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Submitting and Validating Your Electronic Application

Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

Submitting to Grants.gov

After the Application Moves to the eRA Commons

Submitting to Grants.gov

Read the questions and answers below or see the Table of Contents above.

Can I mail NIH my grant application package instead of submitting electronically?

No. NIH will not accept a paper grant application package. Your authorized organizational representative must submit it electronically to Grants.gov.

How do I submit my application to Grants.gov?

Your application must get a Grants.gov timestamp by 5:00 p.m. your institution's local time on the due date. Follow these steps:

  • Make sure the grant application package is final. See What are the final steps before submission?
  • Only your business official for Grants.gov—called an authorized organizational representative (AOR)—can submit the application.
  • Your AOR logs in to Grants.gov, then clicks "Submit" in your application package. Corrected applications follow the same process.
  • The AOR should print a copy of the confirmation screen as a record.

What is the Grants.gov tracking number?

After your authorized organizational representative (AOR) gets confirmation of a successful submission, Grants.gov will send the AOR and the principal investigator a tracking number, e.g., GRANT12345678.

Each email Grants.gov sends you will include that number, and your AOR can use it to track your application's status. You will also need the tracking number if you need to call Grants.gov's Contact Center.

What is Grants.gov validation?

Grants.gov does a basic data check. Later the eRA Commons will check your application more thoroughly to see if it complies with NIH business rules.

If Grants.gov finds an error, it sends your authorized organizational representative an email that it rejected your application. You need to correct the problem before the deadline so your AOR can resubmit. Don't rely on this validation email. Your AOR can see the results by logging into Grants.gov.

For more information, go to Passing Validations and First Step: Grants.gov Validation in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

How and when will I hear back from Grants.gov?

Grants.gov emails the outcome of your submission to your authorized organizational representative only. This may take only an hour, but may take up to two business days. If he or she didn't get the results by then, go to Grants.gov's Help page.

For a list of email notifications from Grants.gov and Commons, see the Chart of Email Notifications.

My submission generated 'warnings and/or errors' from the eRA Commons. How can I tell whether NIH accepted my application?

Always log in to your Commons account to verify your application's status. Do not depend on email notifications.

If your application went through validations and had warnings but no errors, it has been successfully submitted to NIH. 

  • Some warnings are serious and you may want to look into them and see whether you want—and are able—to address them before the deadline. 
  • You can see NIH's description of common errors and warnings at Avoiding Common Errors.

Talk to the eRA Help Desk for questions about the eRA Commons.

What happens to my application after it passes Grants.gov validation?

After Grants.gov validation, it transfers automatically to the Commons for NIH validation. See Next Step: eRA Commons Validation in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Can I send my electronic application late to Grants.gov?

NIH accepts late applications under rare circumstances. See the Corrected or Late Electronic Applications questions and answers and Rules for Late Applications in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

How do I submit a video or other material that cannot be sent electronically?

For video, follow the rules in the September 27, 2012, Guide notice. You must wait until after you apply to send video, but you'll need to prepare before applying and include key information about your video in your cover letter and Research Strategy. Call your assigned scientific review officer after you apply for specifics on how to send your video files.

As described in that Guide notice, NIH no longer allows other non-traditional materials such as medical devices, prototypes, interactive multimedia, or PowerPoint presentations.

Also see May I send supplementary, missing, or corrected materials after a receipt date? in the General Application Information questions and answers.

Where can I find help for Grants.gov or for the forms?

Go to Grants.gov's Help page.

After the Application Moves to the eRA Commons

Read the questions and answers below or see the Table of Contents above.

What does Commons validate?

The Commons checks for NIH business rules. Know that validation does not check many items that may be wrong. It's your responsibility to ensure your application has no mistakes.

Here are some resources:

  • For all the data, go to NIH's lengthy validations document, eXchange Services Notes, Tips and Validations.
    • It describes the errors or warnings that the Commons may send you when it validates your application.
    • It tells you both what Commons is looking for and what each error message means, which is useful for figuring out what the problem is and what to do about it.
  • NIH's Generic Validations Summary and Avoiding Common Errors let you know what to expect.
  • Find other resources on NIH's Electronic Submission of Grant Applications Web site.
  • The eRA training Web site provides tutorials, presentations and guidance on the eRA Commons system.
  • If you still need help, contact the Commons; Finding Help has that information.

What are the results of eRA Commons validation?

NIH's software performs a more thorough validation for NIH business rules, leading to one of three results:

  • Processed successfully—no errors or warnings.
  • Processed successfully—no errors but with warnings.
  • Failed validation—errors found.

What are errors and warnings?

Errors resulting from Commons validation render your application unacceptable. They include inaccuracies, inconsistencies, omissions, or incorrect formatting. You must correct them and have your authorized organizational representative submit a corrected application to Grants.gov.

Warnings indicate potential issues, but won't stop your application from moving forward.

Review warnings carefully because if left unfixed, some issues could result in NIH rejecting your application. Know that validation does not check many items that may be wrong. It's your responsibility to ensure your application has no mistakes.

Learn more about finding validation results and making corrections below.

How does Commons notify me of its validation results?

Commons will email you and your signing official the results of validation: whether your application passed or has errors or warnings.

Don't rely on the email—regularly check the Commons for your application's status. You, your signing official, or whomever you designate in an assistant role can do this.

Read about the assistant role in eRA Commons Roles (PDF).

How do I review errors or warnings from Commons validation?

You, your signing official, or an assistant can take the following steps:

  1. Log in to eRA Commons and click on the Status tab on the menu bar.
  2. If your application had warnings or no problems, it will appear on the hit list with an NIH accession number, e.g., AN:1234567, which will be listed along with the Grants.gov tracking number. Grants.gov calls the AN the agency tracking number.
  3. If your application had errors, it will appear on the hit list with its Grants.gov tracking number.
  4. Select your application to access the error and warning page.

If you enter an invalid Commons user ID or forget to include it, your application's status will not appear in the Commons. This is a common problem!

What are the most common errors Commons validation finds?

Go to NIH's Avoiding Common Errors.

If my application has no errors, how long do I have to review it?

After your application is in the Commons, you, your assistant, or signing official may review it until midnight EST two business days after your application passes validations. Then the Commons sends it forward for administrative review by NIH staff.

This is a complicated subject and depends on whether you have time to correct before the deadline. See Correcting Content Problems After Commons Validation in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

Always look at the application to see that it meets your expectations. This is your last chance to make sure you have addressed any important warnings that could harm your application's chances in review.

If I am not satisfied with the application, what should I do?

It depends on what's wrong with the application and on the timing. Read more at Correcting Content Problems After Commons Validation in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

If the issue concerns how the system generated the image, read What should I do if there is something wrong with the application image?

How much time do I have to make changes?

To get in by the same submission deadline and for your application to be accepted by NIH, you will need to have an error-free application image in the Commons before 5:00 p.m. local time on the day of the submission deadline. Take care not to miss the deadline. Read Correcting Content Problems After Commons Validation in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

What should I do if there is something wrong with the application image?

Talk to the eRA Commons Help Desk for advice before rejecting an application image.

Commons technical staff will help you diagnose the issue and advise you what to do about it, including whether you have to send a corrected application. See View Your Application Image in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

NIH will not penalize you for system issues.

For details on the Commons Help Desk, go to Where can I find help for eRA Commons? in Signing Up to Apply Electronically.

How much time do I get to submit a corrected application?

See How much time do I get to submit a corrected application? in the Corrected or Late Electronic Applications questions and answers.

How do I withdraw my application after the two-day review period is up?

Contact the scientific review officer listed in the Commons to withdraw your application. Read more in the Investigator Withdrawal of an Application SOP.

If I withdraw my application, does it still count as a submission?

That depends on the timing of your withdrawal.

Applications withdrawn before initial peer review do not count as a submission, while applications withdrawn after peer review do.

See the Investigator Withdrawal of an Application SOP for further information.

Does my application undergo any further checks by NIH?

Yes. After electronic validations, NIH staff in the Center for Scientific Review look over your application, as they traditionally have, and may contact you or return your application if there are problems.

They look for items such as font size that the electronic systems are not yet equipped to detect. NIH is strict about formatting and will likely return your application without a review if you do not comply with requirements.

They also check substantive items including information you are supposed to submit just-in-time when NIH requests it, e.g., other support and some human subjects requirements.

What if I don't see my application's score in the Commons after receiving a notice that it's been posted?

Call the Commons Help Desk for assistance.

Where can I find a list of Commons statuses and what they mean?

The Commons provides a list of eRA Commons Statuses and a short definition, but you may still need help decoding system terminology.

For example, you may get excited if you see a "Pending Award" status for your application. But that doesn't mean an award is in process. Contact the Commons Help Desk for advice on interpreting the system.

Where can I find more questions and answers about grant applications?

See Corrected or Late Electronic Applications for the next set of questions and answers on electronic grant applications. Also go to Applying for a Grant, Writing a Great Grant Application, and other Application questions and answers.

What if my question wasn't answered here, or I'd like to suggest a question?

Email deaweb@niaid.nih.gov with the title of this page or its URL and your question or comment. We answer questions by email and post them here. Thanks for helping us clarify and expand our knowledge base.​​

Last Updated April 02, 2014

Last Reviewed September 08, 2012