You’re Late, You’re Late, for a Very Important Submission

It happens.  Sometimes your lab floods, or your building is on fire, or you have to flee the country, or you are inundated with paper by your study section.  And sometimes this happens very close to submission deadlines.  What to do?  Here’s what you must be aware of if you are under the gun:



  • An error free application is successfully submitted to by 5 p.m. local time on the due date.  This means that you must allow enough time to correct any errors that may be returned by 5:00pm on the deadline date; an application that was returned with an error at 4:55p and resubmitted with corrections at 5:02p is late and will not be accepted.
  • When due dates fall on a weekend or Federal holiday, they are extended to the next business day. Free time!
  • Permission to submit late is never granted in advance.
  • On EXTREMELY RARE OCCASIONS, late applications may be accepted when accompanied by a cover letter that details compelling reasons for the delay.  The NIH will decide what is “compelling.”  Specific detail about the timing and cause of the delay should be provided so “an informed, objective decision can be made.”  Only the explanatory letter is needed; no other documentation is expected. This letter is available only to NIH staff who have a “need to know” (such as those with referral or review responsibilities); it is not available to reviewers or other staff.
  • Examples of “compelling” reasons include: death of an immediate family member of the PD/PI, sudden acute severe illness of the PD/PI or immediate family member, or large scale natural disasters. Also, recent temporary or ad hoc service by a PD/PI that required a commitment of time that could have been used to prepare an application may be an acceptable reason (i.e.: serving on an NIH extramural review group, NIH Board of Scientific Counselors or an Advisory Board/Council).

  • Examples of unacceptable reasons for late submissions: failure to complete required registrations in advance of the due date, heavy teaching or administrative responsibilities, relocation of a laboratory, ongoing or non-severe health problems, personal events, review service for participants other than a PD/PI, participation in review activities for other Federal agencies or private organizations, attendance at scientific meetings, or having a very busy schedule. For electronic submissions, correction of errors or addressing warnings after the due date is not considered a valid reason for a late submission. However, if the problem is with or eRA Commons, grounds will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Be sure to follow the directions for documentation given be the NIH here.

  • Late submissions to the NIH are are governed by NOT-OD-11-035.


Other Agencies

  • Most agencies follow policies similar to NIH.  Check your RFP for specific details, or contact us to help you figure out specific guidelines for your agency.


WSU School of Medicine

  • Any proposal submitted with fewer than the required internal three days lead time is considered late, and a late submission form is required to be filed with the SOM Office of Research.
  • Proposals considered “late” by the School of Medicine that are still before the agency deadline may still be submitted; the late submission form serves as documentation of understanding of responsibility for outcomes.  Assistance with late submissions by the RAS office is entirely dependent on volume of on-time submissions.
  • The policy and late submission form for the School of Medicine can be found here.


Sponsored Program Administration (SPA)

  • Proposals must be submitted to SPA a full three business days before the agency deadline.
  • Proposals submitted less than three full University business days before the agency’s deadline will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis, following the completion of proposals submitted on time.
  • Successful submissions of proposals submitted to SPA AFTER the three day window cannot be guaranteed.
  • SPA’s policy is provided on their website, here.


Give yourself some space to breathe: allow yourself enough time to account for the unaccountable! If you have an emergency and you don’t know what to do, contact RAS – we’ll do our best to help you through!