Office of Research, UC Riverside
Sponsored Programs Administration

Electronic Research Administration

Common Errors and Warning for NIH Proposals Submitted Through Grants.gov

Background

While many of the 26 Federal grant-making agencies have transitioned to the Grants.gov application format, NIH implemented a unique two-step process that utilizes Grants.gov and the NIH eRA Commons for the application submission process. As a result of this two-step process, applications that are approved and validated by Grants.gov as complete may still be rejected by the NIH due to formatting issues or content concerns. Once an application has been validated by Grants.gov, the application is obtained by the NIH and placed in the NIH eRA Commons for validation. The validation process completed by the eRA Commons focuses on NIH-specific validation rules, which differs from the rules utilized in the Grants.gov validation process. Upon completion of the eRA Commons validation process, a list of errors or warnings may be returned to the Principal Investigator and the Sponsored Programs office.

When reviewing the list of errors or warnings returned for an application, it is important to note there is a distinct difference in the terminology used.

  • Errors will result in the application being rejected by the NIH, and therefore, applications must be corrected and resubmitted through Grants.gov.
  • Warnings, however, do not result in the application being rejected by the NIH.

It is up to the PI's discretion to determine whether a warning should be corrected by submission of a corrected application. If a PI would like to stop the application process and submit a corrected application, the PI must notify their Contract and Grant Officer in Sponsored Programs officer within 48 hours of the application being made available in the NIH eRA Commons and prior to the submission deadline.

Based on past experience with this new two-step process for NIH applications, the following list of common errors and warnings has been developed to aid Principal Investigators in preparing their applications.

Common Errors

The Commons Username, ERA COMMONS, specified for the PD/PI, is not a recognized Commons account. - Error (A similar error is received when the Credentials field is left blank, and an eRA Commons username is not included.)

When preparing applications, care must be taken to complete the required fields as described in the NIH Grants.gov Application Guide SF424 (R&R). All applications must include the NIH eRA Commons Username for the Principal Investigator entered in the "Credential" data field of the Research &Related Senior/Key Person page. This field is easily overlooked, as it is not a required field for completion for all 26 federal grant-making agencies, and an error is not generated during the "Check" process of Grants.gov applications. If this error should be displayed, the application will not be processed by NIH, and the application must be resubmitted. If the application is being resubmitted after the established NIH deadline, a cover letter must be included with the application to identify the reason for the resubmission.

The coverletter.pdf attachment has editable fields. PDF attachments must not include editable fields. Help with PDF attachments can be found at http://era.nih.gov/ElectronicReceipt/pdf_guidelines.htm . - Error (A similar error is received when the format of attachments are not pdf.)

When preparing applications, care must be taken to complete the required fields as described in the NIH Grants.gov Application Guide SF424 (R&R). If this error should be displayed, the application will not be processed by NIH, and the application must be resubmitted. If the application is being resubmitted after the established NIH deadline, a cover letter must be included with the application to identify the reason for the resubmission.

When the question "Are Vertebrate Animals Used" is answered "Yes," you must provide either (1) animal welfare assurance number + IACUC approval date, (2) animal welfare assurance number + an indication that IACUC approval is pending OR (3) the word 'None". - Error (A similar error is received when the "Are Human Subjects Involved" question is answered "Yes", but the relevant answers to the additional human subjects questions are not provided.)

When preparing applications, care must be taken to complete the required fields as described in the NIH Grants.gov Application Guide SF424 (R&R). If this error should be displayed, the application will not be processed by NIH, and the application must be resubmitted. If the application is being resubmitted after the established NIH deadline, a cover letter must be included with the application to identify the reason for the resubmission.

For new applications and resubmission, the modular budget year 1 start date must be the same as the proposed project start date listed on the SF 424 RR Face Page. - Error (Similar error messages have been received for non-modular budget pages.)

When preparing applications, care must be taken to complete the required fields as described in the NIH Grants.gov Application Guide SF424 (R&R). Consistency among several different forms may be required. In addition, if both a modular budget page and a non-modular budget page have had data entered, an error will be received due to duplicate information. Users can utilize the "Reset Entries" button on the budget page forms to clear forms that should not be used.

If this error should be displayed, the application will not be processed by NIH, and the application must be resubmitted. If the application is being resubmitted after the established NIH deadline, a cover letter must be included with the application to identify the reason for the resubmission.

Common Warnings

The Research Plan is limited to 15 pages. This may span 18 pages due to page breaks but the total space occupied by text should not exceed 15 pages. - Warning

When preparing applications, care must be taken to complete the required fields as described in the NIH Grants.gov Application Guide SF424 (R&R) and any supplemental information provided in Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs). Some page limitations may be exceeded due to white space created in an assembled application package that is created from multiple data entry fields as part of the application format. The PI should determine whether the page limitation was exceeded, or whether this warning is a result of this unique assembly process. As this is only a warning, a PI may decide to reject the proposal and resubmit after corrections are made, or to proceed with the application, as is.

The PD/PI position/title, Professor, does not match those listed on the Commons account: PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR. The grant image will display the position/title as submitted here. - Warning

Principal Investigators should review their personal profile in the NIH eRA Commons prior to proposal submission, in order to ensure the profile contains accurate information. The validation process compares the PI's personal profile in the NIH eRA Commons to the information contained within data fields in the application. When the information does not match, the warning above is returned. As this is only a warning, a PI may decide to reject the proposal and resubmit after corrections are made, or to proceed with the application, as is.

The PD/PI degree, PhD Biomed, is not one of the degrees listed for the NIH eRA Commons account: [username of investigator]. The grant image will display the degrees as submitted here. - Warning

Principal Investigators should review their personal profile in the NIH eRA Commons prior to proposal submission, in order to ensure the profile contains accurate information. The validation process compares the PI's personal profile in the NIH eRA Commons to the information contained within data fields in the application. When the information does not match, the warning above is returned. As this is only a warning, a PI may decide to reject the proposal and resubmit after corrections are made, or to proceed with the application, as is.

The name provided for the PD/PI, Peter Anteater, does not match the name listed on the Commons account: [username of investigator]. The grant image will display the degrees as submitted here. - Warning

Principal Investigators should review their personal profile in the NIH eRA Commons prior to proposal submission, in order to ensure the profile contains accurate information. The validation process compares the PI's personal profile in the NIH eRA Commons to the information contained within data fields in the application. When the information does not match, the warning above is returned. As this is only a warning, a PI may decide to reject the proposal and resubmit after corrections are made, or to proceed with the application, as is.

If appropriate for your organization, please supply a department for the PD/PI. - Warning (A similar warning has been received in reference to the division field.)

When completing the SF424 (R&R) cover page, provide the department (or division) for the administering unit. These fields are often left blank, as Grants.gov does not require data to be entered in the field in order to validate the application. Please note that the information provided in this field may or may not match information contained in the PI's personal profile, which may result in an error similar to those above. As this is only a warning, a PI may decide to reject the proposal and resubmit after corrections are made, or to proceed with the application, as is.

The Animal Welfare Assurance Number entered in the application does not match what is on file for your organization. There are rare cases where this is permissible. Please make sure that the correct number is entered. If not, correct and resubmit. - Warning (A similar warning has been received regarding the human subjects assurance number.)

When completing the application, our Animal Welfare Assurance Number should be entered as A3439-01. Ensure that the character "-"is not entered as a period. When the warning references the Federalwide Assurance (FWA) Number, ensure the number is entered as 00001965. Do not include FWA at the beginning of the number. As this is only a warning, a PI may decide to reject the proposal and resubmit after corrections are made, or to proceed with the application, as is.