NIH eRA Items of Interest - March 2016

Prior Approval…

Yes, you read that right.  Soon you, Principal Investigators (PIs), will have the power of requesting Prior Approvals electronically! Coming to eRA Commons, PIs will be able to seek prior approval from the granting agency via eRA Commons for submitting applications with direct costs of over $500K or more for any budget year. The request will be initiated and submitted before the submission of the grant application. The PI will need to provide justification for the request, along with a detailed budget that will be uploaded as a 10 page limit PDF.

PIs will also be able to initiate requests electronically to withdraw their applications. These requests will be routed to a Signing Official (SO), who can then submit them. Like the $500K request, they will need to provide a justification for withdrawing the application.

The hope is to add this functionality to eRA Commons by late spring. It is important to remember that the SO can still initiate and submit both types of request.

And wouldn't life be great if we all had this? It would save me the hassle of asking my personal SO (Spouse, Officer-in-charge)… "Hon… can I take the Harley to work?" "Hon… can I watch Star Wars again (for the 317th time)." "Hon… can I take a nap?"   

The More Things Change…

At this point you should be asking yourself, "Why is there a picture of Bootstrap Bill from the Pirates of the Caribbean in an article about change?"  Well, let me tell you…

You may be noticing some frequent changes, both minor and major, in the way eRA Commons looks and works. In the last year, we have introduced new layouts in such things as the Personal Profile screen; new mobility functionality; updated Federal Financial Report; and Grant re-assignment just to name a few.

And like Bootstrap, these changes have come slowly, little bits at a time, as the different development teams work with various aspects of Commons. Parts of Commons are still looking old, other parts are more updated and some are just plain awesome. The most recent iteration of the look and feel comes from a web framework called Bootstrap (and there it is!  The connection to Bill!) 

Bootstrap provides an increase in readability with visual friendly spacing; scalability, also called responsive design (this allows information on the screen to adapt to various display sizes, from full size monitors, to tablets, to smart phones); and intuitive functionality.

And like Bootstrap Bill, in the end, everything will look amazing! As each development team tackles the different components of Commons, the more it will all look, feel, and function the same. (Just like Bootstrap Bill, who stays aboard the Flying Dutchman with his son Will, and his skin problem cleans up nicely).

Changes in Security

Speaking of change, we continue to improve the security of important information that you are asked to provide as part of the grant process.

Part of this increased security deals with your personal information: specifically birthday and social security information.  After an account is created, the user is encouraged to complete the Personal Profile form for eRA Commons. This includes your birthday and the last four digits of your Social Security Number.

What happens now is that once information is added to the profile form and the form is saved, those fields cannot be edited. If that information needs to be updated, it will be necessary to call the eRA Service Desk to get the proper assistance to make the change.

We encourage people to complete these fields for both account identification reasons and reporting purposes. And in general, everyone should just make sure their profile is up to date for lots of different reasons.

From Blue Crabs to the Windy City: Regionals 2016

Once again, all your favorite NIH folks are hitting the road again! 

Our first stop is at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.  Optional full and half day workshops will take place on Wednesday, May 11, followed by 2-days of sessions on Thursday and Friday, May 12 & 13.

Space is limited and these workshops and seminars traditionally reach capacity early, so register for Baltimore as soon as you can.

If Baltimore in May doesn't work for you, or maybe you prefer Chicago deep dish pizza over blue crab with Old Bay Seasoning? No worries, join us in the Windy City, Chicago, IL, October 26-28, 2016.

Registration for Chicago is just as easy, so sign up soon!

The agenda is full of great learning and sharing opportunities, and, of course there will be the opportunity to meet with NIH staff for the valuable 1:1 sessions.

See You There!

~ Joe