TIP - Get Ready, Get Set, Apply Early
Applicants, we always advise you to apply early—but why is it so important? Once your application is ready, submitting it well in advance of the deadline gives you time to address problems that might cause your application to be automatically withdrawn and not reviewed.
With electronic submission, technical problems might be due to your institution’s IT network or federal systems. If an application cannot be uploaded correctly and you believe this is due to a federal system issue, you must immediately follow the instructions at NIH’s Dealing With System Issues. Opening a ticket with the eRA Service Desk as described is the only official way of notifying NIH that there has been an uploading problem, possibly qualifying you for late submission. Do not call or contact your program officer.
If your technical problems are due to connectivity at your institution or a local submission system (e.g., a system-to-system solution) issue, then you must work that out with your institution’s technical support staff and send the application when the issue is resolved. NIH is under no obligation to accept applications that are late for these reasons. Again, applying early allows you extra time to address unexpected technical issues.
Furthermore, NIH's electronic validations and the two-day viewing window are there to help you. Your application may get validation errors or warnings, or you may spot missing information or technical issues during the two-day viewing window. Learn more about these processes and get more advice at NIAID's Submit an Application.
If you applied early enough, you can make corrections and have your institution send a fresh version for the same deadline. You might even have time for more than one round of corrections. And to correct some errors, you might need information from another institution that is in a different time zone. Factor this time in accordingly.
In 2014, NIH observed that about 40 percent of grant applications arrived on the deadline day. This increases the possibility of encountering upload errors that could make applications late. It's also likely that some of those applications had validation errors or could have used one last look during the viewing window, but the applicants no longer had enough time for corrections.
Should your application miss the NIH deadline, you could be stuck waiting for the next one, if any. It's unlikely that NIH will accept your application late. Read the rules for Late Applications & Post-Submission Materials.
The NIH deadline isn’t the only one you should keep in mind. Remember that your own true due date is your institution's internal deadline. Ask your institutional officials when they need your application. Also ask if sending it to them even earlier means the application could get to NIH sooner—hopefully the answer is yes.
We previously covered this topic in the June 1, 2016 article "Apply Early to Guard Against Electronic Submission Errors."