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NIH Office of the Director (OD)

Office of Extramural Research (OER)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Megan Columbus

NIH Rolls Out Electronic Grant Submission

Stacks and stacks of grant application packages on paper will soon be a thing of the past at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as it readies to receive grant applications electronically through the federal portal of Grants.gov, marking a major change in the way it has traditionally conducted its grants submission business.

Instead, bits and bytes will be part of the new grant submission lexicon at NIH as it launches a new state-of-the-art way for applicants to submit their grant applications electronically. Beginning with the receipt date of Dec. 1, 2005, NIH will require all its SBIR/STTR grant applicants to electronically submit their competing grants. NIH plans to transition all of its competing grant programs one by one from paper to electronic by May 2007. NIH’s electronic submission timeline is available at http://era.nih.gov/ElectronicReceipt.

Electronic submission and grants administration will result in significant savings to the government and holds promise for shortening the time period from grant submission to award. NIH expects to eliminate approximately 200 million pieces of paper a year and reduce the costs of scanning, data entry, data validation, printing, and reproduction. Grant images will be very clear and in color. Efficiencies gained will benefit both NIH and its partner institutions.

Even as it switches from paper to electronic submission, NIH is also moving simultaneously from its PHS398 application form to the new SF424 (R&R) application form. Every application via Grants.gov to NIH will need to come in on the new SF424 (R&R) form. An applicant will fill out the application package and upload it to Grants.gov; the NIH system will then retrieve it and produce a system-generated application online.

NIH officially began its conversion from paper to electronic on October 18, when it posted its first SBIR/STTR grant solicitations on Grants.gov, requiring applicants to download and submit electronic SF424 Research and Related (R&R) grant applications through the federal site.

According to Funding Opportunity Numbers PA-06-006 (http://fedgrants.gov/Applicants/HHS/NIH/NIH/PA-06-006/Grant.html) and PA-06-007 (http://fedgrants.gov/Applicants/HHS/NIH/NIH/PA-06-007/Grant.html), effective for the December 1, 2005 submission date, Small Business Research Innovation Program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) grant applicants for non-AIDS-related grants must submit SF424 (R&R) application packages through Grants.gov. NIH will no longer accept paper applications for these grant programs.

NIH announced its plans to phase in its new application process in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts on August 19 (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-05-067.html). There will be specific notices preceding the conversion of each grant program (a.k.a. mechanism). All competing applications will use the new form and process by May 2007.

"Since computers came on the scene in the 1970's, NIH has been committed to using information technology to improve the grants administration process," said Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH deputy director for Extramural Research. "We fully support the federal initiative, launched in 1999 by Public Law 106-107, to simplify federal financial assistance application requirements and create a single website to apply for federal assistance. Now applicants will benefit from having a single federal interface for finding opportunities and submitting applications online using a single form and process."

NIH urges grantees to begin preparing for electronic submission as soon as possible. Institutions must register with Grants.gov. Institutions and principal investigators (PIs) must establish NIH eRA Commons accounts.

Applicant organizations that choose electronic forms-based submission need to download PureEdge™ software, available free-of-charge from Grants.gov. Alternatively, to establish a system-to-system data exchange solution, institutions should contact Grants.gov or partner with an authorized Service Provider that already has developed a Grants.gov interface.

The transition to electronic submission will be a huge change for NIH and grantees alike. The success of this initiative depends on the full cooperation of NIH extramural staff, other federal agencies, and NIH partners in the research community. “I encourage you to learn about the upcoming changes, to inform and educate your colleagues, and to urge them to prepare for electronic submission,” concludes Dr. Ruiz Bravo.

The following resources are available to assist the NIH grantee community with the transition to the electronic SF424 (R&R) application process:

The Office of Extramural Research (OER), within the NIH Office of the Director, serves as the focal point for policies and guidelines for extramural research grants administration. This office has primary responsibility for the development and implementation of NIH Grants Policy, monitoring of compliance with PHS policy on Humane Use and Care of Laboratory Animals, coordination of program guidelines, and development and maintenance of the information systems for grants administration. For more information about OER, visit http://grants2.nih.gov/grants/oer.htm.

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

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