September 19, 2013

Reminder: NIH FORMS-C application packages for 9/25/13-and-after deadlines

It is a busy time with upcoming NIH deadlines! As you are working away toward the submission finish line, please take a moment to make sure you are using the correct application package for each proposal. As noted below and in NOT-OD-13-074, NIH has transitioned to updated electronic application forms packages—from FORMS-B to FORMS-C—for most (but not all) programs with due dates on or after September 25. If you are unsure whether or not you have the right one, please don’t hesitate to contact your SGCA. We are happy to help.

  • If presented with more than one forms package, applicants should download and use the most recent set of forms to complete their submission.
  • Return to FOAs posted without a forms package or existing FOAs with ADOBE-FORMS-B1 or B2 packages 45-60 days prior to the deadline to obtain the FORMS-C package. 
  • Verify you have the correct application package by checking the Competition ID for FORMS-C. The Competition ID field can be found when downloading the application package from, in the application header information of the downloaded package or in the ASSIST FOA summary information for multi-project applications.
  • All applicants should carefully read their FOA and the appropriate “C Series” Application Guide for program-specific instructions before completing their application. 

NIH eSubmission Items of Interest - August 21, 2013

Gearing Up for FORMS-C

Are you ready for our move to updated electronic application forms (FORMS-C)?

We’ve been busy preparing for our transition to updated application forms for most grant programs (NOT-OD-13-074).  Our FOAs now have FORMS-C application packages and old B1 and B2 packages have been set to expire.

Here are some updated resources you may want to check out:
·         Updated FAQs for Application Forms Updates and Choosing the Correct Forms
o   Pay special attention to the FAQs on choosing the appropriate forms for applications submitted for the September 9 AIDS deadline and under the continuous submission policy
·         New Application Guides for Forms Version C in both Word and PDF format
·         Annotated Form resources for C Series applications
Watch out for the dreaded ‘The Closing Date of the grant opportunity for which you have applied has already passed and the grantor agency is no longer accepting applications.’ message from This message is sent under multiple conditions. In addition to being sent after an FOA has closed/expired, also gives this error when the FOA is still active but the application is submitted using a forms package attached to the FOA that has closed or not yet open. Basically, if you use B packages too late or C packages too early, you may get that message.

If you are submitting to one of the few NIH programs (Fellowship, Career Development, Training and Small Business) that aren’t moving to FORMS-C yet, use the B package available with your FOA. Otherwise…please, please, please use B application packages for due dates before September 25, 2013 and C packages for due dates on/after September 25, 2013.

ASSIST Has Lots to Say

My dad is a collector of quotes. He keeps long lists of them and every year at Christmas he presents me with a bundle of purple day planner pages with my name on the top, a little picture of Tigger in the corner (I’m a huge Tigger fan), and one of the quotes across the bottom. I am blessed to be able to face each day with a little ‘hug’ from my dad.

Last Tuesday (the day I gave the ASSIST webinar), this was the quote I saw…

       ‘You can promote and explain a software product, but it eventually speaks for itself.’

Sometimes dad has really freaky timing! After all the requirements gathering, system building, pilot conducting, feedback gathering and system tweaking, it’s finally time to let ASSIST speak for itself.

The September 25, 2013 due date for multi-project P01, P20, P50, U19, P2C and U2C is just around the corner (note P2C and U2C are new activity codes that will be used as the multi-project equivalent of R24 and U24). Many of you are likely getting into ASSIST for the first time to prepare your applications.

Here’s a list of handy ASSIST Links & Resources:
       Slides and recording of August 13 webinar:
       ASSIST Online help:
       Application Guide:
Be sure to check out the new section in the application guide on Multi-project applications.
       Applying Electronically Website for Multi-project Applications:
       Description of how your multi-project application image will be assembled:
       Multi-project Application Demonstration Resources:

Yesterday I asked a pilot applicant what advice she’d pass along to new ASSIST users. Denise is a wise woman...
·         Don’t get overwhelmed by the data entry for all the components and forms. Take it one component at a time and treat each component like a stand-alone single project application.
·         Once all the data entry is complete it takes time to finalize each component and go through the appropriate steps and statuses to prepare the application for submission. You can’t wait until the last minute.
·         Be prepared for an onslaught of emails.
I must admit that we did get a bit carried away with the email notifications and we know we still need to make some changes in that area. Yes, sometimes ASSIST has too much to say.

Size Matters

For nearly a decade our application guides have included specific formatting instructions for documents included with applications. We’ve been very specific on such things as the font type (Arial, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype, or Georgia), font size (11 points or larger), type density (15 characters per inch), line spacing (no more than six lines per inch), margins (at least one-half inch on top bottom, left and right) and paper size (standard paper size of 8.5 x 11 inches).

If you forgot (or never knew) that last bit about paper size and you submitted an application after July 18, then our systems may have reminded you with the following error message:

Filename <filename> cannot be larger than U.S. standard Letter paper size of 8.5 x 11 inches. Please see our PDF guidelines at  for additional information. (0.1.7) 

We set formatting requirements for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important one being our strict page limits for Introduction, Specific Aims, Research Strategy and other documents.

Before July we did not systematically enforce the 8.5 x 11 inch paper size. In some cases, our systems even resized documents to the appropriate size for you. Consequently, we had cases where applications got through our systems that were returned post-submission because of incorrect page size or because, after system resizing, the font was no longer in the acceptable range. Applicants were upset because our validations did not catch the issues up front and provide the opportunity to make corrections before the deadline. So, we implemented the systematic enforcement of 8.5 x 11 paper size.

What we didn’t realize was just how many documents we receive that are larger (often very slightly) than 8.5 x 11 inches. The most common offenders – Letters of Support, Cover Letters, Appendices and other places where scanning or concatenating from a variety of sources is common. You all apparently do a good job at self-policing paper size for the documents with page limits (kudos to you).

So, here’s what we are going to do…we will continue to systematically enforce paper size. However, we will not throw an error until the file is well out of range (bigger than 9 x 12 or 12 x 9 inches). NIH staff will continue to strictly enforce 8.5 x 11 inches for the attachments with page limits. We are phasing out the resizing of documents. If you submit an attachment that is bigger than 8.5 x 11 inches and the assembled image doesn’t look quite right (e.g., text falls of the page or our footers overwrite some of your text) we will not consider it a system issue and will not allow corrections after the deadline.  As always, we highly recommend submitting early and carefully checking your application image in eRA Commons before the deadline when corrections are still possible.

We plan to have the validation change in place by the end of this week (August 23, 2013) for applications that use FORMS-B application packages and by the end of next week (August 30, 2013) for applications that use FORMS-C application packages. We have taken steps through timing and monitoring to ensure that all applications for the same opportunity/due date have equal systematic enforcement of business rules.

We have not changed our policy. We still expect a paper size of 8.5 x 11 inches or 11 x 8.5 inches  for all attachments (yes, landscape is OK as long as you keep it to 11 x 8.5). We just want to acknowledge that size matters, but it matters more for some documents than others. We think this is a compromise we can all move forward with.

September 9, 2013

Communication – It’s essential to the grants community at MU.

Communication – It’s essential to the grants community at MU.

Are you ever confused by a new policy or uncertain of the implications of changes the federal government is considering?  We want to initiate a forum where all grants personnel on campus can feel free to gather monthly to discuss hot topics in the grants world.

The word “discussion” is key!  We’ll try to stay away from formal presentations.  You’ll be able to ask questions of the key personnel present on the current topics up for discussion. The communication lines opened by the forums will allow grants personnel to share knowledge to enable a more consistent understanding of the policies and processes.

Besides sharing ideas and promoting consistency in applying policies and procedures, this will be an excellent opportunity to network with others in the grants community.  It’s so much easier to communicate with someone once you’ve met them face-to-face.