Special Characters in Grants: Not Yet

A note from the OHSU Office of Proposal and Award Management director, Deborah Golden-Eppelein:

On January 30, 2015, NIH published the following in the NIH Guide:  Expanding Support of Unicode Character Set in Grant Applications Submitted after February 17, 2015

In this notice, the NIH announced that Unicode characters such as Greek letters will be functional in Grants.gov after February 17. But OHSU investigators should NOT use these codes yet. Grants.gov might be able to handle them now, but most other systems still can’t.

While we recognize that many investigators are eager to begin using Unicode characters, many system-to-system software programs, such as InfoEd, as well as other federal grant submission systems and reporting databases, such as usaspending.gov and other post-award federal systems, are not yet able to support special characters.

Using Adobe forms may seem to be a viable option, since InfoEd cannot support Unicode characters.  But this would place extra burden on PIs and administrative staff, because you would need to create a generic InfoEd record and thoroughly check on the back end in agency-specific submission systems to ensure translation of these special characters occurred accurately. At this time, no other federal sponsors are ready to make the translation happen.

OHSU is not alone in delaying the use of special characters. Other academic medical centers using system-to-system solutions for grant submission (e.g., Duke) have decided to defer characters until there is wider adoption by federal agencies and federal reporting tools in addition to the NIH Commons.  We agree that waiting is wise and believe this will alleviate any disadvantage that might occur when your grant is being reviewed because of inconsistency or inability among federal agencies to accept special characters.

This code enhancement is in the queue to be implemented by InfoEd when significant adoption is realized at the federal level. Please contact your OPAM grant administrator if you have questions.