Common Errors and Omissions That May Impact Seamless Submissions  

By Bouvier Grant Group

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Guest Post by Dr. David Widmer​
  1. Late submission: Let’s get this out at Number One! If PIs fail to follow their institution’s submission deadline policy or knock up against (or over) NIH’s 5pm local time upload deadline, confirming that all the following last-minute checks are done will be moot. One needs a final draft to do a thorough final review. Late submissions are generally not accepted and can result in rejection (see pre-winnowing in #17 below).
  2. Incorrect application package: While this is becoming less and less of an issue with improved NIH signage, PIs should carefully select the appropriate application package for their NOFO. Using the wrong package (especially one that has expired or contains subsequently updated forms) can result in submission errors and delays. Remember that once out on the interwebs, old, out-of-date posting/links are still often discoverable – make sure you’re using the latest version.  
  3. Missing or incorrect application “pieces”: PIs must ensure that all required application forms/cells/attachments are completed accurately and submitted with the grant application. Error/warning tracking is a feature standard in most system-to-system grant submission solutions, however neither your institution’s portal to nor the robo-validation process at both and eRA Commons will scan for the inclusion or correctness of every essential application item. Missing or incorrect parts can lead to rejection when actual humans review after the deadline.  
  4. Missing or incomplete biosketches: PIs and key personnel must provide up-to-date and complete biosketches that highlight their qualifications and expertise. Missing or incomplete biosketches can raise doubts about the team’s capabilities in review but missing eRA Commons IDs is the most [eRA] common error. And please-please-please, tailor each biosketch to speak to the associated-grant’s unique project.  
  5. Lack of clear institutional support: PIs should ensure that they have the necessary institutional support, including resources, facilities, and collaborations, to successfully carry out the proposed project. Failing to demonstrate institutional support can raise doubts about the project’s feasibility and success, especially if attachment of an institutional letter is required and/or strongly suggested.  
  6. Incomplete budget information: PIs must provide a detailed and accurate budget that aligns with the proposed project. Missing or incomplete budget information can lead to confusion and potential funding issues. A sub-clause here is inclusion of the PO’s pre-approval for $500K+ budgets.  
  7. Failure to address review criteria: PIs should carefully review the review criteria specified in the NOFO and ensure that their application addresses each criterion. Neglecting to address these criteria can result in a lower score and decreased chances of funding.  
  8. Inadequate consideration of strengths and weaknesses of prior research: The old-fashioned literature review has been re-packaged as part of the Rigor & Reproducibility criteria, but with a strength/weakness assessment and well-woven resolutions-to-come through your proposed project. PIs should conduct a thorough state-of-the-research review and provide a comprehensive overview of the existing knowledge and gaps in the field. Neglecting to include a robust rigor review can raise doubts about the project’s significance and novelty.  
  9. Inadequate research project description: PIs should provide a clear and comprehensive project description that addresses the required elements. Failing to provide sufficient details can result in a lack of clarity and understanding by the reviewers.  
  10. Lack of collaboration plan: If collaboration is required for the proposed project, PIs must include a well-defined collaboration plan. Failure to provide a clear plan can raise concerns about the feasibility and success of the project.  
  11. Inadequate protection of human or animal subjects: PIs must ensure that they have obtained the necessary approvals and certifications for projects involving human subjects or animals. Failure to provide proper documentation can result in rejection or delays either at time of review or (gasp!) during award negotiation.  
  12. Inaccurate or inconsistent data: PIs should carefully review all data presented in the grant application to ensure accuracy and consistency. Inaccurate or inconsistent data can undermine the credibility of the proposed project.  
  13. Lack of sufficient preliminary data: If preliminary data are required or recommended, PIs should provide relevant and compelling data to support the feasibility and potential success of the project. Failing to include preliminary data can weaken the application.  
  14. Poorly organized application: PIs should ensure that their grant application is well-organized and easy to navigate. Poor organization can make it difficult for reviewers to understand and evaluate the proposed project and plants doubt in reviewers’ minds about the PIs ability to organize their research processes in general.  
  15. Lack of clear objectives and milestones: PIs must clearly define the objectives and milestones of the proposed project. Failing to provide clear goals and milestones can raise concerns about the project’s feasibility and impact.  
  16. Inadequate dissemination plan: With transparency as a key watchword at NIH (and the federal government, broadly), PIs should include a well-defined plan for disseminating the project’s results and findings. Providing a clear data dissemination plan can obviate the inevitable back-and-forth when NIH officers and staff note its absence, which blocks completing an important check-box on NIH’s Must-Have list.
  17. Failure to follow formatting guidelines: PIs must carefully follow the formatting guidelines specified in the NOFO or application instructions. Failure to adhere to these guidelines can result in application errors and rejections under a technicality. This has been increasingly happening as a way to pre-winnow the final number of grants actually moving forward to review.  
  18. Insufficient attention to reviewer feedback: If the PI has previously submitted a similar grant application and received reviewer feedback, it is important to address the most salient feedback and make necessary improvements. Ignoring reviewer feedback can raise concerns about the PI’s responsiveness and commitment to improvement.

Dr. David Widmer​

This guest post was written by Dr. David Widmer​, CEO at Vimar-DAJ Consulting.

Vidmar-DAJ Consulting LLC provides training in RD initiatives, grants acquisition, and faculty mentoring to support US and foreign institutions enhance researcher career development. CEO Dr. David Widmer [email protected] supported 100s of researchers (pre-docs to faculty) in his 24-year RD/RA career. A Fulbright Scholar, he holds an MS in Cell Biology, an MA in History of Medicine, a PhD in Neuroscience, and was a Swiss Confederation Fellow. He was a Memorial Sloan Kettering post-doc before moving to roles as an MSK Sr. Grants Mgr., Mgr. of Sponsored Projects, and Mgr. of Research Development Outreach. In 2009, he founded the MSK Funding Development Team, an early proponent of the new RD field.

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