Office of Research, UC Riverside
Sponsored Programs Administration

Steps for Submitting NIH Proposals via Grants.gov and the NIH eRA Commons

Step 1 - Prepare

  • Electronic submission of a NIH proposal involves two separate systems working together - Grants.gov and eRA Commons.  The University is already registered in both systems.  The Principal Investigator need only register in eRA Commons.
  • If you do not already have a NIH eRA Commons username, please contact Ursula Prins at ursula.prins@ucr.edu in Sponsored Programs, who will assist in registering you with a PI Account.  The registration at NIH can take up to 4 weeks or more and must be completed before the submission deadline, so start early.
  • Download a Grants.gov compatible version of Adobe Reader (version 8.1.3 or higher) onto your computer, if you have not previously done so. You may click here to verify if your Adobe software version is compatible with Grants.gov.  The compatible version of Adobe Reader is available to download for free on the Grants.gov Download Software page.  Note:  If you have Adobe Acobat Professional software, it may be used; however, it must be comparable to the Grants.gov compatible version of Adobe Reader.
  • Learn how to create a PDF document.  NIH requires that all application attachments be submitted in PDF format.  While other formats may be allowed through Grants.gov, formats other than PDF are not accepted by NIH. Users must have PDF creation software installed in order to create the necessary PDFs.  Grants.gov has published a list of recommended PDF Guidelines to assist you in obtaining the necessary software. To avoid PDF problems, keep these guidelines in mind.

Step 2 - Download Application File

  • For solicited applications, locate your Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on Grants.gov at http://www07.grants.gov/applicants/find_grant_opportunities.jsp. Once you have found the grant opportunity for which you wish to apply by entering specific search criteria, click the Application button in the grant opportunity synopsis.
  • For unsolicited applications, locate your Parent Funding Opportunity Announcement at
    http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/parent_announcements.htm.
  • Download the complete application and application instructions, and save to your desktop. Downloading a grant application package allows you to complete it offline and route it through your organization for review before the proposal is submitted by Sponsored Programs.

Step 3 - Complete

  • Complete the application in accordance with the FOA, application specific instructions, and the Grants.gov SF424 (R&R) Application Guide for NIH and Other PHS Agencies. (Please note that instructions in the FOA supersede those found in the application guide.) Be sure to save any changes to your application as you go since Grants.gov will NOT automatically save changes.
    • Enter a name for the application in the Application Filing Name field.  This name is for use solely by the applicant for tracking the application through the Grants.gov submission process.  It is not used by the NIH.
    • Open and complete all of the documents listed in the Mandatory Documents box.  Complete the component titled SF424 (R&R) first.  Data entered in this component populates other mandatory and optional forms where applicable.
    • As required documents are completed, move the document(s) from the Mandatory Documents box over to the Mandatory Documents for Submission box by clicking on the document name and then click Move Form to Completed.
    • As optional documents are completed, move the document(s) from the Optional Documents box to the Optional Documents for Submission box by clicking on the document name and then click Move Form to Completed.
  • After you have completed all of the required and optional documents, and attached any required documents (in PDF format), click the Check Packages for Errors button to ensure that you have successfully completed all required data fields in the Adobe Reader forms.  If any of the required fields are not completed, you will receive an error notice which will indicate where revision is needed within your package. 
  • When no errors are present, click the Save button at the top of the application cover page.
  • Complete UCR's electronic Campus Approval Form (eCAF).  The eCAF is used for the routing, approval and submission of proposals to Sponsored Programs when seeking extramural funding.  The eCAF contains critical information needed by several UCR constituents, such as PIs, Co-PIs, Chairs, Deans, and Research and Economic Development staff. It also documents certain mandatory PI certifications and assurances.
  • Note:  An eCAF can be initiated by either a PI or a Contract & Grant Analyst.  Whichever the case, preparing an eCAF is a joint endeavor by a PI and a Contract & Grant Analyst, both of whom have an important role in the process (see eCAF Approval Process). You may create an eCAF by selecting it from your Authorized Applications section in R'Space.  For further assistance and information, see eCAF.

Step 4 - Submit

  • Submit your eCAF, FOA, and electronic application file to Sponsored Programs.
  • Sponsored Programs reviews the full proposal package and may provide comments and/or request corrections.  It is recommended that you provide Sponsored Programs with such documents for review at least three (3) full business days prior to NIH's deadline (or seven (7) full business days in the event this is a non-standard proposal involving subcontracts or mandatory cost sharing), and work with the office on clarifying issues during this time.
  • Sponsored Programs submits final application to Grants.gov and a confirmation screen will appear on the computer screen of the authorized institutional official once the submission is complete. Sponsored Programs e-mails the confirmation (including the Grants.gov tracking number) to the Principal Investigator.  Once your application has been submitted, you can check the status on the Track My Application page using the tracking number.
  • Grants.gov validates the application and, if approved, allows NIH access to the application.
  • NIH accesses the application and transfers it to the NIH eRA Commons for NIH validation and error checking.

Step 5 - View

  • Within 48 hours, the applicant should receive notification that the application is available for review in the NIH eRA Commons, at which time you should access the application by logging into eRA Commons. 
    • Applicants will receive multiple emails regarding the status of their submission. Since e-mail can be unreliable, applicants must proactively check the eRA Commons for the status of their application if they do not receive e-mail notifications within a day of submission.
  • If application is satisfactory with no errors were detected, no further action is required.

Step 6 - Review/Correct

  • If the application contains errors, the applicant will be notified in the eRA Commons.  The applicant must make required changes/corrections to the original Grants.gov application file. (See How Do I Correct Errors During the Application Submission Process? for further information.)
  • If the application contains warnings, decide whether or not the warnings warrant submission of a corrected application.
  • Repeat Steps 4-6 for submission of corrected applications prior to the proposal submission deadline.  Error-free applications must be submitted to Grants.gov by 5 p.m. local time (of the applicant institution/organization) on the submission/receipt date. If the submission/receipt date falls on a weekend or Federal holiday, the date will automatically extend to the next business day.