Procedures for Electronic Proposal Submissions to NIH, NSF, USED and HRSA   -   and Common PI Errors

When preparing and submitting electronic proposals, stay in close contact with Sponsored Research, and we will guide you through the process and make it easy.


Electronic grant submissions can be complicated on your first experience, and have recently become more so, than their paper ancestors. Transmitting electronic applications, involve up to three or four different steps from to receipt by sponsor agency. According to the website it can take up to two days for a submitted proposal to be validated and prepared for sponsor agency retrieval and their technical review. We have spent several weekends and worked into the night on several recent grant submissions via, that have encountered problems at the time of submission, which were not anticipated. Of course we are open to all questions.


One of your most promising sources of help with your grant application is your program officer. He or she can provide you with specific advice on how to craft your proposal, verify that you are applying for the correct program, and helped confirm that you are using the right application forms and following the correct instructions.  Nearly all RFPs and PAs give the names, phone numbers, and email information of program officers to whom you are strongly advised to have a long talk with, when you start on your proposal.As an additional precaution, when working in, please email to us whatever you have completed, including the application you are using, to give us time to look at it in advance before meeting with you.


To ensure that there will be enough time to fix any problems of a technical nature which may arise, and ensure that your proposal is submitted in a timely fashion, the Office of Sponsored Research requires that all completed proposals be submitted to be sent to Sponsored Research two working days in advance of the actual submission day. Also, let us know well in advance of your intention to submit, so we can review the protocols with you.  


In order to help you (and our Office) here are some of the kinds of proposal errors PI’s are recently encountering:

·      Adequate review of proposal guides [1]

·      Failure to identify the proper sponsor program (i.e. applying to the wrong program)

·       Not reading the sponsors grant proposal preparation instructions

·      Ignoring formatting instructions, including file naming protocols (applies to

·      Failure to use the current grant application forms (i.e. using obsolete forms) ( & NIH). Ask your Program Officer to be sure.

·      Not allowing enough time for rewriting and revising in advance of the sponsor deadline, especially with multi-PI’s

·      Not allowing for interruptions or unexpected events such as snowstorms, electrical or network outages and university closings

·       Allowing insufficient processing time for submission, which can take two days (as per

·      Leaving required fields blank. For example, eRA Commons (the third step) requires PI Credentials (Commons login) even though does not require or screen for this. (NIH)

·      Not reviewing the submitted documents of collaborators for all of the above.

·      Incorrectly answering questions from drop down menus, such as project roles. i.e. PD/PI vs Co-PI etc. (NIH)

·      Improperly formatted file updates (NSF)

·      Non-compliant notification (NSF). Proposal title on application cover page did not agree word for word with proposal title on pending support page.

·      Calendar, Academic and/or summer months not entered for senior personnel on budget page(s) (NSF, NIH). Also required for international collaborating institution.

·      Do budget first, giving us time to review.


Some problems with paper applications:

·      No tracking numbers on standard mailed items i.e. USPS, but FedEx and UPS do provide tracking.

·      No delivery confirmations. You should track it.

·      Allowing colleagues and collaborators too much time for rewriting and revising

·      Waiting too long to line up letters of support or gather signatures on memoranda of understanding 


Other Useful Information:

All agencies provide a help desk. However, when calling the ERA Helpdesk or FastLane Helpdesk, you are assigned a case number, or ticket, which is then confirmed by email. If you need to call back, you identify the case number. Help Desk employees work for an outside contractor and are not government agency personnel. It is highly unlikely that you will get the same individual twice, but use of the case number allows for continuity and better service. 


If you are interested in applying for and/or discussing NSF, NIH, HRSA or US ED and other grant opportunities, contact either Mr. Edward Leight, Director of Sponsored Research Administration eleight@pace.eduor by phone:  (212)  346-1741; (917) 209-4724, or Dr. Victor Goldsmith, Associate Provost for Sponsored Research vgoldsmith@pace.eduor by phone: (212) 346-1277; or Mr. Eric Torres, Director for Grant Outreach and Analysis etorres@pace.eduor by phone: (212) 346-1027.


Links to Grant Proposal Guidelines:


*NSF Grant Proposal Guide, February 2014


Sources of specific grant proposal preparation guidance by government agency


*NIH Grants Policy & Guidance




*US ED Programs for Institutions of Higher Education


* Sponsor Agency RFP’s and PA’s will contain specific guidelines and instructions that will also apply in addition to general guidance. The proposal specifications in the RFP’s & PA’s must be consulted and followed as well.






As of 02-12-14

[1] End of the site:  Links to Grant Guidelines