- Application Guide
- SF424 (R&R)
- Application checks (validations)
- Where is the SF424
(R&R) Application Guide available?
The application guide can be found on OER's SF424 (R&R) Application and Electronic Submission Information page.
- Where will an applicant need to look to find
As with our current business process, there are essentially two places an applicant looks for instructions. First is the application guide. This document will be posted with every Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) posted in Grants.gov. Second is the FOA itself. Program-specific application requirements will continue to be part of the actual announcement.
- Which form will
applicants use to submit applications to HHS/CDC via Grants.gov?
Applicants will use the Standard Form (SF) 424 family of forms. SF424 consolidates grant applications, related data and forms currently used by Federal grant-making agencies to enable applicants to use familiar forms regardless of the program or agency to which they are applying. The SF424 Research & Related (R&R) will become the government-wide data set for research grant applications. The SF424 (R&R) will replace the Public Health Service (PHS) 398 form at HHS/CDC.
- What do the new forms
look like? Are samples available?
Samples of the SF424 (R&R) form are available from NIH's Forms and Applications page at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms.htm. Remember, sample forms cannot be used for submission. Applicants must use the forms package downloaded from the actual funding opportunity announcement to successfully submit a grant application.
- I heard that Grants.gov and HHS/CDC have recently
modified the SF424(R&R) application form. When will the new
application forms be available and how will I know whether to use the old
or the new forms?
Pay close attention to the "Release/Posted Date" of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).
For FOAs released/posted on or after June 15, 2006, the process is straightforward. The application packages attached to these FOAs already contain the new version of the forms.
For FOAs released/posted before June 15, 2006, but scheduled to expire after Dec. 31, 2006, the process is more complex.
HHS/CDC plans to update these FOAs with the new forms package according to the following schedule:
- By July 18 for these grant programs:
R03, R15, R21, R21/33, R33, R34, R36 and X01
- By Sept. 15 for these grant programs:
R41, R42, R43, R44, R13/U13
Once the new form packages are in place for a particular FOA, the old form packages will no longer be accepted by Grants.gov. Business offices should ensure their form package templates are updated if they are providing versions of the form packages that are pre-populated with the organization's information to Principal Investigators.
To assist you in identifying the old forms versus the new forms, HHS/CDC will label the new forms packages as "Version-2-Forms" in the Competition ID field of the forms, as shown in the screenshot below..
For the SBIR/STTR grant program (R43, R44, R41, R42) for instance, if the FOA was issued June 15, 2006 or later, applicants will use the new forms included in the application package.
If the FOA was issued prior to June 15, 2006, SBIR/STTR applicants will use the old forms until Sept. 15, 2006.
Beginning Sept.16, 2006, SBIR/STTR applicants must use the new forms even with older FOAs, unless the FOA expires on or before Dec. 31, 2006.
When do I use the new form?
Release/Posted Date of FOA Grant Mechanism Use New Forms
Before June 15, 2006*
R03, R15, R21, R21/33, R33, R34, R36 and X01
After July 18
Before June 15, 2006*
(R41, R42, R43, R44), R13/U13
After Sept. 15
On or after June 15, 2006
All application packages will contain the new forms
*Only FOAs that expire after Dec. 31, 2006
(FOAs with a posting/release date before June 15, 2006, that expire on or before Dec. 31, 2006, will be allowed to close naturally with no change to the associated form package)
Handy pointers for applicants:
- The existing and revised Application Guides will be labeled Version 1 and Version 2, respectively, on the cover page and within the footers. The FOA will continue to link you to the appropriate Application Guide.
- There will be a short period of time when both the old and new form packages will be available for download. Whenever there is a choice, the package labeled "Version-2-Forms" in the Competition ID field should be used.
- To help in the transition, HHS will develop a splash screen webpage that will alert users to select the Version-2-Forms package. However, the splash screen will be only visible when using the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts and the 'Apply for Grant Electronically' button that allows direct access to the Grants.gov application package.
- By July 18 for these grant programs:
- What components make up the SF424 (R&R) grant
The SF424 (R&R) grant package includes the following components (included components will vary by mechanism):
- R&R Application/Cover Component
- R&R Project/Performance Site Location(s) Component
- R&R Other Project Information Component
- R&R Senior/Key Person Component
- R&R Budget Component
- R&R Personal Data Component
- R&R Sub-award Budget Attachment Component
- Are SF424 components
portable? Can components be reused for other applications?
Currently there is no way to reuse the forms from one opportunity to another. Grants.gov hopes to have the functionality next year to import and export data for reuse with other applications.
- How will HHS/CDC collect information contained in
the PHS398 form that is not included in the SF424 (R&R) form set?
The SF424 accommodates agency-specific data collection. The following new application forms may be included with HHS/CDC SF424 (R&R) grant packages:
- PHS 398 Cover Letter File
- PHS 398 Cover Page Supplement
- PHS 398 Research Plan
- PHS 398 Modular Budget
- PHS 398 Checklist
- I see that some of
the application components are labeled as "PHS 398". Will the
reference to the "PHS398-specific" data elements cause confusion
to the applicants? Why not use "CDC"?
The use of the term PHS398 was chosen since that is the OMB-approved data collection instrument that gives CDC and other PHS agencies the authority to collect those specific items. Keep in mind that the data included in those components are only those items that are not included elsewhere in the SF424 (R&R). Using the more generic term PHS398 rather than "CDC" allows other HHS agencies that currently use the PHS398 to use these Grants.gov developed components, as well.
- From time-to-time new
application data requirements are necessary. What will be the process to
add such data elements to the SF424 (R&R) application?
It will now be a two level decision process. If the data requirement effects the majority of agencies using the SF424 (R&R) application, then there will be a process by which new data elements are discussed and approved for addition to the SF424 (R&R). If the data requirement affects only the CDC, then we will request Office of Management and Budget (OMB) permission to add it to the agency-specific data requirements.
- Has there been any
input from the grantee community in developing the SF424 (R&R)?
The development of the SF424 (R&R) began as a Federal-wide interagency project. Members of the Commons Working Group participated in testing of the SF424 (R&R) in May 2005 and provided feedback to HHS. HHS-wide Focus groups have actively contributed to the discussion.
- Where is the budget
In the SF424 (R&R) detailed budget component, the budget justification is item K--a PDF upload. In the PHS398 Modular budget component, budget justifications for Personnel, Consortium and Additional Narrative are requested as separate PDF uploads as part of the Cumulative Budget Information.
- Where is Other
The SF424 (R&R) Senior/Key Person component includes an attachment upload for "Current and Pending Support," the equivalent of HHS/CDC's "Other Support." However applicants are being instructed not to use this upload. HHS/CDC will continue to collect Other Support information via the Just-In-Time process so it will not be requested as part of the initial application submission.
- The SF424 (R&R)
Personal Data page includes very sensitive personal data, like the Social
Security Number. Is there concern about the security of such data?
Grants.gov is a secure, reliable source to apply for Federal grants. However, since HHS/CDC requires that all PIs also be registered in the eRA Commons before submitting through Grants.gov, HHS/CDC will already have all the pertinent personal information in their profile. Consequently, electronic submissions through Grants.gov will not include the Personal Data component.
- Once an application is submitted through
Grants.gov, the data is configured as an SF424 (R&R) application and
stored in the Grant Folder in an eRA database. Will this have any impact
on the way the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) refers applications to Centers/Institutes/Offices
(CIC) Referral Offices?
The referral guidelines for CIOs and study sections will not be changed by this process. Of course the referral will be done using the electronic image, rather than paper. But at least at the beginning there will be no changes in the referral process. Division of Receipt and Referral staff will continue to make assignments for primary and dual CIOs and review location (CIO or CSR). Ultimately a knowledge management system may be involved in making suggestions for assignments but there still will be decisions made by scientifically trained staff.
- For the Indirect Cost
Rate (%) field in the budget form, I can only enter up to 2 numbers. Our
rate is 110%. How can I enter 110%?
Grants.gov is working on a solution. Until one is implemented, the recommended workaround is to split the Indirect Cost Rate into 2 lines on the budget form.
- An applicant may see
both detailed and modular budget component options as part of the SF424
(R&R) application package. Which should be used?
The rules are the same as those for paper applications. If an application meets the modular limit of $250K or under, the applicant must submit a modular budget. Likewise, if an application exceeds $250K, it must come in as a detailed budget. The applicant should complete the budget component appropriate to their situation.
In 2005, HHS removed modular budgets for the SBIR/STTR applications. Therefore, SBIR/STTR applications will have only a detailed budget in the application package.
- The R&R
cumulative budget page is 'automatically' filled-in by the system -
The cumulative budget is system-generated and PIs will see it as part of the R&R detailed budget component or a modular component. They do not have to do any data entry.
- On the page for the Research & Related Budget,
Sections F-K, Budget Period 1, there is a box in the upper right hand
corner that states 'Next Period.' However, it is grayed out and we cannot
access the next period forms. How does one navigate to the screens for the
next budget period?
You must complete all the required information (i.e., those fields that are highlighted and noted with an "*") on this page before the "Next Period" button is activated.
- How should we list
partial months? In the budget period on the SF424 (R&R) application,
the number of calendar months that a senior key person worked on a project
may be listed as between 1 and 12 months. However, some of our key
personnel are only putting in half a month effort toward the project. How
do we enter that information in the budget period? Do we change the 1/2
month to 1 month without changing the requested salary or do we need to
adjust our entire budget so everyone on the project team puts forth more
than 160 hours?
Originally the eRA Commons system only allowed whole numbers 1-12 for the number of calendar months that a senior key person worked on a project. The system has been fixed to accommodate partial months up to two decimal places (e.g., 2.55 is an acceptable value). The system had also not been accepting partial months less than one (e.g., .65). However, HHS has since fixed that issue and now accepts partial months less than one.
- Using person months rather than percent effort is
a big change, where can I find out more?
See the Person Months FAQ page dedicated to this topic. Included in the FAQs are instructions on how to calculate person months and an interactive Excel Conversion Table.
- There are a number of
places where an attachment is uploaded. What type of attachments will HHS accept?
HHS application submissions will accept only PDF attachments. Users will find a variety of information on tools and software that can be used to generate PDF attachments on Grants.gov's Software webpage (http://www.grants.gov/agencies/asoftware.jsp) under the header 'Convert Documents to PDF' (http://www.grants.gov/agencies/asoftware.jsp#3).
- How will appendix
material be accommodated?
There is an attachment upload available for Appendix material. Up to 10 separate PDF attachments can be included. The appendix attachment upload feature is Item 15 in the PHS 398 Research Plan Component.
- Scientific Review
Administrators currently assess appendix material for appropriateness.
Will this business practice be altered?
This business practice will not be altered at this time.
- How will
administrative supplements be handled?
The current practice for administrative supplements will not be changed at this time. They will continue to be handled by the individual CIOs.
- How will
supplemental/additional/correction material submitted after application
submission be accommodated?
The current practice will not be altered at this time. This supplemental/additional/correction material may only be submitted with the permission of the assigned Scientific Review Administrator (SRA), and the submission is made directly to the SRA.
- Will applicants be
permitted to submit supplemental/additional/correction material without
At this time the process for submitting supplemental material will continue to be at the discretion of the SRA, and directly to the SRA.
- How does an applicant
submit appendix material that cannot be transmitted electronically?
"Hard" appendix materials like a video or heart valve have to be physically sent to the Scientific Review Administrator and then to the reviewers.
- Does HHS/CDC have any
size recommendations for images that are included in the appendix?
HHS/CDC recommends that the maximum size for images included in applications should be approximately 1200 x 1500 pixels using 256 colors. This size is consistent with current publication standards. Investigators should use image compression techniques such as JPEG or PNG.
- How will the scientific text of an application be
The research plan sections of an application will continue to be prepared by the Principal Investigator (PI). Sections will be uploaded as individual PDF attachments.
- Will PIs have to
generate the PDFs?
Responsibility for generating the PDF attachments depends on the business rules of the applicant organization. In most cases, the PI is given that responsibility.
- How do I avoid PDF
To avoid PDF problems, keep these guidelines in mind:
- HHS/CDC only accepts attachments in PureEdge or PDF format. Do not submit attachments in other formats such as Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, etc. Other formats may be allowed through Grants.gov but are not accepted by HHS/CDC.
- It is recommended that applicants avoid scanning text documents to produce the required PDFs whenever possible. Instead, HHS/CDC recommends producing the documents electronically using text or word-processing software and then converting documents to PDF. Scanning paper documents, without the proper Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process, will hamper automated processing of your application for HHS/CDC analysis and reporting. For additional information on PDF conversion software, visit the Software webpage on Grants.gov website and click on the header 'Convert Documents to PDF' (http://www.grants.gov/agencies/software.jsp#3).
- A 0 byte attachment is an invalid PDF.
- HHS/CDC will not accept
special characters in file names.
The HHS/CDC system will restrict the file names to allow only characters valid in URLs. For instance, brackets such as "[" and "]" are not accepted.
HHS/CDC validations will allow the following legal and reserved URL characters:
The legal characters in URLs are:
A through Z, a through z, and 0 through 9
Hyphen (-), underscore (_), period (.), exclamation point (!), tilde (~), asterisk (*), accent ('), left parenthesis ( ( ), right parenthesis ( ) )
The reserved characters consist of:
Semi-colon (;) slash (/), question mark (?), colon (:), at sign (@), ampersand (&), equals sign (=), plus sign (+), dollar sign ($), and comma (,)
- Disable all security
features in the PDF document.
Protected documents prevent HHS/CDC from opening and processing the document. Security settings vary by PDF tool, but please ensure security settings are not marked. The applicant needs to look at the Document Security tab under Document Properties (directly from the tab) and set the security parameters to ensure open access so HHS/CDC can process the content. For instance, do not password protect the document and do not mark Content Extraction or Copying; Document Assembly, etc as "Not Allowed."
- Turn the "signature" off
when you create original documents.
When using Adobe Acrobat (and possibly other tools), please go to the security options menu selection to ensure the signature is off. If you do not have the originals, copy the content of the signed documents and create a new document. Save this document without signing it.
- HHS/CDC does not accept PDF documents with editable
fields (fields that can be changed). If you have a PDF document with
editable fields, do not save it and submit it.
- If for example, you are using Adobe, use your PDF printer tool (Go to File and click on Print and select the output device for printing to Adobe PDF) to create an Adobe PDF print version file.
- Send the Adobe PDF print version file, not the original editable version.
- If you do not have a PDF print tool, click on the link below to see a recommended list of tools: http://www.grants.gov/agencies/software.jsp#3. (Grants.gov website)
- If you are having trouble fixing the PDF settings, simply cut and paste from the PDF document into a Microsoft Word document and then reconvert (in some cases it may be better to use another PDF converter).
- One of the PDF tools that has been working without issue
for most applicants is CutePDF.
Note: HHS/CDC had previously suggested that applicants not use active links in PDFs. HHS/CDC has since addressed the issue and applicants can now include active links in PDFs.
- I have heard that HHS/CDC is planning to formally
allow more than one Principal Investigator - i.e., Multiple PIs - to be
recognized on an individual grant application. When will Multiple PIs be
allowed on a grant application submitted electronically?
Multiple PI is still very much in a controlled pilot stage. The first electronic multiple PI FOA is PAR-06-389. It has an open date of 7/25/2006, and the first receipt date is September 25, 2006. Here's a link to that FOA: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-06-389.html.
Unless you are responding to this particular FOA, or any other FOA clearly indicating Multiple PI is an option, do not include more than one Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) in your grant application. Any other designated Multiple PI sections of an application should only be used when responding to specific Funding Opportunity Announcements where multiple PI is an option (See NIH Guide Notice dated May 11, 2006 at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-06-069.html).
For updates, please visit the Multiple PI Website at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/multi_pi/.
mechanism-specific instructions like page limitations still apply?
- How will page
limitations be enforced?
The validation process through the HHS eRA Commons will include page limitations.
- What happens to page limits if the formatting
changes when a PDF is generated?
HHS/CDC validations include checks for page limits. Some accommodation will be made for sections that when combined must fit within a specified limitation. For example, applicants are encouraged to construct the Research Plan as a single document, separating sections into distinct PDF attachments just before uploading the files. In this way the applicant can better monitor formatting requirements such as page limits. When validations for page limits are applied, the eRA Commons will make allowances for the white space created by breaking the text into separate files for uploading.
- Will applicants still
have the opportunity to include a cover letter?
Yes. One of the PHS398 optional components is the Cover Letter. If multiple application submissions are necessary to correct errors, only the last cover letter submitted will be retained in the system.
- Will the cover letter include all the information
Yes. The instructions for the cover letter remain the same. At this time it will be a PDF upload of the relevant information, not structured data.
- Can you explain the
differences in the checks that Grants.gov does on the application and
those done by HHS/CDC?
The Grants.gov validations are minor and straightforward - things like checking to make sure no viruses are attached to the application and checking to ensure the DUNS number is correct. At the HHS/CDC level, the application is checked against business rules - such as whether you have an assurance number if the human subjects is marked "yes".
- Could you detail what will be the validations
(business rules) that an application will be checked for - such as page limits?
The list of errors and warnings that an applicant may encounter during the validation process, along with tips to help you understand these better, are available on the Prepare Application page.