Getting Started

Systems Access

Grants Management Application Suite (GMAS):

The Sponsored Research Administrator (SRA) uses GMAS to be able to submit applications and other request types (see Award Setup and Project Changes) for approval. 

All Investigators are automatically given access to GMAS to sign off on their own proposals (see Review and Submission).  The Department's Authorized Requestor requests GMAS access for the SRA from Financial Systems Solutions (FSS).  Once access is confirmed, users log in to GMAS using their Harvard ID and PIN.

When creating the project record in GMAS, the SRA is asked a series of questions that generates a list of the internal approvals required  for the project. Many of these approvals are required before the application is submitted. Therefore, it is recommended that the SRA create the GMAS record as early as possible in the application process.

Sponsor Systems

In order to register in any of the systems below, the SRA should first contact the Department's Pre-Award Contact in the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP).  OSP is the primary point of contact for systems access (unless the application portal permits the individual to create his or her own profile).

Fastlane and All NSF proposals can currently be submitted through Fastlane. The NSF is piloting the use of for some proposal types.  Both of these systems require a NSF ID for the PI. In order to request a NSF ID, the individual user registers at Upon completing registration, the Individual receives a temporary password and a link to update. After updating, the user must log in and "Add New Role" to register as PI. OSP approves the PI role and the individual is notified by

RAS recommends using ASSIST for NIH applications. The application may be initiated by searching for the Funding Opportunity Announcement in ASSIST.  The SRA may use his or her own login to submit through ASSIST. The eRA Commons IDs for Senior/Key Personnel are is entered in order to populate forms; but the PI does not otherwise need to enter ASSIST unless he or she wishes to view the application in the system.

eRA Commons:  The eRA Commons is not used for NIH proposal submission.  NIH proposals are submitted by OSP using and can be created in GMAS by the SRA using either System to System or the application forms. However, an eRA Commons ID is required for application submission. Applicants use the Commons to track application status, submit Just-In-Time information (such as IRB status) and submit reports. / Workspace
Most other Federal proposals are submitted using Workspace, an application available through  In order to access Workspace, register with as  an Organizational Applicant. Once you register, your Workspace role will be assigned and approved by OSP and you will receive an email indicating that this is complete.   The PI does not need a role in Workspace or in order to submit.   

In order to find and apply for an opportunity on, log in to and search for the opportunity.  Select the appropriate opportunity and click on the "Apply" button in the top right corner to begin compiling the Workspace application. 


Principal Investigator (PI) Eligibility

For each sponsored award, it is customary to designate as PI one person who bears ultimate responsibility for academic decisions as well as for financial, administrative, and compliance matters relating to the project. 

Only  teaching members of the Faculty and a select number of other academic appointees are accorded Principal Investigator rights and may seek external research support on a continuing basis.

If a Harvard employee whose appointment type is not listed among those on the PI Eligibility policy page wishes to serve as PI, his or her Department Chair must submit a request to the appropriate Divisional Dean using the PI Rights Questionnaire Form

PI Eligibility should be reviewed before beginning any new application process.

Application Types

Any appeal to a sponsor that will result in funds being awarded to the University (rather than to the PI directly) must be authorized by OSP and is subject to the Proposal Submission Policy.  Submissions to sponsors typically fall into one of the following categories:

An application for funding that contains all information necessary to describe project plans, staff capabilities, facilities, and other resources.  Any proposal that will be awarded to the University will require an Authorized Signature by OSP.

Proposals are routed through GMAS and approved by the Department, FAS, and OSP.  They are typically submitted to the sponsor by OSP unless the sponsor instructs otherwise.

Letter of Intent (LOI)
The LOI usually includes a brief description of the proposed work and may or may not include budget information.

Letters of intent containing budget information should be reviewed by FAS and OSP.

Pre-proposals are usually solicited by sponsors and typically include a brief project summary and an estimated budget total.

The submission process for a pre-proposal is the same as a new Proposal (above).

Retroactive Proposal
If a proposal is submitted by a PI without review, the proposal, budget and award terms will still need to be reviewed when the sponsor notice arrives at the University.  Retroactive proposals are typically more time consuming than proposals that receive review prior to submission because budget revisions and unanticipated administrative requirements can complicate award negotiations. 

The original proposal and award notice should be routed through GMAS as quickly as possible and approved by the PI and Department. FAS and OSP review the proposal for compliance and work with OSP to ensure that any administrative changes are integrated into the final award notice.

Gift vs. Grant

Investigators working with new sponsors should attempt to clarify whether funding will be made available to them in the form of a gift or a grant.  Gifts and grants are handled by two separate Harvard units and each carry their own distinct sets of policies and procedures that may affect the award budget, among other things. See Gift vs. Grant for a summary of the factors that should be considered when determining how to classify an award.

Proposal Checklists

The instructions found in a solicitation or request for proposals (RFP)  are often supplemented by the sponsor's overall grantmaking policy (e.g. the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide) or in a separate guide to the application forms (e.g. the NIH "How to Apply" resources).  It may be helpful to create a checklist that includes all University approvals and sponsor requirements and confirms application roles and responsibilities.  Sample checklists can be found in the Resources section.

Internal Approvals

GMAS entry provides a helpful framework for determining which internal approvals will be required (either before submission or before an award can be set up) well before final Review and Submission. The information below provides more information about common approvals and how they are administered.

Conflict of Interest
To ensure that Conflict of Interest disclosures are obtained for all key personnel, enter them into "Research Staff" in GMAS.

Interfaculty Involvement (IFI)
Proposals that involve the participation of personnel in department's or Harvard schools other than the PI's need special approvals. Answer "yes" to the IFI Involvement question in GMAS to enter the details of this arrangement.

Cost Sharing
Cost Sharing information should be entered into the GMAS request and approved during the 5-day review period.

Administrative Salaries
If the project requires administrative support that is greater than what is normally supported by existing staff, answer "yes" to the Administrative Salaries question in GMAS and be sure to address it in the budget justification.

Use of Special Indirect Rates
See Indirect Costs for information about how special indirect rates should be handled during the application process.

Participation Agreement (PA)
The PA is required of all individuals who perform research at Harvard and/or who may create intellectual property through the use of Harvard resources.  Harvard researchers can sign their Participation Agreements using GMAS.

Human Subjects
Unless otherwise indicated by the sponsor, CUHS (Committee on the Use of Human Subjects) approval is not usually required until an award is pending but it is critical to identify whether human subjects will be involved at the proposal stage.  Most sponsors ask for this information in their application forms and PI's should be alerted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) review and approval process.

Unless otherwise indicated by the sponsor, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval is not usually required until an award is pending but it is critical to identify whether animals will be involved at the proposal stage.  Most sponsors ask for this information in their application forms and PI's should be alerted to the IACUC review and approval process.