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NIH Application Form Update A-B-Cs
The following is an excerpt from the NIH eSubmission Items of Interest from June 17, 2013
Application Form Update A-B-Cs
It’s a basic fact of government forms – they have a limited shelf life. In fact, agencies are required to seek reauthorization from the Office of Management and Budget at least every three years to continue to use existing forms. Add to that the need to update forms to address programmatic and reporting changes and it seems like form versions are continually in flux. We’ve already been through a few form updates since NIH began to transition grant applications to electronic submission in 2005. If you’ve been doing this as long as I have you may recall the ‘ADOBE-FORMS-A’ transition in 2009 when we moved from PureEdge to Adobe-based forms or the ‘ADOBE-FORMS-B’ transition in 2010 when we implemented the ‘Enhancing Peer Review’ changes. Now, it’s time for FORMS-C (see NOT-OD-13-074).
For many agencies form updates aren’t a big deal. They have a small number of programs and their announcements have single due dates. They can simply let current FOAs run their course and use new forms the next time they post an opportunity. NIH isn’t like many agencies. We have over 600 active Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) at any given time, hundreds of activity codes with various standard due dates, and opportunities that are open for 3 years. This makes updating forms a major undertaking for NIH and confusing for applicants.
I can’t do anything about the need to update forms, but let’s see if I can help avoid some of the confusion through this Q&A…
- When do I need to use the updated forms (FORMS-C)?
Applications to FOAs with due dates on/after September 25, 2013 must use updated forms (FORMS-C), except:
- Career Development, Fellowship, and Training FOAs will transition to updated forms for deadlines on/after January 25, 2014
- Small Business FOAs will NOT transition to updated forms until Small Business Reauthorization form changes are also available – timing TBD
- What changes to the forms are included in FORMS-C?
Specific changes are documented at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/ElectronicReceipt/files/FORMS-C_Changes.pdf.
- How can I tell if my application package was created using the appropriate forms?
NIH gives each set of updated forms a version name for quick identification and easier communications (in this case ‘FORMS-C’). When we post an opportunity and its application package on Grants.gov we provide some basic information (opportunity title and number, key dates, etc.). We also have the ability to provide a ‘Competition ID’ to further identify an opportunity. We use the Competition ID to convey the form version name. The version name shows up in the Competition ID field in various screens and within the application package (see Do I have the Right Electronic Forms for My Application? ). If the Competition ID is ADOBE-FORMS-B1 or B2, then the application was created using the older forms. On the other hand, if it is FORMS-C, then the application was created using the newest forms.
- Will NIH be reissuing each FOA or simply posting a new application package to incorporate the form updates?
For the activity codes transitioning to updated forms for deadlines on/after September 25, 2013, we will simply expire old application packages and post new ones to the existing FOAs (i.e., no new FOA number, but must use the application package with a Competition ID of ‘FORMS-C’).
Planning is still underway for the Fellowship, Training, Career Development and Small Business programs that will transition later. Since those form changes will be made in conjunction with other programmatic changes, it is likely that we will need to post new FOAs as well as application packages for those transitions.
- When will the Application Guides be updated to reflect the new forms?
The Application Guides currently posted on the SF424 (R&R) Forms/Applications/Instructions page are specifically for use with ‘Adobe Forms Version B Series’ application packages. NIH staff are working hard to have new Application Guides posted for ‘Forms C Series’ application packages. The updated guides will be ready no later than mid-July (hopefully sooner).
Be careful to use the correct application guide for your opportunity and due date. Since some programs will transition after September 25, the Forms B Series and the Forms C Series guides will both be available on our Web site for a period of time.
- When will the Applying Electronically web site be updated to reflect the updated forms?
General resources available on the Applying Electronically web site, such as, Avoiding Common Errors, Annotated Forms, and FAQs will be posted in late July to early August. We want to wait until after some of our major summer deadlines are behind us to avoid additional confusion.
- What happens if I try to submit my R01 application for the October 5 deadline using ADOBE-FORMS-B2?
Your application will be Rejected with Errors at Grants.gov. Thank goodness you all submit early to leave time to address unforeseen issues. You will need to move to the updated forms and submit BEFORE the deadline. Finding out that you used the wrong forms right at the deadline will not be considered a valid reason for a late submission.
Form updates are not anyone’s idea of a good time, but they don’t have to be a huge source of stress. We got through the A and B transitions and we’ll get through the C transition, too.
Originally published in the NIH eSubmission Items of Interest from June 17, 2013 by Sheri Cummins, Division of Communication and Outreach, NIH Office of Extramural Research