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NIH first moved to electronic application submission using Grants.gov in 2005. It was an interesting time for technology – YouTube was founded, Google Maps was launched, Microsoft released the Xbox 360, Facebook started branching out to the general public and using Grants.gov downloadable forms (based on PureEdge forms, not Adobe, at the time) was the only way to meet NIH’s requirement to submit applications electronically. Just think how these products and services have evolved over the years – better technology, new features, more options.
The tools used for grant application submission have certainly progressed. There are currently four application submission options available to NIH applicants.
- ASSIST - NIH's web-based service for the preparation, submission and tracking of grant applications.
- Institutional Solutions (System-to-System, S2S) - Institution’s own system to prepare and submit application data to Grants.gov complying with all application requirements. The S2S solution may be developed in-house or may leverage the services of a commercial provider.
- Grants.gov Workspace - A shared, online environment managed by Grants.gov where multiple users can simultaneously work on different forms within an application package.
- Grants.gov Downloadable Forms - Offline solution where applicants can download the entire application package as a single, stitched together PDF, complete the forms offline and submit.
As new technology emerges, older technology fades away. Grants.gov will retire its legacy, stitched-together, downloadable PDF application packages at the end of this year. This requires folks who normally use the offline PDF packages to choose another submission method.
Most aspects of the submission process will remain the same...
- NIH will continue to post all funding opportunity announcements on Grants.gov and the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts
- Grants.gov will continue to host our application forms and application packages (including FORMS-E)
- Grants.gov will continue to receive, process and route grant applications to NIH
- You will continue to submit applications to Grants.gov and track them through to an assembled application image in eRA Commons
…but, on December 31st downloadable forms will drop off the submission option list, leaving the remaining three options (ASSIST, system-to-system, and Workspace) which will continue without interruption.
The majority of you have already moved away from downloadable forms in favor of newer more robust submission methods. In fact, 86% of the applications NIH received in June were prepared and submitted using system-to-system solutions or NIH’s ASSIST.
In considering that 13% of applications submitted using downloadable forms in June represents over 1800 applications, plus the fact that many system-to-system users rely on downloadable forms as a back-up submission method, it becomes clear we still have many applicants that need to make a switch by the end of the year.
Our Submission Options page outlines the key features and some considerations for each option to help you make an informed choice. It’s up to your organization (often an office of sponsored research or other administrative group) to decide which submission option fits your needs the best.
If your organization has reviewed the available information on each option and really doesn’t have a business reason to use one option over another, then give ASSIST a try. ASSIST is managed by NIH and, as such, is specifically designed to work with NIH opportunities to provide a more seamless applicant experience.
- leverages existing eRA Commons accounts to reduce account administration burden;
- prepopulates application data from eRA Commons institutional and personal profiles to reduce data entry;
- validates your application against NIH business rules prior to submission to help avoid last minute surprises;
- generates a preview of your application in the NIH format used for funding consideration; and
- allows you to track your application through Grants.gov to eRA Commons with a single login to quickly verify your application was processed successfully.
Also, our eRA Service Desk can securely see your application screens to aid in troubleshooting and can answer questions about ASSIST, eRA identified errors and warnings, and any issues with your assembled application image after submission.
By the time your applications get to NIH staff they are presented in a consistent format. Staff and reviewers have no idea what tools were used to get them to us. The choice is yours – ASSIST, system-to-system, or Workspace. Come January 1, the only “wrong” choice is downloadable forms.