Internal approval via the electronic Research Administration (eRA) system is required for submission of a funding/grant application to an external funding agency (Application-stage approval) or for specific scenarios (see Table below) where a researcher requires sign-off of an awarded research contract (Contract-stage approval) by the Research Contracts & Innovation (RC&I) office.
|Application-stage approvals||When do I use this application type?|
|Proposal Approval (clinical or non-clinical trials)||Must be completed when a researcher applies for a research grant, e.g. in response to a specific funding opportunity announcement or request for applications from an external funding agency.|
|Preliminary Proposal Approval||Must be completed when a researcher intends to submit a letter of intent or preliminary application (also known as an outline proposal or first stage proposal of a two-stage process) to an external funder in which they supply a budget broken down by cost category.|
|South African Medical Research Council Self-initiated Research Scheme||Must be completed when a researcher applies for the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Self-initiated Research (SIR) Grants Programme. Only use this form for the SAMRC SIR scheme. For other SAMRC funding schemes, please use the ‘Proposal Approval’ form when applying for funds|
|Poliomyelitis Research Foundation||Must be completed when a researcher applies for Poliomyelitis Research Foundation (PRF) Research Grants and Major Impact Projects.|
|Contract-stage approvals||When do I use this application type?|
|Contract Approval (clinical or non-clinical trials)||Applicable when a researcher is awarded a research contract from a funder or arising from commissioned/consultancy/industry-led contract research for which:
* There was no funding call and the process began with contract negotiation with the funder/sponsor.
* A proposal approval form was submitted, but the funder requests changes to the project or budget at award/contract stage.
|Type of proposal/contract||Need to submit eRA approval form?|
|International funder (e.g. NIH, Wellcome Trust, EU, GCRF, UKRI, Royal Society)*||Yes|
|Industrial Funder (e.g. Sasol, MINTEK, AngloGold Ashanti, Eskom)*||Yes|
|National Funder (e.g. DST, WRC, THRIP)* except the NRF||Yes|
|South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)*||Yes, except for Postdoctoral Fellowships (see Fellowships and studentships below)|
|Poliomyelitis Research Foundation||Yes, except for PhD and MSc applications|
|National Research Foundation (NRF)||No|
|Internal UCT funding (e.g. URC)||No|
|Grants submitted/administered through other institutions*||If UCT is claiming budget, then yes|
|Renewals, supplements, amendments or extensions|
|Renewals||Yes (where yes for the original application)|
|Amendment or extension||If there is a change to the budget or protocol then yes (when yes for original application)|
|Fellowships and studentships|
|Postdoctoral fellowships to external funder*||Yes (except for SAMRC and NRF), but only where funds are provided for project costs in addition to the personal stipend (note, for fellowships the PI named on the approval form must be the supervisor)|
|Early-career fellowships to external funder*||Yes, except for SAMRC and NRF|
|Postgraduate studentships to external funder||Yes, but only where funds are provided for project costs in addition to the personal stipend (note, for studentships the PI named on the approval form must be the supervisor)|
|UCT postgraduate studentships/scholarships||No|
|If in doubt, ask yourself: will what I am submitting pose any potential risk to UCT, whether in terms of resource use, research ethics, health and safety, and finances? If the answer is yes, then complete an approval form.|
*Letter of Intent/Preliminary Application: An eRA approval form needs to be submitted if supplying a budget breakdown by cost category. If only supplying a single figure for total budget requested, then an approval form does not need to be submitted.
|Mostly non-monetary related contracts, including:|
|Confidentiality and Non-disclosure Agreements|
|Materials Transfer and Data Sharing Agreements|
|No cost extensions|
|Assignment Agreements & License Agreements|
|Inter-Institutional Agreements & Sales order requests|
|Sub-contracts: When a researcher requires a contract to be established between UCT and a subcontractor/sub-awardee (most often a company or another academic research institution).|
1. Is there a tutorial describing how to navigate the eRA system?
Yes, you can watch the orientation video tutorial here.
To protect your personal data and institutional security, the system will automatically log you out after a period of inactivity (30 min). Please note, the system will not auto save any data entered into a newly initiated pre-awards approval form. To avoid disappointment, please be sure to save your application at regular intervals when in the process of entering data.
3. What is the purpose of the project approval request form?
4. Will the UCT eRA system submit my application to the funder?
No. All actions to ‘submit’ within the eRA system are for the purposes of internal submission and approval only. It is the PI’s responsibility to ensure the application is submitted to the appropriate funder using the system or mechanism designated by the funder, by the funder’s deadline. Importantly, please ensure you receive a confirmation of submission message from the funder following application submission (whether submitted by yourself as PI or by a Research Contracts Manager).
5. Who completes which parts of the approval form?
The ‘Key Information’, ‘Research Related Information’, ‘Resourcing, Ethics & Biosafety’ tabs must be completed by the PI (or individual designated by the PI – see FAQ 6 below). The ‘Financial Information’ tab is to be completed by the Budget Reviewer (staff member in your Finance Department), while the ‘Approval and Outcome’ tab is to be completed by the Budget Reviewer, Finance Approver, Final Faculty Approver and staff at the Research Contracts & Innovation Office (RC&I). Once the outcome of an application is known, the PI is expected to update this outcome information under the ‘Approval and Outcome’ tab (an automated email will alert PIs to this requirement 90 days after the approval form has been marked as submitted).
6. Can I delegate access for the completion of an approval form?
Yes ( watch the video tutorial @2m38s). Completion of administrative and project information can be performed by an individual designated by yourself as PI. The delegated individual will also be able to complete all internal submission steps as well as perform the “Preliminary/final declaration by Applicant” on behalf of the PI. Notifications updating PIs on progress of the internal approval form will be sent to both the PI and delegated individual. Please note, ultimate responsibility for all delegated tasks remains with the PI.
7. Does an Application-stage approval need to be submitted for all funding applications?
The only funders/schemes for which you do not need to submit an application stage approval are internal/URC grants and awards, and applications to the National Research Foundation. These schemes currently have other internal review processes. An Application-stage approval must be submitted for all other external grant applications, including all single-stage applications, full applications and preliminary funding applications requiring a budget breakdown. When submitting a preliminary application/concept note where no budget information is requested, an approval form is not required (see FAQ 8 below); however, should you be invited by the funder to submit a full application it would then be necessary to complete an approval form. For a full summary of when to submit an approval see the table at the top of this page.
8. Do I need to complete an approval form for preliminary applications that do not request a budget breakdown (i.e. budget detail by cost category)?
9. How do I clarify whether my study is a clinical trial or not?
Clinical trials (also called interventional studies): "In a clinical trial, participants receive specific interventions according to the research plan or protocol created by the investigators. These interventions may be medical products, such as drugs or devices; procedures; or changes to participants' behavior, such as diet."
Observational studies: "In an observational study, investigators assess health outcomes in groups of participants according to a research plan or protocol. Participants may receive interventions (which can include medical products such as drugs or devices) or procedures as part of their routine medical care, but participants are not assigned to specific interventions by the investigator (as in a clinical trial)."
Visit https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/about-studies/learn for more information.
10. What are the internal deadlines for submission of the approval form?
In instances where RC&I actions the final submission step of your application to a funder, RC&I requires that they receive a fully signed-off proposal approval form five (5) working days before the funder's deadline. Internal deadlines allow for a thorough review of the applications and enough time to make any necessary amendments. eRA proposal approval deadlines may differ faculty by faculty, but we recommend that PIs should have completed the Finance approver step of the approval form 10 working days before the funder deadline to obtain timeous approval from both their own faculty and RC&I (where relevant). PIs will need to liaise with their faculty approval signatories about turn-around times.
Please note, should you as PI not adhere to these internal deadlines, internal approval of your application prior to the funder’s submission deadline cannot be guaranteed. Completion of project details on the approval form and development of the budget can however be done with the Budget Reviewer any time prior to these deadlines (the earlier the better). For descriptions of the different roles in the approval process, please see FAQ 20 below.
11. Does the project proposal uploaded to the approval form need to be the final version?
For applications to the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation, the complete and final application needs to be uploaded. For all other applications, the proposal uploaded can be in draft format; however, the budget must be final. Importantly, the version of the proposal uploaded to the approval form must contain sufficient information for an internal reviewer to understand the activities of the project and any potential risks to the institution, financial or otherwise. Changes made to the proposal following internal approval should have no bearing on resource risk or the budget. In the event changes to the proposal result in changes to the budget, it will be necessary to initiate a new approval request.
12. Do all project co-investigators need to be listed, or only UCT co-investigators?
The system only permits the addition of people that are included on the UCT personnel databases (including staff, postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students), so only UCT co-investigators need to be added. These can be added by selecting the + icon and searching for the relevant UCT personnel.
13. What’s the difference between the funder’s and PI’s budget template?
The funder’s budget template (where applicable) is one supplied by the funder in their specific format, which must be completed by the PI and submitted to the funder along with the application. The PI’s budget template is one that is prepared by the PI through consultation with their Departmental Finance Officer (PIs may choose to make their own version different to the funder’s template, often with more detailed information, for internal use). The PI’s template is preferably an Excel document.
14. Do I have to upload both a funder’s and PI’s budget template?
When the funder has their own budget template, the completed version must be uploaded to the approval form. If the PI has created their own budget template, please upload this too to ensure the project budget information can be internally reviewed.
15. How do I attach documents to the approval form?
16. Can I attach multiple documents to the online form?
Yes. Multiple files can be selected for attachment to the form when selecting files from your system for upload.
17. If I have initiated an Application-stage approval request via eRA, how will I know when RC&I’s input is required?
Typical examples of grants that require RC&I input include grant applications submitted via Je-S, European Commission, ASSIST (NIH) and Grant Tracker (Wellcome Trust) – if UCT is the lead/primary applicant or if documents require an institutional signature. For other online systems or grant submissions or if UCT is a sub-applicant, the applicant would need to check the funder application/submission process and liaise with RC&I regarding their possible involvement.
18. What additional documents (beyond the proposal and budget) would I typically send to RC&I when requesting institutional approval to submit my funding application?
Funders that supply an application template requiring institutional approval will generally include a page that needs to be signed by an institutional official. Ensure this page (whether separate or part of the entire application form) is attached to the eRA approval form for the attention of RC&I. For some funders (e.g. Wellcome, NIH), final institutional approval is given online by completion of the final submission step by the institution (after the PI has completed their part of the submission).
19. What is the difference between ‘Save’ and ‘Save and Close’?
‘Save’ will save all information captured on the approval form up to that point but will not progress the form to any subsequent approval steps. ‘Save and Close’ will result in a pop-up dialogue box wherein options are provided to either save your form in draft status or progress your form to the next workflow step in the approval process. Please refer to the internal approval process for further detail relating to the order to follow for each step of the approval process.
20. What is the difference between the Budget Reviewer, Finance Approver and Final Faculty Approver; who are they and what do they do?
The Budget Reviewer is a staff member in your Finance Department (e.g. Departmental Finance Officer or Faculty Finance Officer) who will help you develop an appropriate budget and will complete the financial information in the approval form. Following completion of the respective sections by the PI and Budget Reviewer, the form is sent for final internal approval by the Finance Approver (e.g. Research Management Accountant or Faculty Finance Manager) followed by the Final Faculty Approver (e.g. Deputy Dean of Research). An overview of the tasks performed at each step is given in the internal approval process.
21. Will I know who the reviewers/approvers are and can I contact them if I have queries?
These individuals can be contacted by email or phone if needed. The identity of the Budget Reviewer should be known to you, as PIs are expected to develop their project budgets with the Budget Reviewer prior to submitting the approval form. The identity of the Finance Approver and Final Faculty Approver will however only be added to the ‘Status log’ of your approval form once the relevant individual has completed their step in the approval process (see FAQ 28 below describing the location and how to access the ‘Status log’). As a guide, the Finance Approver and Final Faculty Approver are typically Faculty Finance Managers and Faculty Deans or Deputy Deans, respectively. Please familiarise yourself with who these individuals are in your Faculty in case it is necessary to contact them in advance of the approval form reaching them.
22. Why can I not add text in some text boxes or only complete certain check boxes?
This is to indicate a section that either does not need to be completed by you or which can only be completed by you following the completion of approval steps by the Faculty Finance Reviewer, Faculty Finance Approver or Final Faculty Approver.
23. Why does the Budget Reviewer not send the approval form to the Finance Approver once the budget detail has been captured, i.e. why is the form returned to me (as PI) for me send to it to the Faculty Finance Approver?
This is an important step that the PI is responsible for to ensure they understand and maintain ownership of the project budget. As PI, you are expected to review and approve the financial information provided by the Budget Reviewer before submitting for Finance approval (and Final Faculty approval).
24. Can I withdraw my approval form if I choose not to submit?
Yes. If you choose to do so, please select the check box at the bottom of the “Resourcing, Ethics & Biosafety” tab indicating you choose to withdraw the application. Once checked, please process the application to the next appropriate step (by selecting ‘Save & Close’) to ensure all relevant individuals are notified of your decision.
25. Can a student or postdoctoral fellow complete the form as PI?
No. Only staff personnel with permission to open a fund (FM003) at UCT can act as PI on an approval form. Please see FAQ 26 below if the approval is for a fellowship to be held by a student/postdoctoral fellow at UCT.
26. If a staff member acts as the PI completing the form on behalf of a postgraduate student or postdoctoral fellow, should the student’s/fellow’s details be listed?
Yes. Student/fellow details should be included under the “Co-Investigators” section. A note indicating this arrangement should preferably be included in the “Additional comments from Applicant” box under the “Resourcing, Ethics & Biosafety” tab. The staff member takes responsibility for the accuracy of the application and approval form.
27. Can I copy or transfer the information entered for one approval form into a new form?
Yes. The eRA system offers a “clone” option whereby information entered in an approval form can be transferred to a new form. The clone functionality is only available at specific steps of the approval workflow (as indicated below).
1. Submitted to faculty finance approver
2. RC&I Review
4. Awarded Contract Required
5. Conditionally Awarded
The option to clone an approval form will be displayed below the application information in the list view of the “Project Applications/Approval Requests” screen. When cloning an approval form, please ensure that the information provided matches the study that needs to be approved. This is especially applicable when changing a cloned form from a proposal approval to contract approval.
28. Can I track the status of my approval form through each step of the approval process?
Yes. This can be achieved in one of two ways. The primary means by which to check status is through your profile Dashboard where all approval forms that have passed the Budget Reviewer step will be listed under ‘Recently edited’ items. The form of interest can be opened and the ‘Status log’ for that form opened by selecting ‘Admin info’ (located above the ‘More’ tab). Within the ‘Status log’ you will find the detail of which step in the approval process your form is currently at. You will not be able to edit any of the information on the approval form once it has entered the approval sequence. Alternatively, all forms you have submitted for review and internal approval are listed under ‘Project Applications/Approval Requests’, located under ‘Award Management’ in the left side menu. Selecting ‘Project Applications/Approval Requests’ will link to a secondary dashboard with a list of all approval forms linked to your profile. To the bottom right of the information box for each of your approval forms is a status flag and associated message indicating which step in the approval process your form is currently at.
29. If I am travelling can someone else complete and submit the approval form on my behalf?
Yes, this can be achieved by delegating access to your profile to a trusted individual in your research group or department. Please see video link in FAQ 6 above for how to go about delegating access.
30. What do I enter as the funder if the grant is being supported by multiple funders or under an umbrella funding scheme (e.g. Newton Fund)?
In instances such as this, list the primary funder as the funder responsible for managing receipt of your application.
31. Do I need to complete an approval form if the application is being led and submitted by another institution (i.e. not by UCT)?
If developing a budget broken down by cost categories when UCT is applying as a sub-applicant, then an approval form must be submitted.
32. Do I need to submit an approval form if the funder does not require institutional approval before submission?
If the project budget submitted to the funder is broken down by cost categories, then yes.
33. Who are the Final Faculty Approvers (FFA) in my Faculty?
34. Definitions of roles on eRA pre-awards