Note: This is part two of two blog posts introducing Grants.gov’s Workspace feature. Here’s part one if you missed it.
Since the launch of Workspace, Grants.gov has seen a steady, monthly increase in users and submissions – and feedback has been positive.
But how exactly does the new functionality improve the applicant experience? Potential improvements will, in part, depend on your institution and the existing workflow you have in place.
Below are two examples, one for a university and the other a grant writer, of how using Workspace can benefit someone that has used the traditional Grants.gov submission method in the past.
Workspace Makes Collaboration Easier
Let’s say you work for a university and are the Principle Investigator (PI) for a new funding opportunity. An Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) in your Office of Sponsored Programs will submit your application through Grants.gov, but first you must fill out the application forms and secure several internal approvals.
In the past, the PI and any collaborators would have had to share the same application package PDF file, trading it back and forth until every required field was filled in with data. This process could introduce lots of procedural complications. A single mistake in the package of forms could stall the submission process.
Now, the AOR – or a PI with the new Manage Workspace role – can create a Grants.gov workspace to share with collaborators. Each collaborator needs only to register with Grants.gov as an organization applicant with your university.
Within the workspace, participants can work on different forms simultaneously, downloading them to their own workstation. For example, one person can work on the SF-424. Another can work on a budget form. Another can work on an abstract form. These forms can be saved offline and, when complete, uploaded back to the workspace.
With each upload, the form is checked for errors; when all forms are complete and in the “Passed” status, the AOR can then submit the application.
Workspace Saves Applicants Time
Here’s another scenario. Let’s say you’re the lead grant writer for a funding opportunity with a deadline that is just around the corner.
In the past, identifying a last-minute grant opportunity often meant a harried process of one person after another filling in parts of a single application package PDF. Only one person could work on the application at a time, making it extremely difficult to collaborate in the final 24 to 48 hours before the submission deadline.
Workspace allows collaborators to tackle different forms at the same time. Team members can divide and conquer – and, hopefully, still get some sleep.
What’s more, in Workspace, forms can be reused for new funding opportunities – as long as the forms’ names and version numbers match.
The data from the previous form transfers to the new application, and the form coversheet is updated to match the new funding opportunity. So, in the rush to meet a deadline, Workspace allows matching forms from previous applications to be reused and updated on a field by field basis.
Forms from other organizations may also be reused. For example, your institution may choose to reuse a form from another organization in a consortium that is jointly applying for a federal grant.
Also, when Workspace users fill out and upload the SF-424 form first, matching fields on other forms will automatically be updated, both minimizing the chance of introducing errors on the other forms and saving time in having to fill in the same fields over and over again.
Finally, when it comes time to submit the application, the chance of last-minute error notices is minimized, as each form will have already gone through a series of checks – both at upload and when the “Check Application” button is clicked within the workspace.