No Fooling…Do it Early to Get it Right
With the upcoming April 5 NIH SBIR/STTR submission deadline, in last week’s blog I stressed the importance of submitting early. Even with our warnings (and pleadings), we still find clients who choose to submit on the last day, and even in the last hour of the last day. As a result, every cycle we see clients whose applications are rejected by NIH because they are unable to get their proposals successfully through to NIH in time.
In talking to our clients, we have found that there is some misunderstanding of the rules, and of how strictly they are interpreted by NIH. To make matters more confusing, some of the rules have changed in the last 12 months, so what may have worked previously, may now mean your proposal is late!
Rule #1 of the NIH’s Late Policy is that applications that are required to use electronic submission are on time if an error-free application is successfully submitted to Grants.gov, and received and compiled by NIH by 5 p.m. local time on the due date. (This means that a corrected application addressing any errors found by Grants.gov or NIH’s eRA system must be received error free by 5 p.m. your local time on the due date.)
The important phrase here is error-free. It is no longer enough just to get your proposal into Grants.gov before 5 p.m. on the day of the deadline. Previously all you needed was the Grants.gov ‘stamp’ to show that you had pressed the button before 5 p.m. Now your proposal has to successfully get through two validations (at Grants.gov and NIH) before it can be compiled error-free at NIH.
Grants.gov warns that it can take up to 48 hours to get through their validation process. At peak times, NIH’s eRA Commons can also be slow. Once you receive back any errors from either set of validations, you will have to fix your proposal and submit a changed/corrected version which has to go through the process again. Unless you are able to fix all errors and can finally view your compiled proposal at eRA Commons before 5 p.m. on the deadline, your proposal is LATE and will be rejected.
Remember our admonishment to submit early? Early does not mean at 3 p.m. on the day of the deadline, it means several days early! There is almost no error that can’t be fixed if you have 2 or 3 days to do it, but a lot of things can go wrong that you will struggle to fix at 4:55 p.m. on April 5!
There are some acceptable reasons for a late submission:
- Death or sudden acute severe illness of the PD/PI or immediate family member
- Large scale natural disasters
- Genuine Grants.gov system errors
Definitely not acceptable:
- Failure to complete required registrations in advance of the due date
- Heavy teaching or administrative responsibilities
- Personal events
- Correction of errors or addressing warnings after the due date
BBC’s strong recommendation is therefore that you plan to submit your proposal on the 1st of the month: April 1, August 1, December 1. You can also read what NIH has to say in The Dangers in Delay, where the first line reads: As the electronic submission process has improved, so have the potential dangers when submitting an application near the deadline. And the last reads: Please, we want your applications. Submit early.
They’re not kidding.
Andrea Johanson, PhD, Principal Consultant, BBC