently Asked Questions

Submit Application
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Submit Application

     Submission Deadline
  1. What is the submission deadline — the date/time the application is stamped as received by Grants.gov or the date/time the data is received by NIH?
    Applications must be submitted to Grants.gov by 5 p.m. local time (of the applicant institution/organization) on the submission/receipt date. If the submission/receipt date falls on a weekend or Federal holiday, the date will be extended to the next business day.

  2. What is on-time submission?
  1. What is NIH's policy for late applications?
    The late policy remains in effect regardless of mode of delivery (paper or electronic). See the following NIH Guide Notices:

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     System problems
  1. What contingency plans are in place in case the Grants.gov and eRA Commons systems have technical problems on a submission/receipt date? If an application has to be submitted again because of Grants.gov system problems, will these be considered "late"?
    NIH will not penalize the applicant for Grants.gov or eRA Commons system issues. If you encounter a system problem, immediately contact the eRA Commons Help Desk to report the issue. As soon as the help desk staff confirms a system issue, they will document the issue and continue to work with you until the problem is resolved.

    NIH's contingencies provide for extending submission dates when Grants.gov is unavailable for a significant period of time leading up to a deadline. The NIH Guide, Electronic Submission Program email lists and Electronic Submission Web site will be the primary vehicles used to communicate any deadline extensions. If eRA Commons experiences a significant interruption in service just after a submission deadline, the error-correction window may be extended to provide applicants with the necessary time to check submission status, address errors and view their corrected applications. The Electronic Submission email lists and Electronic Submission website will be the primary vehicle used to communicate error-correction window extensions.

    Please be aware that if your submission failed to complete because you did not follow all the instructions, NIH is under no obligation to accept your late application.

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     Letters of Reference
  1. How does a referee submit reference letters for applicants?
    Letters may be submitted directly to eRA Commons and must be submitted by the referee within five business days after the application receipt due date or as early as the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) opens. 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:

Candidate Information:

After the referee submits the reference, both the referee and the candidate will receive a confirmation of receipt by email. The confirmation sent to the candidate will include the name of the referee and the name and the date the letter was submitted. However, the letters are confidential and the candidate will not be able to access the letters themselves. The email confirmation will include a Reference Letter Submission Confirmation Number. The Confirmation Number will be required when resubmitting letters. Please print the confirmation email for your records. Revised reference letters may be submitted within seven days of the application receipt date.

Note: For updates to these instructions, please check the Adobe Version A Application Guide - PDF, 4.47 MB (Part I, Section 7.3).

  1. Does a referee need to register in eRA Commons to submit a reference letter for the candidate?
    No. The referee does not need to register in Commons to submit a reference letter. However, the referee does need the Commons User ID of the candidate.

  2. 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.

  3. How are the letters linked to an application and what happens to letters that are not linked to applications?
    Reference letters are linked by Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) number and the Commons User ID of the candidate. If these two values are not provided, the letter never connects to the application. Orphaned letters are deleted from eRA Commons after six months.

  4. Can reference letters be sent on paper or via email directly to NIH?
    No. Reference letters for SF424 (R&R) grant applications that come in electronically, must be uploaded electronically via eRA Commons.

  5. What is the deadline for reference letters to be submitted?
    Reference letters must be submitted within five business days of the application receipt date. Reference letters can also be submitted early, as of the open date on the Funding Opportunity Announcement.

  6. Do the letters have a specified page limit or format?
    Reference letters must be no longer than two pages in length and must be in PDF format.

  7. How does the candidate track reference letter submissions in eRA Commons?
    The candidate may check the status of letters submitted by the referees by logging into their Commons account, accessing the ‘Personal Profile’ tab and clicking on the ‘Reference Letters’ tab on the second header row. The candidate will see the Referee Name, FOA number, Organization/Affiliation, Department and the date the reference letter was submitted. While the candidate is able to check on the status of the submitted letters, the letters are confidential and he/she will not have access to the letters themselves.

    The candidate is responsible for reviewing the status of submitted reference letters and contacting referees to ensure that letters are submitted by the receipt deadline.

    Note: Because email can be unreliable, it is the candidate’s responsibility to check the status of his/her letters of reference in the Commons. Once the application has been submitted, information about the reference letter is also available on the status detail screen and may be viewed by all who have access to this screen (i.e. Signing Official, Project Director/Principal Investigator, Delegate). This is a good way for the PD/PIs to see that the letters are linked correctly.

  8. Can letters be transferred to an application for a different FOA or does referee have to submit again (e.g., planned to apply to specific RFA but decided at last minute to apply to a parent FOA instead)?
    No, reference letters cannot be transferred. The referee needs to submit the letter a second time.

  9. If the applicant resubmits the grant application, can the reference letter submitted with the original application be used?
    No. The referee needs to resubmit the reference letter.

  10. How does a referee resubmit a letter?
    To resubmit a letter (i.e., replace original letter submitted), the referee needs to know the Reference Letter Confirmation Number.

    On the Reference Letter screen in Commons: , the referee enters all the required fields, the confirmation number and clicks on ‘Continue.’ The referee is then taken to a second screen where he/she can upload the revised letter. Once the revised letter is uploaded, it overrides the first 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 towards the number of letters allowed the applicant.

  11. What is the deadline for resubmitting a letter?
    Revised reference letters may be submitted within seven business days of the application receipt date.

  12. 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 screen for the application in eRA Commons to ensure the reference letters were properly submitted and matched to their 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 was received and the correct Funding Opportunity Number (FOA) was used. The issue may be that the referees were given an expired FOA number (for instance, the old FOA number for a K grant application that originally required submissions on paper but has since been replaced with a new FOA number now that Ks have transitioned to electronic submission). Entering a wrong, but valid FOA number can also cause the same discrepancy.

    Note: Please contact the eRA Help Desk if FOA for reference letter submitted is incorrect (See eRA Alert).

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