Submitting Reference Letters
If you are submitting a reference letter for an LRP applicant, see https://www.era.nih.gov/erahelp/LRP/#Ext_SubmitRef/SubmitRefOverview.htm instead of this topic.
If you are asked to submit a reference letter for someone (meaning you are a 'referee'), you can do so using eRA Commons. Reference letters can be submitted any time after the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is posted and no later than the submission deadline. Reference letters cannot be accepted through any means other than eRA Commons.
You do not need to log in to eRA Commons to submit a reference letter for an applicant. Although you - as the referee - do not need a Commons role to submit a reference letter, the candidate on whose behalf you are writing must have a valid Commons account and hold the principal investigator (PI) role. If your candidate has no Commons account or does not have the PI role, you receive an error when attempting to submit a letter.
The candidate's signing official (SO), accounts administrator (AA), or administrative official (AO) at the institution must assign the PI role to the candidate's Commons account.
What You Need Before Starting
Before you submit a reference letter, you need the following:
- Applicant's Commons User ID
- Applicant's last name as it appears on the Commons account
- Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) number
- Deadline for submitting (between the FOA open date and application submission deadline). The applicant should provide you with the date by which the letter needs to be submitted.
- If replacing a previously-submitted letter, you need the confirmation number from the first submission; see Replacing an Already-Submitted Reference Letter.
Requirements for Letters
- No longer than two pages
- Not password-protected
- In flattened PDF format. The PDF should not be a fillable form PDF (it should be flattened; see https://www.era.nih.gov/faqs.htm#I6 for instructions)
NOTE: For Fellowship applications and Career Development programs a Letter of Reference form is no longer required. A letter written on university letterhead or similar is acceptable.
Submitting the Letter
To submit a reference letter, follow the steps below:
- Use your internet browser to access the Commons login page at https://public.era.nih.gov/commons/public/login.do
- Click the Submit a Reference Letter link.
The Submit Reference Letter screen displays.
- Fill out the fields on this page. Required fields are displayed with a red asterisk (*). Referee refers to the person who is providing a reference letter by filling out this form.
NOTE: If submitting a reference letter for the first time, ignore the Reference Letter Confirmation # field. If replacing a previously-submitted letter, enter the confirmation letter for the letter you previously submitted here. See Replacing an Already-Submitted Reference Letter for more details.
- Click the Continue button.
The next screen lets you upload your letter or form. The letter must be in flattened PDF format and should not exceed two pages.
- Click the Choose File button, select a PDF file, and then click the Submit button. After you choose a file, you can click the View button to see its contents.
After submitting, a message appears showing a confirmation number, and you also receive an email with the confirmation number. The candidate receives a confirmation email that the letter was submitted but cannot see the reference letter you've submitted. If you need to re-submit (replace) a reference letter, see Replacing an Already-Submitted Reference Letter.
IMPORTANT: Take note of the confirmation number; if you need to update the reference letter, you must have this confirmation number available.
For more information, refer to the tutorial titled How to Submit a Reference Letter.