NIH Proposal Guide

List of Contents:

NIH Proposal Submission

Please refer to the Program Announcement for submission details. Generally, you must use one of these submission options to access the application forms for an NIH opportunity:

  1. Use Kuali for submissions
  2. Use the NIH ASSIST system to prepare, submit and track your application online.
  3. Go to to download an application package to complete the application forms offline or create a Workspace to complete the forms online; submit your application to; and track your
    application in eRA Commons. (Top)

NIH eRA Commons

When submitting a proposal to NIH, NIH requires the Principal Investigator to have an NIH eRA Commons account.  To register, PIs should contact the R&E Help Desk with the information below:

  1. First Name:
  2. Last Name:
  3. UMass Amherst Email:
  4. Type of account needed (i.e., PI, Postdoc, Graduate Student, Assist):

After your account is created, you will receive an automated “Account Created” notification email from NIH containing the username and a randomly generated password. Please activate your account and populate your profile as soon as possible.

Changes to NIH Policy and Procedures

To stay up to date with important changes in NIH policy and procedures, PIs and Business Managers may want to subscribe to the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts or visit OPAS’s website. (Top)


NIH uses two different formats for budget submission depending on the total direct costs requested and the activity code used. The SF424 (R&R) Application Guide includes two optional budget components—(1) R&R Budget Component requesting detailed budget information; and, (2) the “simplified” PHS398 Modular Budget Component. Note: NIH applications will include either the R&R Budget Component or the PHS398 Modular Budget Component, but not both.  For more information on other considerations to take into account when developing NIH budgets, see the NIH guidance on developing a budget.


Modular Budget Process

For a modular budget proposal, investigators do not have to submit a detailed budget with categorical budget line items to the NIH.  Instead, proposing institutions submit a Modular budget with annual total direct costs built using $25,000 increments up to the maximum annual amount and total amount allowed by funding mechanism as noted above.

At UMass Amherst, an internal budget supporting and explaining the modular budget to be  submitted to the NIH need only provide details on the following categories of cost:

  • Personnel
  • Fringe
  • Consultant
  • Equipment
  • Tuition
  • Subcontracts
  • Indirect costs

These seven categories of costs must be budgeted following standard budgeting principles for those categories, but at proposal stage, all other costs can be budgeted in one lump sum without further explanation/justification or breakout in “Other Direct Costs.”

Investigators (or their business support experts) do not need to provide an internal budget justification for the above seven categories of cost if sufficient details are provided in the Kuali record or Excel budget (if the Kuali budget feature is not utilized).

Just-In-Time (JIT) stage

The JIT feature becomes available after the completion of the peer review process for applications that fall within a priority score range deemed potentially fundable.  NIH will explicitly request JIT documentation from the PI via email and/or phone – only then load JIT documentation to the Commons.  (Top)

Important considerations

  • Subcontractor (consortium) Facilities & Administrative (i.e., indirect) costs are not included in the modular direct cost limits.  Another way to put this:  the direct cost budget can exceed the annual modular cost caps by the amount of subcontractor overhead budgeted per year.
  • Subcontractors must provide UMass with detailed annual budgets approved by  authorizing officials of the institution.
  • Please reference the NIH SF424 Guide and Program Announcement for required documentation.



NIH Salary Cap

The NIH has historically restricted the amount of direct salary an individual may charge an NIH grant or contract. Commonly referred as the “NIH salary cap,” it has, for a number of years, been  linked to the Executive Level II salaries of the federal executive pay scale and adjusted whenever federal salaries were increased. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Public Law 116-260, Division H, Section 202, restricts the amount of direct salary which may be paid to an individual under an HHS grant, cooperative agreement, or applicable contract to a rate no greater than Executive Level II of the Executive Schedule Pay Table. See the Fact Sheet for the current rate. The salary and associated fringe amount above the cap must be funded by non-federal sources and shown as cost-share in the institutional commitments section of Kuali. See the Kuali quick guide for more information. (Top)

Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Compensation on NIH Grants

Compensation for graduate students on NIH grants includes salary/wages, fringe benefits, and tuition. NIH has established the zero-level postdoctoral NRSA stipend as the benchmark for an award amount that approximates a reasonable rate of compensation for graduate students. The maximum compensation (salary & fringe & tuition) for graduate students should not exceed the zero-level National Research Service Award (NRSA) stipend in effect at the time of the award. For the latest NRSA stipend levels, see NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA).

NIH Pre-doctoral Fellowships (F31)

Here is the updated NIH F31 fellowship calculator with the new rates and a line for Child Care costs. Aggregators should include the calculator in Internal attachments along with the Grad School rate sheets verifying tuition, etc.

RPPR and the NIH Public Access Policy

The NIH public access policy applies to any manuscript that is: (1) peer-reviewed, (2) accepted for publication in a journal on or after April 7, 2008, and, (3) arises from any direct funding from an NIH grant or cooperative agreement active in Fiscal Year 2008 or beyond. This policy requires that manuscripts resulting from NIH funding be linked with the PubMed Central archive. PIs will need to use the bibliography tool My NCBI to link papers to their Progress Reports. NIH will not award non-competing continuation awards when the RPPR publications are not in compliance with the Public Access Policy. (Top)

Change of Institution applications - transfer grant process

Below are the instructions for completing an NIH grant transfer from your current institution to your new institution.  You will have to coordinate the relinquishing date from the originating awardee institution and the start date of the grant at the new institution. 

If transferring out of UMass, you must follow the steps as outlined on the Transfer of Grants page and then also follow the instructions below.  Coordination with the Controller’s Office is needed for the generation of the relinquishing statement.  

If you are transferring to UMass from another institution, please complete a PI Arrival Questionnaire. It is important that prior to your appointment, the department or college business manager work with you to gain access to electronic systems needed to process your transfer request (scroll to criteria #3; Non-Employees or Pending Employees). The business manager in the department or at the college level will guide you through the University proposal process, assist with development of the transfer request, and develop the budget according to the University requirements for sponsored research funding. 

Questions on the transfer process can be directed to the proposal staff contact at OPAS.

NIH Transfer applications

From the Current Grantee Institution

Official Statement Relinquishing Interests and Rights in a PHS Research Grant is submitted via electronic Research Administration Commons (eRA Commons).  The transfer application cannot be processed until this form has been submitted.  This form provides the effective date of relinquishment, estimated unexpended Direct and Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs (funds from previous budget periods should not be included in these amounts), and a list of equipment costing $5,000 or more transferring with the project. 

Relinquishing Statement Resources:

From the Proposed New Institution                                                              

Contact the NIH Grants Management Specialist (GMS) assigned to the existing award in order to confirm the next steps.

For instructions on how to complete an electronic change of institution application, please visit the NIH Parent Announcement website and scroll to the bottom of the webpage for “Change of Grantee Organization (Type 7 Parent Clinical Trial Optional)” – currently this is PA-18-590. 

UMass Specific:  for change of institution applications being submitted by UMass on behalf of incoming faculty, the proposal should be built in the University’s electronic proposal administration system using the Program Announcement noted above.  (Top)

Other Resources