The Many Faces of ASSIST

Like Jack’s beanstalk, ASSIST continues to grow and change as it becomes more firmly rooted in our administrative lives and takes us to heights we never thought possible (OK, maybe not *that* high).  Here are a few changes we’ve confirmed in the ASSIST system since we began using it in January:


  1. Adding users to simultaneously work on the application.  Before, the initiator of the application could add users and control what rights they had to the application (view-only, edit, etc).  This is no longer the case.  Now, only users with signatory authority in eRAcommons can add and control user access.  This means that you are likely going to have to ask your GCO to change your settings to “Access Maintainer” if you are going to need to add users to your application at any time.  FWIW: you don’t need to add your GCO.  They automatically have access on the back end; just let him/her know the application is there.
  2. Changing the submission status.   Before, you had to change each individual component of the application to “Ready to Submit” before your GCO could push the button.  Now, you only have to change to “Ready for Submission” one time.  This saves a lot of time and frustration, especially since “Work in Progress” and “Ready for Submission” are now your only options, other than to abandon.
  3. Validation and submission functions. If you try to run validation on your application and nothing happens, or you try to submit to your GCO and you receive an “unable to complete action at this time” message, likely you have a PDF that is non-compliant.  Unfortunately, ASSIST will not tell you which one it is.  If either of these happen to you, go through your application and view each file you’ve uploaded.  When you come across one that ASSIST tells you it is unable to access, that is your problem child and the one you will likely need to replace.


ASSIST continues to be a helpful form of submission with value that lies in the ability to have NIH check for compliance BEFORE you submit.  As we continue run across these little nuances, we’ll share them with you, so please share the ones you find with us as well!  If you haven’t have a chance to look over ASSIST yet, take a look at some of our previous posts and/or familiarize yourself with the user guide.  We think you’ll like it once you get to know it 🙂

Sharing is Caring…

… about the future of your research.


Still adrift on the ocean of public access?  Dr. Akers in the Shiffman Library recently put together a clarifying resource!  Check it out on their site, and take a look at her data sharing policies for researchers too (hint: this is especially important if your research involves any genomic data!).  Remember: access to your data is a very important part of your funding obligations, so make sure you understand your responsibilities.  Questions? We’re here to help, and so is Dr. Akers!

Good Morning, How May We ASSIST You?

Last week, ASSIST became a submission option for R01s and U01s.  This means that ASSIST is now available for R01, U01, R03, all multi-project grant programs, and Individual Career Development Award (K, excluding KM1 and K12) applications.  Right now, you may choose to use ASSIST for its features (we like how you can validate for errors and warnings BEFORE submission), or you may continue to use the downloadable SF424 forms.  Keep in mind, however, that SF424 wasn’t always required either 😉  In order to use ASSIST, you must use or obtain an eRACommons ID.


We’ve used ASSIST a few times here at RAS and we thought we’d share a few things we’ve found:

  • Because ASSIST is cloud-based and directly populated to NIH, you can see errors and warnings before submission.
  • More than one person can be signed in and working on an ASSIST application, just not on the same component.
  • Only a person with recognized signing authority by NIH (according to their eRACommons credentials) can actually submit. You’ll need to add your GCO as a contributor.
  • All components of your application will need to be marked “Final” before you can mark your application as “Ready to Submit.” Conversely, if a component is not marked “Work in Progress,” you cannot edit.  As annoying as this will be when you are making last-minute changes, it does prevent accidental submission of unrefined applications.


Take a look around the system and see what you find.  ASSIST is nothing to fear: if you can do an SF424, you can use ASSIST.  In fact, we bet that you’ll like the administrative data carry-over population and pre-submission validation features.  We’ve stumbled through enough now that we’ve hit many of the hiccups; if you run into one, let us know and we’ll be happy to help you navigate.  Also check out the NIH ASSIST page,  where you can access FAQs, common errors and training resources on the left-side menu.

Built by Association

Managing your citations through MyNCBI can save you a lot of time and searching if you’re using it to build your bibliography.  You can easily associate publications in your constructed bibliography with your funded research, making progress reports and access compliance that much simpler.


To add a publication to your bibliography via PubMed, be sure you are signed in to MyNCBI before you begin your search.  Once you are signed in to MyNCBI and in the PubMed environment, run a search to find your article (“Author Search” is one of the quickest ways to find what you are looking for). Select the citations you want to add to My Bibliography and then click the “Send to” link to expand the drop-down menu. Select the destination “My Bibliography” (a message indicates the number of citations selected to be copied to your bibliography) and click “Add to My Bibliography:”

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You will have the option to save these to your “My Bibliography” or “Other Citations” list (or another list you have created).  Most choose to save their own publications to “My Bibliography.”  You’ll see them in your “My Bibliography” when you return to your MyNCBI home page.

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If your added citation is not already associated with your award, you can do it manually.  To do so, be sure your “Display” settings are set to view by “Award:”

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Choose the publication that needs assignment and the award to which it needs to be assigned; click “Assign Awards”:

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You’ll be given the option to choose from more awards. Keep yours checked or choose more and click “Save:”

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And you’re done!  If you have any questions on how to build yourself a usable bibliography through MyNCBI, feel free to reach out to RAS.  Having accurate bibliographies will help you if you’re using SciENcv, too!

Aquiring Your PMCID By All Means Necessary

You may by now be familiar with the four proffered methods of bringing your publications compliant with the NIH Public Access Policy.  If you are not, you may want to check out our primer to familiarize yourself with the steps to becoming public access compliant (and, therefore, obtaining your PMCID number; for more information about the stages in which you can submit your publication, check out the NIH’s overview table).  Method A is the easiest, as it allows the journal itself to deposit your manuscript without your involvement.  Only certain journals have a “Method A relationship” with the NIH, however; if you have published in a journal that is not Method A, you’ll have to choose one of the author-initiated Methods B-D in order to bring your publication to compliance.




There is a less-publicized “gray area” means of submission that is not provided for in the infamous “Chart of Methods”.  Some publishers (Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Sage, etc.) have relationships with the NIH that streamline the process of submission for journals in their houses, even if they are not Method A.  There are steps in place by these publishers as “author services” that allow you to use their channels to obtain your PMCID number, and therefore, your compliance.


In most cases, once your paper has been accepted for publication, you will be requested to fill out a funding form and identify yourself as a NIH author.  This will trigger an operational process that ensures that the publisher will send to PMC the final peer-reviewed manuscript, and authorize its public access posting.  In most cases, this happens within 12 months of final publication.  You should be contacted by NIH once your manuscript has been deposited.  Different publishers have different methods; be sure to check with yours!


In short, if your journal is not Method A, check with your publisher for any existing relationship with NIH regarding its public access policy before you begin processes for Methods B-D.  You may save yourself a lot of time and frustration!

Fanfare for the Common Access

There are many journals that are moving toward requirements closer to the NIH Public Access policy (notable and recently: the American Heart Association; be sure to note the exceptions!).  There has been some confusion as to the difference between open access journals, public access requirements, and how they apply to the mandates imposed by funded research over published results.  So, what is the difference between “open access” and “public access?”

Public Access: Public access sits somewhere in between these poles, encouraging broader readership by limiting access control periods, while ensuring that the use of the material remains subject to the copyright and/or related license terms of the respective authors or publishers. Many research funders considering access policies have viewed public access as a manageable first step toward full Open Access. Public access, unlike Open Access, usually does not demand the immediate availabilityof peer‐reviewed articles. Rather, it recognizes that the realities of the current publishing system allow for publishers to embargo access for some period of time (six to twelve months) in order to retain their subscription revenue stream. After that time, articles following the public access model are made freely available to readers in a trusted, persistent repository such as the NIH’s PubMed Central archive.

Open Access: Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of peer‐reviewed research results, permitting any user to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software and/or use them for any other lawful purpose. SPARC has good information on open access for further reading.


A journal, then, can be open access and by default automatically comply with a public access policy; but a journal does not have to be open access in order to comply.  In order to demonstrate compliance, many of you are becoming familiar with NIH’s NCBI system.  But what if you need to demonstrate compliance to a non-NIH funder?  Luckily, most non-NIH funders adopting the public access policy do so through participation in the Health Research Alliance (HRA) Public Access initiative.

Demonstrating Compliance for Non-NIH Research: Once your funder has uploaded the required information about your grant to the Grants in the Health Research Alliance Shared Portfolio database (gHRAsp), you will receive a reminder to visit the HRA Authentication Portal page in gHRAsp. Here, you will be asked to log in with your Gmail address or eRA Commons account (Google and eRA Commons both use the same Open ID technology). Once you log in, you will be asked to search for your grants, which will link them to your gmail or eRA Commons account. When you have an accepted manuscript to deposit to PubMed Central, you will use the NIH Manuscript Submission System just as you do for manuscripts resulting from NIH grants. When you log in with your gmail address or eRA Commons Account, you will then search for your grants in the NIH Manuscript Submission system. Your grant from your HRA-member funder should appear for you to link your publication to that grant.


If your funder requires adherence to a Public Access policy but does NOT participate in the HRA Public Access initiative, contact RAS and we’ll help walk you through your specific compliance issues.  If you need a refresher on the NIH Public Access and how to comply, check out our previous post: The ABCs of PMCID!