Additional Considerations for US Funding Proposals

Federal Funding

Grant applications to most U.S. government departments must be completed and submitted electronically via the grants.gov website. Participating federal agencies include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services and National Science Foundation.

Since there are several U.S. federal agencies managed through grants.gov, the first question is how to find a relevant funding opportunity. The grants.gov website supports various search engines (by keyword, funding category, agency and eligibility), as well as offering subscriptions for notifications of new grant funding postings.

It is important to confirm that the University of Alberta (U of A), as a foreign institution, is eligible to apply to any funding opportunity in which you are interested. You can find eligibility information in Part 2, Section III of the funding guidelines under the sub-category, "1. Eligible Applicants – Foreign Institutions." In this subsection, the guidelines will indicate whether "non-domestic (non-U.S.) entities (Foreign Institutions)" are eligible to apply. (If you are interested in collaborating on a U.S.-based application, confirm that foreign components are eligible.)

All investigators, who are applying for or participating in a research project funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) or other Public Health Service (PHS) or Health and Human Services (HHS) or any other research funding source which has adopted the HHS 42 CVR Part 50 and 45 CFR Part 94 regulation, must also comply with UAPPOL Financial Conflict of Interest for National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Other Applicable Research Funding Sources Reporting and Assessment Procedure at the time of application.

See List of Agencies using the PHS FCOI Regulations.


Preparing an Application

In order to apply, applicants do not need to be registered with grants.gov. The U of A is registered as an Institution and already has a DUNS number. For most U.S. government applications, applicants, however, will need an eRA commons login. The electronic Research Administration (eRA) Commons manages grants for NIH as well as a number of other U.S. federal agencies. In order to get an eRA Commons login, applicants should contact their Research Facilitator and provide the following information (name, email address, preferred login, phone number). Applicants should receive an automated response from eRA Commons once their new login has been created by the research facilitator.

In addition to an eRA Commons login, applicants must have the most recent version of Adobe Reader software in order to view and complete the application package. Applicants can check to verify that they have the correct version of Adobe Reader at the grants.gov website.

For additional resources in preparing your application, please visit the Applicant Resources section of the grants.gov website.

In preparation for submitting your application to RSO for review and approval please create a new Proposal on the Researcher Home Page. More information about this process is available in the Guide to Researcher Home Page booklet. You must Save, Submit and, most importantly, PRINT the signature page you generate. When the application has been completed, print your application (including attachments) and forward the package along with the signature page to your Chair (if applicable), Dean (or Associate Dean (Research)) and Research Facilitator for review and sign-off. Your designated Research Facilitator will help coordinate the electronic submission of the application to grants.gov, since only an authorized organizational representative (AOR) may upload and submit the application.

Currently, the AORs at the University are:

  • Julaine Herst, Assistant Director, Contracts & Agreements
  • Julie Stephens, Assistant Director, Research Facilitation & Strategic Initiatives
  • Research Facilitators:
    • Lan Chan Marples, Alberta School of Business, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Extension, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Native Studies, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, School of Library and Information Studies.
    • Rene Dery, Faculty of Science, Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences (Department of Renewable Resources).
    • Martine Desrochers, Augustana Campus, Campus Saint-Jean, Medicine & Dentistry (Department of Medicine - Divisions: Cardiology, Dermatology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, General Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, Hematology, Infectious Diseases, Nephrology, Neurology, Physical Medicine & Rehab, Preventive Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, Rheumatology).
    • Terra Garneau, Faculty of Engineering,
    • Pat Jones, Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, School of Public Health. Medicine & Dentistry (Departments of Pharmacology, Physiology).
    • Angela McCormick, Medicine & Dentistry (Departments of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology, Dentistry & Dental Hygiene, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, Medical Genetics, Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Oncology, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Radiology & Diagnostic Imaging, Surgery; Division of Critical Care Medicine; Office of the Dean).
    • Craig Taylor, Faculty of Arts, Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences (Departments of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, Human Ecology, Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology).

Apply Early to Guard Against Electronic Submission Errors

To successfully submit an NIH electronic grant application, you need to pass two automated systems validations: Grants.gov and eRA Commons.

Scenario 1: You Need to Address an Error Found During Validation
If your application does not pass the automated validations (error checking), you should immediately correct the errors identified and work with your Research Facilitator to resubmit the application.
Scenario 2: Your Application Passed Validations with Un-flagged Content Errors
Always use the two-day viewing window that follows eRA Commons validation to manually verify that none of your uploads are blank, missing, duplicated, or corrupted. Correct and resubmit your application on or before the due date if you find an error. This is necessary if you've already passed validations, because the automated validations aren't perfect.

Please adhere to the RSO internal deadline for electronic submission of US government applications. If the application is returned with errors, corrections must be made and the application resubmitted prior to the agency deadline. Increased web traffic makes it difficult to upload applications in a timely fashion, and the RSO cannot guarantee that applications received past the RSO deadline will be submitted to the funding agency on time.

If you are a co-applicant on a U.S. federally funded grant, the RSO will need the appropriate documentation in addition to your completed U of A Signature Page.


Other ways to submit to US Federal Funding

In addition to submissions via grants.gov, there are funding opportunities that use other methods to facilitate submission of research proposals. If you are asked for specific forms or documents to verify the U of A status such as confirmation of exemption from US income tax, work with your research facilitator to obtain official copies for submission.


Facilities and Administrative Costs (Indirect Costs) rates

NIH has set a maximum allowable rate for indirect costs for non-domestic institutions. As a non-domestic institution the U of A is permitted to charge a maximum of 8% on a Modified Total Direct Cost base excluding equipment. More information about NIH budgets is available on the NIH website.

The U of A has an agreement with the US Federal Government that governs the indirect cost rate we are allowed to charge for research grants, contracts and other agreements funded by other agencies.

Effective April 1, 2015, that rate was 69% for On-Campus base activities. Base includes direct salaries and wages, including vacation, holiday, sick pay and other paid absences, but excluding all other fringe benefits. All other direct costs are excluded from the calculation of indirect costs.

Effective April 1, 2015, a rate of 21.6% should be used for Off-Campus activities. Off-Campus is defined as all activities performed in facilities not owned by the institution and to which rent is directly allocated to the project. Grants or contracts will not be subject to more than one rate. If more than 50% of a project is performed off-campus, the off-campus rate will apply to the entire project. The off-dampus rate does not apply to equipment over $5000.


Managing an NIH Award

The primary communication about relevant terms and conditions for your award will be the notice of award from NIH (or agreement with the prime institution if we are a consortium partner, or sub-awardee) and the RSO Advice Notice. Both of these documents will include details about financial and scientific management of the research funding. Please remember that NIH funding is subject to annual revision related to US Congressional approvals.

Two policies highlighted on all notices of award are the NIH Public Access Policy and the NIH Policy on Conflicts of Interest. Please follow the hyperlinks in order to review the relevant websites and ensure compliance. If you have further questions, please contact your Research Facilitator (and/or liaison librarian, in the case of the Public Access policy).

Complete guide to NIH grants policy statements, notices and other NIH policy resources.