Applying Electronically - Avoiding Common Errors - Electronic Submission of Grant Applications
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Applying Electronically - Avoiding Common Errors
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Ten Checks to Help Avoid Common Errors

NIH recently examined a sample of approximately 45,000 applications received from January through April, 2010 to see which errors applicants most commonly received. Going through the final checks below will help you avoid errors and successfully submit your application! For additional help avoiding common errors check out our Annotated Forms with field-by-field tips on completing the SF424.

  1.  Does the DUNS number on the SF424 (R&R) cover form match the DUNS used for & Commons registration?

  2. Did you select the correct Type of Submission, provide the Federal Identifier, and check the Type of Application information on the SF424 (R&R) cover form?
    These three fields all work together – be sure to follow the application guide instructions carefully.

  3. Did you include the eRA Commons ID in the Credential field of the R&R Sr/Key Person Profile form for all PD/PIs?
    Including the eRA Commons ID for the PD/PIs is an NIH requirement and is critical to our ability to post errors, warnings and the assembled application image in eRA Commons. The credential field is not marked required on the federal-wide form since not all agencies that use the form need this field. NIH uses the Health and Human Services logo within the application guide to flag agency-specific instructions and clarifications for fields on federal-wide forms. Pay special attention to the HHS “birdie”  or you may miss key NIH requirements.

  4. If submitting a Multiple-PD/PI application, did you give all PIs the PD/PI role on the Sr/Key Person Profile form?
    There are several roles on the form drop-down that are similar – PD/PI, Co-PD/PI and Co-Investigator. Only the PD/PI role is recognized by NIH as the correct designation for all PIs on a multiple-PD/PI application. Using the correct designation allows the system to flag the application as multiple-PD/PI and facilitates appropriate handling of the application as it flows through review and other post-submission activities. Co-PD/PI or Co-Investigator roles hold no special meaning within NIH and should never be used with a multiple-PD/PI application. They are, however, valid roles on the form and you can use them for a single-PD/PI application. You may receive a Warning indicating the role is not appropriate for Multiple-PD/PI applications, but if Multiple-PD/PI was not your intent, then no action is necessary – simply ignore the Warning.

  5. Did you include Organization name for all Sr/Key listed on the R&R Sr/Key Person Profile form?
    The Organization name for each Sr/Key is one element used to determine potential conflicts for review. For this reason, we require applicants to provide Organization information for ALL Sr/key entries. Again, this field is not marked required on the federal-wide forms. The Organization for the Contact PD/PI is pulled from the SF424 (R&R) cover, but you’re on your own for the other Sr/Key entries and will want to double-check to ensure Organization is included.
  1. Did you include all required attachments?
    Often attachments are conditionally required based on how an applicant fills out specific questions. Here are a couple of examples:
    • Answering ‘Yes’ to the Human Subjects question on the R&R Other Project Information form makes the attachments in the Human Subjects section of the PHS 398 Research Plan required. Similarly, if you answer ‘Yes’ to the Vertebrate Animals question, then the Vertebrate Animals attachment is required.
    • If you have more than one entry on the R&R Sr/Key Person Profile form with the role of “PD/PI,” then the Multiple PD/PI Leadership Plan attachment on the PHS 398 Research Plan form is required.
  2. Are all your attachments in PDF format? will allow other document formats, but PDF is an NIH requirement. Use simple PDF-formatted files for ALL attachments. See PDF Guidelines.

  3. Did you follow the page limits specified in the FOA and application guide?

  4. Did you include effort > 0 for all Sr/Key listed on the R&R Budget form?
    It is not necessary to list every person from the R&R Sr/Key Person Profile form in the Sr/Key section of the R&R budget form. For the entries you do list, however, you must provide measureable effort using the Calendar Months OR a combination of Academic and Summer Month categories. Too little effort information (i.e., blanks or zeros in all three month categories) or too much information (i.e., providing non-zero values in Calendar Months and any other month category) will result in an error. For information about calculating person months, see

  5. Did you follow all special instructions noted in Section IV. Application and Submission Information of the announcement?
    The eRA validations will catch many, but not all, submission requirements. FOA-specific requirements are not typically system-enforced. Applications that do not comply with the instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

Two Important Points to Remember:

  • Submitting early remains the best way to ensure successful submission.
  • Resources to help avoid common errors should never be used in place of the Application Guide or Funding Opportunity Announcement. 

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Avoiding Common Warnings
  1. Role of Co-PD/PI not used by NIH
    The role of 'Co-PD/PI', indicated for Senior/Key Person on the Senior/Key Person page, is not used by NIH. For multiple Principal Investigators, use the PD/PI role. Otherwise, select another role.

  2. No degrees submitted for PD/PI
    No degrees have been submitted for the PD/PI. If you want the degrees to be displayed on the face page of the application image, you should include them on the SF 424 (R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile form.

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How To Submit A Corrected Application

eRA-identified errors stop the application from processing and must be corrected in order for the application to move forward in the submission process. (Note: eRA-identified warnings do not stop the application from further processing and may be corrected at the applicant’s discretion.) See our Detailed Steps for Correcting eRA Errors/Warnings for more information.

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This page last updated on November 8, 2012
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