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Strategy for NIH Funding
Create a Cover Letter · Strategy for a Successful Submission
Pages of Part 4. Submit Your Application
You will need to take action to prepare for your application's submission to Grants.gov.
Learn how to comply with technical requirements to avoid corrupting your files; then do a preliminary check to make sure your application package is in good shape.
Next, see what it takes to submit on time. Should you miss the deadline, it's unlikely you will be able to submit late—read the rules for late applications.
This page applies to any application using electronic submission.
(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)
Most NIH grant applications, including R01s, require electronic submission. For other activity codes, check your funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to confirm.
Your institution may apply directly to Grants.gov or use alternative software, but most submit directly to Grants.gov.
Regardless of how you apply, you must follow the instructions in your FOA, its NIH Guide announcement, and the Grant Application Guide.
If your institution uses a proprietary application system, keep that in mind as you read our facts and advice. NIH describes applying directly to Grants.gov using the grant application package, but your system may have its own forms, layouts, or form fields.
To be on time, Grants.gov must successfully timestamp your application by 5:00 p.m. your institution's local time on the receipt date listed in the NIH Guide announcement for your FOA.
Over 90 percent of R01 applicants successfully complete the submission process on their first or second attempt. For advice on submitting successfully, read the Our Advice section below.
For technical support and information, use the following links:
With only a few exceptions, NIH does not accept late applications. However, within a two-week window after an application due date, NIH may consider accepting a late application if you have a valid reason for submitting late.
Provide a valid reason in the cover letter submitted with your late application. Valid reasons include:
Natural Disaster. NIH issues special Guide notices when a natural disaster occurs. In this circumstance, your delay should not exceed the duration of time your organization is closed, and you'll have to explain the specific reasons for the delay in your cover letter.
Personal Tragedy. In the event of a personal tragedy, e.g., you or an immediate family member suffer sudden severe illness, you will need to include an explanation in your cover letter.
Issues With Federal Computer Systems. You'll have to follow NIH’s Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Issues and take the following actions:
Contacting your program officer is not a substitute for contacting the appropriate Help Desk.
Service on an NIH Advisory Panel. A perk to serving on an NIH panel is that you may be eligible for late submission of applications. Full-time, temporary, or ad hoc service during the two months before or two months after the application due date may be an acceptable reason for late submission.
If you are eligible and choose to take advantage of this policy, you must explain the nature and period of your service in your cover letter.
You may also qualify for continuous submission, which allows you to apply at any time for R01, R21, and R34 grants. Read Do You Qualify for Continuous Submission? in Part 2.
Neither CSR nor NIAID may give permission in advance for a late submission. NIAID cannot guarantee that we will accept a late application.
See the Late Applications SOP for more information.
(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts.)
Since you'll likely submit electronically,* you should be aware of the steps your application will go through, decisions you may have to make along the way, and what you can do to ensure smooth sailing.
Submitting your application is not as easy as you may think. That's why you shouldn't go it alone if you run up against a roadblock or are confused about how to proceed. First, learn about the process; then if needed, find help at NIH's Help Desks.
Start by talking to staff in your business office to find out whether your institution submits directly to Grants.gov or uses a proprietary system. If it's the latter, keep your institution's approach in mind when reading our information, and learn more at Get Ready Now to Apply Electronically.
*R01s and most other activity codes require electronic submission. To find out whether an application must go the cyber route, check the FOA.
To avoid technical hiccups that could derail your application, follow these steps.
Make sure that you use the right version of the Adobe forms and Reader and that everyone who opens your application package uses a compatible version of Adobe Reader. Otherwise the application file may be corrupted. Compare your software with Grants.gov's Recommended Software of Adobe Reader.
If you're like many people who have more than one version of Adobe Reader or Acrobat—the most current version and one too old for the Adobe forms—be warned: you can inadvertently corrupt your application if you or others who work on your file open it with the wrong version.
First, try to uninstall the old version. If you cannot uninstall, do the following:
If you are having trouble when submitting to Grants.gov, try these tips to avoid interference from browser security settings and other programs.
For more help, review NIH's Finding Help, Avoiding Common Errors, and PDF Guidelines along with Grants.gov's Troubleshooting and the eRA Training Web site.
Be aware that your institution’s business office may have its own internal deadlines and processes for submission. If your institution is the source of your delay, NIH will not accept a late submission.
Also remember that all correspondence related to your application should go through your institution’s business office.
Before you hand off your application to your authorized organizational representative (AOR)—the person who submits your application to Grants.gov—you may want to do a preliminary check to see that your forms are in order.
You can do this by using the "Check Package for Errors" button at the top of the grant application package page. This button looks for some very basic Grants.gov form errors (e.g., ensures you completed all the fields marked required by Grants.gov).
Even if you get an all-clear after clicking the button, keep in mind that additional Grants.gov and all Commons validations take place after you submit your application.
If your institution is using a different process or system to send applications, this section may not be relevant to you. Check with your business office for instructions.
Before you submit, check that you do the following:
After your application completes the submission process, CSR performs a manual review. This is another potential failure point you can avoid by planning ahead.
CSR may return your application to you without a peer review if you fail to do any of the following: complete all required form fields, use the correct forms, format your documents properly, or follow instructions in the FOA and SF 424 Application Guide.
Also keep in mind that NIH rejects all forms sent directly to NIH instead of through Grants.gov.
And finally, NIAID's program staff may decline your application if you don't meet the requirements of a request for applications or institute-specific program announcement and are responding to one of our initiatives.
Ask your institution when it needs your application. Make sure your business office receives your application well ahead of this internal deadline so you will have time to get through Grants.gov and eRA Commons in case you need to correct.
If you have problems to fix, count on several more days and consider that NIH is not the only agency that uses Grants.gov for application submission, and there may be overlapping due dates you're unaware of. With so many applicants flooding the system, it's no surprise it can get bogged down.
Be aware that if your application does miss the deadline, you will probably have to correct and try again for the next receipt date (if any) because NIH accepts few late applications for specified reasons only. Read the Rules for Late Applications above.
That said, we recommend that you give yourself as much time as possible. Learn more at Passing Validations and other pages in Part 4.
We advise you to submit your application well ahead of its due date, in case you run into technical difficulties or any of the other problems noted above.
Once you know your application will be late, contact the scientific review officer and program officer listed in the FOA before submitting it.
NIH will consider accepting your late application within a two-week window of the application due date if there is a valid reason. The only time NIH will not consider accepting a late application is when a request for applications (RFA) states in the Application Due Date field "No late applications will be accepted for this funding opportunity announcement."
The decision to accept a late application ultimately lies with NIH’s Division of Receipt and Referral in the Center for Scientific Review (CSR). No one can give you advance permission for a late submission, but if you have a valid reason, provide an explanation in the cover letter submitted with your late application.
For the record, CSR has rejected the following reasons for late submission:
For more information, read the following resources:
Strategy for NIH Funding
See the other sections ofPart 4. Submit Your Application
Table of Contents for the Strategy
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Last Updated February 12, 2015
Last Reviewed February 12, 2015