NIH eRA Items of Interest - October 2016

Prior Approval – $500K

approvedA principal investigator (PI) needs to seek prior approval from the NIH before submitting a grant application with direct costs of $500K or more for a single budget year.

NIH has been developing a way to provide you with an option to electronically submit these prior approval requests through eRA Commons. And effective Sept. 15, this option is a reality.

Here is how it works:

The Invite to Initiate a $500K Request
The PI will reach out via email or phone to the Program Official at the Institute/Center (IC) with whom they have been working concerning the $500K request, per current practice. The PO can then choose to invite the PI to initiate the prior approval request through eRA Commons.  The initiation of the request will trigger an email notification to the PI and to the email address listed for receiving the Notice of Award (NoA) on the Institutional Profile screen.

PI Action
Upon being notified, the PI will go into eRA Commons and go to the Prior Approval tab along the top navigation menu. The PI will find two options and should click List my Requests.  The PI will find the $500K Request under the column Request Type, with a status of “In Progress PI,” and should click the “Modify” link.

The Prior Approval Request $500K screen will open. The screen is pretty straightforward with a few required fields, such as Project Title, FOA number, and Anticipated Submission Date.  The PI will need to provide a short justification (just 500 characters) for the request, with up to 10 supporting documents allowed. Depending on the business processes of the institution, the PI can route the request to the SO for review, or submit directly to NIH.

SO Action
Since the notice to submit the prior approval request is sent to the NoA address as well, the SO should login to eRA Commons and go to the Prior Approval tab. SOs should use the Search for Requests button and select the $500K Request under the Request Type drop down. The SO has the ability to view the request, or if they choose, recall it, thus giving them the ability to modify it and submit it.

Next Steps
If the request is approved by the Program Official at the IC, the PI will receive an email from the Program Official.  When the error free application is received by NIH, this application will be matched with the $500k approval from the IC and the application will move through the normal process.

For the moment, this is an option for the submission of $500K requests. However, as we continue to move from all paper processes to a formal electronic environment, this option may become a requirement as we seek solutions that provide accountability, transparency and improved reporting capabilities.

There are other features (status and history), which you can read about in the Prior Approval section of the eRA Commons Online Help.

For more information, please see Guide Notice NOT-OD-17-005.
Also, coming soon will be two new video tutorials on Prior Approval. One focuses on the request to withdraw an application, and the second demonstrates the process of $500K requests as described above.

Password and Login Issues

PW-KittneStopTrue story: I woke up the other morning and received an alert that one of my bank accounts had dipped below the minimum threshold. That’s not supposed to happen. I panicked.

I went to log in to see what was happening. With hands shaking, blood pressure rising, fear running down my spine, I was greeted with “Invalid password. ACCESS DENIED!” Then I freaked!  Then my dog freaked. And my wife? She just walked away (such a smart woman). Then I remembered that I had recently changed that password. Whew!

Oh, passwords… such a necessary scourge.  You need a certain number of characters; special characters; numbers; capital and lower case letters; they expire every 32 seconds; you can’t use the last 311 passwords; etc.  But where would we be without them? 

And of course for eRA Commons, we have similar requirements for passwords. So is it any wonder the most frequent calls to the eRA Service Desk are about passwords and trouble logging in? Not really.

So some colleagues and I got together and developed a kind of troubleshooting support document for login issues, cleverly titled, ‘Having Trouble Logging in to eRA Commons?’ This walks you through the four most common issues related to logging into eRA Commons. And then on the back (also cleverly titled, ‘Additional Information and Resources Concerning Login Issues’) is a list of other errors, Password Guidelines, and how to contact the eRA Service Desk.

For example, did you know your Commons password has to have a minimum of 8 characters, BUT it cannot be more than 16 characters? Or that you cannot use any of your previous 24 passwords? See, helpful information.

Take a look, download it, and share it with friends and colleagues. Hopefully it can help you avoid a moment of panic! And as it turned out, my panic was only kind of justified.  My A/C company errantly charged me twice for my service contract. The issue was resolved by 9AM. And my wife came back.