Prepare to Apply


Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR)
[Designated by eBiz POC within] An Authorized Organizational Representative submits a grant application on behalf of a company, organization, institution or government. AORs have the authority to sign grant applications and the required certifications and/or assurances necessary to fulfill the requirements of the application process.

In eRA Commons

Signing Official (SO)
[Designated by organization in eRA Commons] A business official is the person authorized to act on behalf of an organization, including signing and submitting the grant application and agreeing to abide by all federal rules and conditions pertaining to the grant. A Signing Official can register the institution, create user accounts for PIs and modify the institutional profile. An SO in Commons is the equivalent of an Authorized Organizational Representative in

SO for Penn State College of Medicine is Stephanie Johnson or Dr. Sheila Vrana

Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI)

[Designated by Signing Official in eRA Commons] A Project Director/Principal Investigator is designated by the applicant organization to direct the project or program to be supported by the grant. The PI/PD is responsible and accountable to applicant organization officials for the proper conduct of the project or program. The role of the PI within Commons is to update his personal profile, check the status of the application and complete the grant process.

Creating PDFs
NIH requires all text attachments to the application to be submitted as PDF files. Some type of PDF creation software is needed to create the PDF (the free Adobe Reader will NOT create an Adobe file).

Non-Windows (Macintosh, Linux, etc.)
If the applicant does not have a Windows operating system, the applicant can download and complete the application by:

  • Using a Windows emulation program
  • Using a free Citrix server

Prior to submitting a federal grant application online through, an applicant organization must complete a one-time registration both at and eRA Commons. The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine has already completed this process. Principal Investigators do not have to register at, but MUST register with NIH's eRA Commons.  Please contact Marybeth Brown at the Office of Research Affairs x8495 to register in eRA Commons.

Penn State University Registration Name: Pennsylvania State Univ Hershey Med Ctr

eRA Commons registration is a multi-step process. Allow for 2-4 weeks to complete this registration.

  • If an applicant has started the eRA Commons registration process at least two weeks in advance of the submission date, NIH will consider it a “good faith” effort to prepare for electronic submission and the applicant will not be penalized for any NIH-caused registration processing delay.
  • Principal Investigators do NOT need to register in but MUST be registered in the NIH eRA Commons prior to electronic submission of an application.
  • PIs must update their Personal Profile in Commons.
  • NIH requires the Principal Investigator to fill in his or her Commons User ID in the PD/PI section Credential log-in field on the Senior/Key Person Profile Component.