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General Info and Planning for Electronic Applications Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

General Info


General Info

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

Which NIH funding opportunities are published as FOAs?

For any application you submit to NIH, you will apply through a funding opportunity announcement (FOA). NIH lists all its opportunities in as funding opportunity announcements (FOA). posts FOAs from virtually the entire federal government.

However, is not the easiest way to find opportunities. We list NIAID's on our NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

NIH publishes announcements with additional information and instructions in the NIH Guide. See What's the best way to find NIH funding opportunities? in our Funding Opportunity Announcements Questions and Answers.

Who are the people I will deal with for electronic application?

Your organization has a business official for calls this person the authorized organizational representative (AOR). Your AOR submits your application to and receives email notifications about its status.

While you submit to, your application then moves to NIH for processing here. The business official for may or may not be the same person who serves as the NIH eRA Commons signing official, who handles all interactions with the Commons.

Outside your organization, you can get help from or eRA Commons. For details and additional questions, go to Signing Up to Apply Electronically Questions and Answers.

How do authorized organizational representatives get their privileges?

A staff member of your organization, the e-business point of contact, approves one or more authorized organizational representatives to submit applications on behalf of your organization.

How do I get news about electronic application?

Sign up for NIH's Electronic Application Listserv at Get Connected. Sign up for the NIAID Funding News at the Subscription Center.

Where can I find resources to explain electronic application?

See our Application portal.

Where can I find resources to help me write my application?

Go to the Strategy for NIH Funding for information.

NIAID also posts examples of exceptional funded applications at Samples and Examples.

Find more resources on the All About Grants Tutorials main page.

Where can I find help for

Call the Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726, 24 hours a day, 7days a week, except for federal holidays.

Where can I find help for eRA Commons?

Call the Commons Help Desk at 301-402-7469 or 1-866-504-9552 (toll free) or 301-451-5939 (TTY) Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET. You may submit a web ticket to the Commons through the eRA Help Desk Online Service Requests form. You can also visit the eRA commons training Web page for guidance and tutorials.


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

How should I begin preparing for electronic application?

Plan on allowing two months or more of dedicated time to prepare for a simple R01, e.g., one that does not include vertebrate animals or human subjects.

Make sure all registrations are in place—see Get Ready Now to Apply Electronically in the Strategy for NIH Funding and Signing Up to Apply Electronically Questions and Answers. Even before they are, you can begin preparing:

  • Work in stages—complete the parts you can, e.g., the Research Plan, on your computer.
  • You can start using the ASSIST forms or the application package on the open date; forms may appear there even before the open date.
  • Find out about your internal deadlines. Talk to the people in your business office. Your institution may need your application weeks or even months before your receipt date to process, sign, and submit it.
  • Also ask your business office about your local technical processes. Check if you will apply using the ASSIST forms, application package, or a service provider.

Read more in Prepare to Submit in the Strategy for NIH Funding and Preparing Your Electronic Application Questions and Answers.

Use NIH's Annotated SF 424 Grant Application Forms for field-by-field information to avoid common mistakes.

How should I plan my submission timing?

Factor in plenty of time for submitting, and possibly correcting and resubmitting, your application.

  • Ask your business office how much time it needs for the submission. For a basic grant application package, start filling out the forms at least two weeks before that deadline.
  • Allow at least two weeks to submit to and eRA Commons, including time to resolve any errors.
    • Most people fail validations at least once.
    • With each failure, you start the application process over.
    • It can take up to two business days to get through either system.
    • Plan to have your institution submit a month before the receipt date in case issues crop up. Avoid applying or having to resubmit around the deadline.
      • As the due date approaches, and the Commons may get bogged down by NIH applicants as well as those from other agencies, and response times will be slow.
      • There may also be overlapping due dates you don't know about, so avoid a last minute application and plan ahead.

See these resources for more advice:

When are the deadlines?

You can submit your application anytime between the open date and the deadline stated in the NIH Guide announcement. If a deadline lands on a weekend or federal holiday, it moves to the next business day.

The FOA lists a closing date, which is actually when the FOA expires. This can be misleading for program announcements (PA), which are often issued for three years. Apply for a PA using Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.

To avoid a late application, your application must pass validation by 5:00 p.m. your institution's local time on the due date listed in the funding opportunity announcement. Later, you have a chance to reject the application image in the eRA Commons.

  • Your business official for, the authorized organizational representative, submits your application by 5:00 p.m. your institution's local time by the due date.
  • immediately gives your application a time stamp and tracking number. Any processing after that does not affect the submission time. Make sure you receive a verification email from that states when it received your grant application.
  • After your application passes NIH validation, your Commons signing official has two business days to reject the application image. If not rejected, the application moves forward to NIH review.

You should be watching the Commons so you know when your application has passed validation. Don't rely on the email notification or your busy business office staff.

See Prepare to Submit in the Strategy for NIH Funding, Late Applications SOP, and Corrected or Late Electronic Applications Questions and Answers.

Do all applications go through

All electronic application data go through before reaching NIH, even if your organization is using ASSIST forms or a service provider. Check locally to find out how to apply at your institution and see Prepare to Submit in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

What do service providers do?

Service providers offer a range of products and services including systems using HTML-based forms and PDF attachments that populate fields from individual and institutional profiles.

They provide customer support and workflow controls and may offer tools for managing awards and reporting. Find out if your organization is using a service provider.

If your institution decides to use a service provider, the institution should allow plenty of lead time for installation and training as well as application submission. Find NIH's list of Service Providers.

If your organization decides not to use a service provider or custom system, you'll use ASSIST forms or the application package.

How do I know if my computer and software are compatible?

Check the instructions at's Recommended Software. Install the software early, so you can preview the application forms. Then you can fill out the ASSIST forms or the application package.

Why can't I open the PDFs?

If you're having trouble opening PDF documents—for example, those posted at SF 424 Application and Electronic Submission Information—you may have an old PDF reader. Try upgrading to the latest version of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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

Email 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 March 31, 2016

Last Reviewed July 27, 2015