You Don’t Bring Me Warnings Anymore

Sometimes, relationships that we have been in for a very long time start to change and before we know it, we find ourselves asking, “do I even know you anymore?”  This can happen with friends, family, neighbors… and NIH submission forms.  Yes, our beloved Forms B package has evolved to Forms C, and the new Forms C set has stopped taking out the trash, calling when it’s going to be out late, and allowing our little quirks to slide.

Here are some of the issues the RAS office has seen this week:

  1. Problem: The “PD/PI” classification generates an error kickback. Possible source: In the past, we have been allowed to choose “PD/PI” from the drop-down menu to classify personnel on the application, and then use a similar drop-down menu further into the application to classify the PD/PI again in a different section.  In the new Forms C set, subsequent PD/PI classification is now done with a text box in which you type the classification instead of selecting it from a drop-down menu.  The sticky wicket here is that the NIH error bot searches by string; therefore, you must type exactly “PD/PI” in the text line to precisely match the selection in the drop-down from the previous section’s classification.  Selecting “PD/PI” and then later typing “Principal Investigator,” for instance, will result in your application being returned with an error.
  2. Problem: Your budget justification generates an error. Possible source: You used boxes or tables.  In the past, boxes and tables were a great way to organize the information in your budget justification.  The new bot in the NIH system, however, does not recognize this formatting and will return it as an error.
  3. Problem: You receive and error indicating that your attachments must be PDFs, but they are all PDFs.  Possible source: You may have accidentally included editable fields in your PDF document; the NIH systems do not allow these.  Be sure to “flatten” your PDF documents before upload


What Is The Difference Between an Error and a Warning?  An “error” is any anomaly that will prevent the application from going forward to further consideration. Errors usually indicate significant inaccuracies, inconsistencies, omissions, or incorrect formatting that have been identified in the body of the application. “Warnings”, on the other hand, indicate discrepancies that are acceptable, but are considered worthy by the NIH of bringing to the applicant’s attention due to the high possibility that it is a mistake. It is the applicant’s choice whether to make a change based on the warning.

For more detailed information about errors and warnings generated by the NIH validation system, we have adapted this Errors and Warnings document for your use.


How Do I Correct Errors in my Application?  NIH provides a detailed list of instructions for how to correct any errors your application may generate.  Be sure to submit your application well before the deadline to allow time for error correction; an application with errors is considered not submitted and you will not be given extra time to make changes.


With a little time, patience and understanding, you, too, can fall in love with your NIH submission forms all over again!

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