The following provides essential information for applying to NIH for non-fellowship projects. The following does not replace detailed information that NIH provides on the NIH About Grants page.

NIH provides many resources for improving your application, accessed from the NIH About Grants page and OCG’s Sponsor Resources page.

Visit OCG’s Fellowships and Student Research Grants page for information and instructions specific to NIH Fellowships.

On this page:

Starting an NIH Proposal

  1. Contact OCG Proposal Analyst. At least 5 business days before a deadline, provide your Proposal Analyst with a Proposal Submission Request (PSR) form and budget information.
  2. eRA Commons Registration. Each PI must have an eRA Commons account with the PI role and  related to CU Boulder to submit a proposal to NIH. If you don’t have an eRA Commons account or need to relate your account with CU Boulder, contact Lyn Milliken.
  3. Disclosure of External Professional Activities (DEPA). Your DEPA must be up to date and reviewed prior to your proposal being submitted. For information, see CU Boulder’s Conflicts of Interest & Commitment Public Health Services Agencies/NIH Requirements.
  4. Proposal Package Preparation. CU Boulder submits NIH proposals through NIH’s ASSIST, which is a portal to prepare and submit proposals through to NIH. Your Proposal Analyst will work in ASSIST and provide a compiled proposal to review prior to submission. Most CU Boulder PIs do not work in ASSIST to prepare their proposal, but this is an option if they would prefer to directly prepare their proposal themselves.

Proposal Preparation Process

  1. Proposal Budget. Correspond with your Proposal Analyst to prepare the proposal budget. 
    Detailed Budget: NIH requires detailed budgets for budgets that have $250,001 or more in direct costs in at least one year of the budget. See the NIH Cost Estimation Tool.
    Modular Budget: NIH requires modular budgets for budgets that have $250,000 or less in direct costs in every year of the budget (unless an FOA states otherwise). OCG will accept a modular budget with few details. See the Modular Budget Template and the Additional Narrative Justification Template.
  2. Prepare Proposal Documents. Following the NIH Grants Guide and specific FOA for the program you’re applying to, prepare proposal documents. See the following section, Required NIH Documents, for details, and see the OCG NIH DMSP page for more information on NIH's Data Management and Sharing Policy requirements. 
  3. PDF Documents. Convert all documents to PDF.
  4. Email Proposal Documents to OCG. Email all documents to your Proposal Analyst and to OCG will upload all documents to ASSIST.
  5. Review Proposal. Your Proposal Analyst will review your proposal document for compliance with NIH proposal requirements. Your Proposal Analyst will also email you a PDF of the compiled proposal. This is your opportunity to review the proposal and make changes prior to submission.
  6. Approve Proposal for Submission. Provide email confirmation that you are ready to submit your proposal.
  7. Submission! Your Proposal Analyst will submit your proposal to NIH and confirm the submission has gone through.
  8. Check Proposal in eRA Commons. A successfully submitted proposal will be available to view in eRA Commons.  You can make changes to an NIH proposal up until the deadline date and time and/or up to two days after submission, whichever comes first.  Notify your Proposal Analyst know if any changes need to be made.  We recommend only making changes to items of major concern to avoid errors in the submission process.  Two days after submission, your proposal will advance to the next stage of referral and will no longer be available for changes.

Formatting NIH Documents

  • Black or high-contrast text colors recommended
  • 11 point or larger font, recommended fonts - Arial, Georgia, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype
  • Smaller text in figures, graphics, diagrams and charts is acceptable, as long as it’s legible when the page is viewed at 100%
  • Use at least ½” margins
  • All file names may include letters, numbers, underscores and hyphens. No special characters.
  • Do not use headers, footers or page numbers.
  • Headings within texts of documents is highly encouraged.
  • Only use hyperlinks and URLs when specifically noted as allowed in an FOA. Do not use hyperlinks or URLS to provide information necessary to review your proposal.

Required NIH Documents

  • Any time you do not follow NIH guidelines, you put your proposal at risk of being returned without review.
  • Proposal Analysts will assist in reviewing your proposal for compliance, but PI’s are ultimately responsible for ensuring proposals are compliant.
  • Everything from font size to number of pages to excluding unallowable documents is vital to your proposal being reviewed for scientific merit.

For a quick list of required documents and page limits, see:

Details on document requirements are provided in:

NIH Templates, Samples and Forms

Templates and samples of NIH Proposal Documents are available online as follows:

Post Submission Materials

After submission and prior to scientific review, NIH will accept limited types of materials for inclusion with a proposal. Your Proposal Analyst must provide concurrence of acceptance. For details, see NIH’s Post-Submission Materials Policy.

Just-in-Time (JIT)

After submission, you may receive a Just-in-Time (JIT) request from NIH. Contact your Proposal Analyst to submit your JIT information. Please note that NIH has updated Other Support requirements for proposals due on/after 05/25/2021. All uploaded PDFs must be "flattened" via print-to-PDF before uploading. 

NIH provides details about the JIT process in the NIH Grants Policy Statement. See Section 2.5 Completing the Pre-Award Process.

Other NIH Resources

NIH Changes for Human Subjects Research