eRA Commons glitch prompts reminders about preparing proposals and checking submissions

Order forms and packing box, with text reminding viewer to compare numbers on forms and box to ensure they match. "Check here. And here. Be sure it's right. Check and double check!"

Earlier this fall, there was a glitch in NIH’s electronic submission system electronic submission system, eRA Commons, that caused blank pages to appear in place of content in some grant application submissions.  NIH attributed the error to PDF attachments that were generated from scanned documents, rather than text files.

Although the eRA Commons issue has now been resolved and our proposal facilitators, Anne Schauer and Amy Cooper, did not notice this error happening with any Miami proposals, we thought this was a good opportunity to issue a few reminders about submitting proposals, whether using Miami’s Cayuse system any other submission system.

Reminder 1

It’s always best to generate PDFs from text files created in Word or another word processing program. Using scanned images to create PDFs should be avoided whenever possible.

Reminder 2

It is the PI’s responsibility to ensure that the submission is complete and accurate. Your proposal facilitator reviews your application prior to submission, but because they don’t have expertise in your field, they won’t always recognize when something — a technical figure, for instance — has not rendered properly. You should always check your proposal in the sponsor’s system (e.g., NIH’s eRA Commons) following submission to verify that everything appears the way it should.

Reminder 3

Many sponsors allow a period of time during which a PI may review and “fix” a submitted proposal. For example, NIH allows submissions to be reviewed, withdrawn, and resubmitted in eRA Commons for two days following submission. However, with many sponsors — including NIH — once the submission deadline has passed, no changes may be made to a proposal, even if the allotted review window has not yet passed. This is one of many good reasons not to wait until the last minute to submit a proposal. If you submit at the last minute, there may not be enough time for you to review the submitted proposal, let alone withdraw it, fix it, and resubmit it.


Digital screen glitch image by Rosa Menkman via Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons license. Check and double check image from the National Archives at College Park, public domain.

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