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Signing Up to Apply Electronically Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

What registrations must be in place for electronic application?

The first steps for electronic application are a series of registrations. Most are one time only (rather than annual). See the Registration Instructions for Domestic and Foreign Organizations.

Roles differ in different types of organizations:

  • If you are an investigator in an institution with staff who sign off for grants, e.g., in a grants business office:
    • You need an account only in the eRA Commons not
    • Your organization has delegated authority to staff for and the Commons. Different people may perform and Commons functions. You will interact with them when you apply.
  • If your institution doesn't have staff who sign off for grants, you will be filling multiple roles:

How does an organization register with

Registration is complex. Follow the instructions at Plan Ahead for Electronic Application and Registration Instructions for Domestic and Foreign Organizations.

How do a PI and organization register with the Commons?

Both organizations and investigators must have eRA Commons accounts.

After those accounts are set up, you have the option of designating another Commons-registered person in an assistant role who can see your application's status. Read about the assistant role in eRA Commons Roles (PDF), and find out how to designate someone by reading the eRA Commons User Guides.

If I am affiliated with more than one institution, do I need separate PI accounts in the Commons?

No. As a PI, you need only one account, which stays with you no matter where you go. If you move to another institution, a business official there can affiliate your account with that institution. Since your account is personal, you must keep it up to date.

When you log in to the Commons, the system will retrieve information about all your applications regardless of institution.

You would need two accounts only if your organization asks you to serve as both the signing official and a PI.

See Plan Ahead for Electronic Application and visit Electronic Submission for more information.

I am part of a multiple PI application, but my collaborator’s institution applied for the grant. Do I need an eRA Commons account? How do I get one?

Yes, you need an eRA Commons account. Check with your institution's business officials; they may already have a Commons account for your organization and can set one up for you.

If not, your institution would need to register with eRA Commons and then set up your account. Learn more at eRA’s Registering Institutions and Organizations.

Now, suppose you are serving as key personnel but not in a PD/PI role: In that case, you would not need a Commons account at the time of submission but once funded you would need an account if your effort is included in a progress report.

Also, an eRA Commons ID is required for anyone with a postdoctoral, graduate, or undergraduate role who worked at least one person month per year during the reporting period. The Commons ID is required for people supported by a reentry or diversity supplement, too.

For all other project personnel, the Commons ID is strongly encouraged but currently optional. Read 6.4 Section D—Participants in the NIH and Other PHS Agency Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) Instruction Guide for more details.

Do foreign institutions go through the, eRA Commons, System for Award Management, and DUNS steps?

Yes. Foreign institutions go through all the same steps. See definitions for DUNS and System for Award Management as well as eRA Commons and

For more information on registering, see the following:

How long do the registrations take?

Allow at least four weeks before the due date for the whole process—see R01 Planning to Award Timeline by Review Cycle.

If you started eRA Commons registration at least two weeks before the submission date, NIH will not penalize for you an NIH-caused delay.

If that happens, follow procedures for late submissions—see Corrected or Late Electronic Applications questions and answers. State the reason the application is late in the cover letter component.

How do I know if my organization is registered with

On the For Applicants page, your authorized organizational representative (AOR) for can check if your organization is registered to apply for grants. AORs can also check the status of applications sent using the downloadable application package and manage profiles there.

If you applied using ASSIST forms instead, your AOR can check the status of applications there instead.

How do I know if I am registered with the Commons?

For PIs, after your Commons signing official creates an account for you, the Commons will email you to verify your profile and send you login information. If you are still unsure, email tech support at

To see if your organization has a DUNS number or if your DUNS number matches the one in Commons, go to List of Grantee Organizations Registered in eRA Commons.

Can my organization use an existing DUNS number?

Yes, but only if the DUNS number is used for grant applications. Most applicant organizations have one. See the List of Grantee Organizations Registered in eRA Commons.

As an NIH reviewer, can I use my own DUNS registrations?

No. You must use your organization's DUNS data.

Do I need to enter a DUNS number for a subaward organization?

Yes. For details on what to do if the organization has no number, see Is a DUNS number required for every subaward/consortium organization? question in NIH's Frequently Asked Questions.

Do organizations with subawards (subcontracts) need to register with Commons or


Where can I find help for

Contact the Contact Center. Learn more about who can help you and when at Communicating With NIAID—How to Get Help.

Where can I find help for eRA Commons?

Contact the eRA Service Desk. Learn more about who can help you and when at Communicating With NIAID—How to Get Help. See the eRA commons training Web site for guidance and tutorials.

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

See General Info and Planning for Electronic Applications and Funding Opportunity Announcements for the next sets 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 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 July 27, 2015

Last Reviewed July 27, 2015