Electronic Proposal Submission

Many funding agencies, federal and private, accept and even require you to submit applications through their online submission system. The most common systems are listed below.

  • NSF FastLane — The National Science Foundation has designed an online system to support all functions of the proposal process--proposal submission, review, award, and reporting, this system is known as FastLane.  Fastlane will be transiting to Research.gov

  • Grants.gov — Grants.gov is the official grant announcement and proposal submission system for the federal government.

  • NASA NSPIRES - NASA utilizes this online system to announce NASA funding opportunities. In some instances, pre-proposals and/or full proposals are accepted via NSPIRES.

  • NIH ERA Commons — ERA Commons is an investigator registration system that works in conjunction with Grants.gov to insure receipt of applications by the National Institutes of Health. All investigators must be registered in the Commons prior to submission of proposals to NIH and other Public Health Service agencies.

  • About ERA Commons — RA systems provide applicants, grantees, and federal staff the tools necessary for electronic processing of grants.

  • Proposal Central — Proposal Central supports a variety of non-profit funding agencies in terms of proposal submission. Agencies that utilize this system include the American Cancer Society, the Arthritis Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.


The Stanford Electronic Research Administration System (SeRA) is an enterprise-wide system that supports research administration. SeRA modules support the various stages of the sponsored project lifecycle and are the institutional system of record for sponsored projects.

The Proposal Development Routing Form (PDRF), a required form for routing a proposal, is created and routed for institutional review in the SeRA system.

PDRF Resources

Find information on  PTA Manager Resources (PTA Setup)

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eSubmit Functions

eSubmit is Stanford's drop box for electronic research proposals and provides storage, routing, and tracking features. Potential users include faculty, departmental staff, and central office staff who participate in the creation, approval, and submission of these electronic proposals.

eSubmit is used to:

  • Share files between multiple people for editing and reviewing
  • Allow multiple people access Grants.gov application packages for editing and reviewing

  • Create consistent naming and version control of files

  • Route the completed grant application package to an Institutional Rep for review and submission to Grants.gov

eSubmit Features and Attributes

eSubmit allows multiple users to upload and download application packages for editing and routing. Because eSubmit is an application, it bypasses the "50MB email limitation." eSubmit also makes it possible for Institutional Reps' colleagues to access files for review and submission, in the event that someone is out of the office during a deadline.

Each time someone uploads or downloads a copy of the file, a date and time stamp are recorded in the eSubmit record, which will help mitigate overwriting of files. Each person who logs in (using their SUNet ID and Password) will see all proposals for which they have authority (files they have uploaded as well as other people's files they have been given access to).

First-time users are asked to complete a six-minute online tutorial before using the application. Written instructions for using eSubmit are available as well.

eSubmit Additional Information and Best Practices

  • eSubmit Naming Convention: "PI Name_Sponsor_FOA_Version"

  • eSubmit will be used to collect data as a precursor to our SeRA Preaward System

  • Access the eSubmit module of the Grants.gov training

Downloading files from eSubmit for editing


The Internet browser will cache the file in a temp folder and it will be difficult to locate.


Navigate to a known location on your computer (such as your desktop or a grants.gov file).

"Checked Out" Grants.gov application files


If someone is absent from the office and has a file checked out, no one else can edit or route it.


At the end of each day, upload all checked out Grants.gov application files. (This enables others to access them.)

eSubmit Login Problems and Solutions

  1. Incorrect SUNet ID:  Everyone has one SUNet ID.  Some people set up aliases and they won't work for the eSubmit login. If you cannot remember your correct SUNet ID, please check your Stanford You record.

  2. Multiple Employee IDs: Many faculty and staff have more than one Employee ID in the system. If you receive this message when logging into eSubmit: "Your SUNet ID and password are valid, but your user information is not available," please do the following:

  • Check your Stanford ID Card for your current Employee ID number
  • Submit a HelpSU ticket
  • Request Type: E-Submit
  • Request Category: Administrative Applications
  • In the Request Description section, please enter the following information: Prevented from logging into eSubmit because of duplicate Empl ID, current ID is XXXXXX [enter number].
  • We'll include this information to a login script that will allow you to get into eSubmit
  • You receive a message that your SUNet ID and Password are invalid: This can usually be resolved by resetting your password in Stanford You.  You can "update" your password to the same value as it is currently. Once this is done, you should be able to log in.


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Grants.gov is where to find and apply for Federal grants. Grants.gov replaces paper applications with electronic forms and requires electronic submission of all applications.

Getting Started

View the Grants.gov overview

View a narrated tutorial on how to download and complete a grant application using Grants.gov.

  • There is no logon for Grants.gov, and only Stanford Institutional Representatives (OSR and RMG) are allowed to submit applications through Grants.gov.

  • Do not create an account with Grants.gov. While the Grants.gov helpdesk may tell you that you need an account, be assured, you do not need one - the Institution (Stanford) is the only account holder.

  • Do not re-register Stanford in the Central Contractor Registry (CCR); Stanford has already been registered.

  • Use the specific application package and instructions linked to each FOA. Note that each FOA can have multiple sets of instructions and forms.

  • Do not email applications - they will corrupt! If you need to share the file, use a flash drive, eSubmit, department server, or attach to the PDRF.

  • Each solicitation must have a Funding Opportunity Number (FON) - check your agency website for general numbers for investigator-initiated or "unsolicited" or "investigator-initiated" proposals.

  • Review the funding opportunity (solicitation), instructions, and the application package. Note that many large sponsors have "general Grants.gov" instructions, and some sponsors create special instructions for each application. Be familiar with the instructions of the sponsors to whom you submit so your application will be completed properly. Crucial information can be buried in the FOA or instructions!

  • Never copy or reuse an old package on resubmissions, even if all the information is the same! They can only be submitted once! (Note: any PDF attachments that have not changed can be reused for other applications).

Download Applications & Instructions

After you select the How to Apply tab, a download page opens. To download the application package and instructions, click the Download link in the lower right of the screen.

This will open the Download Opportunity Instructions and Application page. After confirming you have selected the correct opportunity:

  1. Enter email addresses into the field provided. This is used to notify you of any changes to the package, and your address will not be added to any SPAM or distribution lists. Multiple addresses can be added, and you will need to add them to every application (as they are application-specific).

  2. Download BOTH the application instructions and the application package. Please note:

  • When you download the application package, it’s important to note that it’s on your computer, not a sponsor server. 

  • The “package” is one electronic file – it cannot be broken up or merged.

  • Only one person can work on the application package at a time.

  • Additionally – do not discount the program announcement! Some sponsors use generic instructions for all of their applications; the program announcements may have different instructions for each individual FOA which will override any general instructions.

  • Each solicitation must have a Funding Opportunity Number (FON) - check your agency website for general numbers for investigator-initiated or "unsolicited" or "investigator-initiated" proposals.

  • Resubmissions: Always download a new application package - they can only be submitted once. Never reuse grant application packages on resubmissions, even if all the information is the same! You CAN reuse PDF attachments that have not changed.

  • Always use the [SAVE] button in the form - do not use "file-->save as" or the Adobe save icon.

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Grants.Gov SF424

One form that every grant application will contain is a version of the SF424 form. This is similar to the face page (cover page) of an application. The SF424 provides application-specific information about the application (type, title, etc.), Stanford University, the PI, and the Institutional Rep. This form must be completed first; information from this form is used to pre-populate most other forms in the package.

Several versions of the SF424 form exist in Grants.gov – at Stanford we will primarily use the SF424RR (research and research-related), and the Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424). The sponsor chooses the form that will be associated with each application.

The following sample information is not a substitute for reviewing the application instructions. Always review both the instructions and the program announcement/solicitation for the correct information!

Completing the SF424 R&R

General "Stanford" information will be entered on the SF424 form:

  • Applicant Organization Name: Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University

  • Stanford’s DUNS number: Stanford already has an assigned Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number. Stanford's DUNS number (required for every SF 424 and SF 424RR) is:  009214214

  • Tax ID Number:: 941156365 for all applications except those for DHHS agencies (NIH, CDC, FDA, etc. which use 1941156365A1)

  • Additionally, you can find Stanford Institutional Information on the "Institutional Facts" page.

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Grants.Gov - Route

Notify your Institutional Representative when your application is ready for institutional review.

  • By 9:00 am, at least 5 business days before the deadline, email or deliver the completed application to your Institutional Representative via eSubmit (in the School of Medicine) or as an attachment to the PDRF (in all other schools).

  • Be sure to route your PDRF and any other required forms at this time.

  • Your Institutional Rep will review the application, notify you if errors are found, and submit the application to Grants.gov once errors are corrected.

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Grants.Gov - Receipt

Grants.gov will send three email notifications to the Institutional Rep to indicate application status:

  • "Received" indicates that Grants.gov has received the application, but the application is awaiting validation (sent to IR).

  • "Validated" indicates that Grants.gov has validated the application and it is available for the agency to retrieve,

  • "Rejected with Errors" indicates that Grants.gov was unable to process your application because of error(s) and cannot accept the application until you correct the errors and successfully resubmit the application. You will receive email notification with information on how to address the error(s).  

Once your application is successfully validated, Grants.gov notifies the sponsor and once the sponsor retrieves the package, Grants.gov sends the "Received by Agency" email.

Once the application is retrieved by the sponsor, all further communication is with the sponsor.

Each granting agency has a unique process for notifying you when your application has errors or is accepted.

  • Some granting agencies send email notifications to the Institutional Rep and possibly the PI to verify receipt and report errors that must be corrected.

  • Keep in close contact with your Institutional Rep to monitor your application.

  • Be proactive! Agencies will accept corrected applications up to a certain point. If you wait too long to check on your application, you might miss your opportunity to submit a corrected application. 

  •  Best Practice: If you have not heard from the funding agency within three days of submitting your application, call your Institutional Rep to check the status. 

  •  If your application is an NSF application, go to FASTLANE to retrieve your application. Correct the errors through FASTLANE. You do not need to address the error(s).

  •  If your application is an NIH application, the PI will receive a notice from NIH; go to eRA Commons to view (and print) your application. Warnings should be reviewed, but can usually be ignored; errors must be corrected.

  • NIH Applying Electronically - Avoiding Common Errors

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