According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more and more SBIR/STTR applicants are choosing to make their submissions through the Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking – or ASSIST – introduced late last year. If you haven’t heard about ASSIST, it is NIH’s web-based service for the preparation, submission, and tracking of grant applications. ASSIST is not required but it offers many benefits over Grants.gov’s downloadable Adobe forms.
Why use Assist vs. downloadable forms? In a nutshell, ease of use, but here are some highlights:
- The application is available from anywhere with internet access and multiple users can collaborate on it
- It pre-populates data from your eRAcommons profiles into your submission
- Includes all mandatory and optional forms
- Presents a clear, color pdf rather than a sometime low quality scanned version
- You can print/preview your application in the NIH format prior to submission
- Since ASSIST pre-screens for errors and validation prior to submission, applicants are spared the inevitable “errors and warning” messages, thus having to correct and resubmit.
Navigating through the parts of your application is intuitive with ASSIST. Locate what you’re working on in the “Actions” box. Follow breadcrumb links to navigate back and forth through pages already visited. And, use the component tabs for easy access to the various parts of your application
Once an error-free application is received by NIH, the eRA system:
- Assembles the grant application image
- Inserts headers (PI name) and footers (page numbers) on all pages
- Generates a Table of Contents and bookmarks important sections
- Posts the assembled application image in the PD/PI’s eRA Commons account
- Sends you a confirmation email
For reviewers, ASSIST’s clear pdf image, ease of application administration and analysis, and standard application structure is a big step forward. As we tell our clients, anything that makes reviewing easier is a plus for applicants.
Preparing and submitting an SBIR/STTR proposal is labor intensive so, in BBCetc’s view, the advantages offered with ASSIST is a welcome improvement and we recommend it.
Kris Bergman is BBCetc’s Grants and Contracts Management Consultant