On December 5th and 7th Grants.gov held town hall-style webinars so that users could have their questions answered about Grants.gov Workspace and the upcoming retirement of the Legacy PDF application method.
What follows is a summary of the discussion during the two webinars.
In some cases, questions have been combined to minimize repetition. Also, we have added links to relevant training resources where applicable to shorten those answers.
The full video recording, available here and embedded below, is from the Dec. 7th webinar.
A lot of people have asked why the change is being made. Can you tell us why Grants.gov developed Workspace and why they’re retiring the Legacy PDF Application Package?
Grants.gov Workspace is a vastly improved product over the Legacy PDF. Everyone who has moved to Workspace has provided feedback that they prefer this option. At some point, both options cannot continue to be supported.
There were a few questions around how Grants.gov Workspace affects or is related to other grant application systems, such as Eden for Indian Education Title VI funds, ASSIST, ERA Commons, and HRSA Electronic Handbooks. Could you talk about this?
Grants.gov Workspace is a separate system from those other systems, and the retirement will not impact those other systems.
We’d like to encourage you to use Workspace and take advantage of its benefits, such as reuse of forms and application submissions, up-front validation, previews of submissions, and collaboration.
Sam asks, “Will all federal agencies require participation in this platform? Or will they have separate platforms?”
While all federal agencies publish their funding opportunities on Grants.gov, these federal agencies set their own policies and application requirements. You will need to follow the guidance of the grant-making agency regarding application procedures and systems.
April asks, “Will this make all the agencies use consistent, basic procedures, like drawdowns?”
Grants.gov Workspace is an application system, so it does not impact how you receive drawdowns if you receive a grant.
Romulo asks, “Will the retirement of the Legacy PDF have an impact on any reports due?”
No, Grants.gov Workspace supports only the application portion of the federal grant lifecycle and doesn’t impact reporting for current or future grants.
Lisa asks, “Will the content required for each application be the same in the system or will it differ by each FOA?”
Federal agencies see exactly the same submission data as they did with the Legacy PDF. From the perspective of the grant-making agencies reviewing the applications, nothing is changing.
Melissa asks, “What glitches should we be made aware of?”
Workspace was launched two years ago. Tens of thousands of grant applications have already been submitted successfully, and Workspace users overwhelmingly prefer Workspace over the Legacy PDF. This is why we are confident that retiring the Legacy PDF is a win for all applicants.
With each release, we have made improvements and addressed bugs, as is consistent with any software release cycle. Grants.gov also has internal validation and thorough user acceptance testing. If you would like to participate in user acceptance testing, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s a great way to contribute to Grants.gov’s continued evolution.
Karen has a question about communications and whether all users have been notified about the retirement.
Yes, since Workspace was launched in 2015, we’ve communicated and provided training in a variety of ways:
- Homepage, content pages, online user guide, and training videos since its launch
- Blog posts over the last year specifically announcing the retirement date, along with it being included on Grants.gov Notices pages
- Automated system emails as people submit Legacy PDF Application Package have included notices about the retirement
- Emails the last several months to Grants.gov users reminding them of the retirement
Setting up an Organization to Use Workspace and Roles
Getting into how organizations can get ready for this switch, Christine asks, “Is there anything our institution has to do before we apply for another grant through Grants.gov?”
We recommend that users bookmark and thoroughly review the Workspace Overview page and its resources.
For one example, if an organization wants to start with the Basic path, they can easily create a Workspace and download/distribute all the forms (similar to the Legacy PDF application method). Once completed, forms can be uploaded and submitted. People that will create workspaces need to have a Grants.gov account, be affiliated to your organization, and have the Manage Workspace role.
To take advantage of more Workspace collaborative features, organizations can use the Intermediate path and add participants to their Workspaces. All the participants will need to have a Grants.gov account.
We got a couple questions about current Grants.gov accounts. Howard asks, “Will we have to create a new log in?” and Angela asks, “Will our user names and passwords still work with the new system?”
Your current Grants.gov account will continue to work.
Jill asks, “How do we register faculty members?”
For those that don’t have an account, they will need to register themselves. The registration process, which we just improved, takes only a few minutes.
Jermaine asks for your recommendations on “How best to manage roles and give people the right access to privileges to submit the grant application?”
Every organization is going to be a bit different in terms of how its applicants share responsibilities. We have created an in-depth chart that can help organizations design their own workflow for applicant teams.
Participants & Access
David asks, “Can more than one user simultaneously access and use the same project workspace?”
Yes. The Workspace Owner can add as many participants as needed. And these participants can come from within or outside of your organization.
Another David asked the inverse of the previous question, “Can one user access multiple grants?”
Justin would like to know, “Is there a maximum amount of grants that can be worked on by 1 applicant at a single time in Workspace?”
No. You can create or participate in as many workspaces as needed. Separate workspaces are created for each Opportunity Package you are applying to.
Allen asked, “Will I be able to create different workspaces for different departments within my organization?”
Yes. You can create a workspace for any funding opportunity you are applying to. If different groups within your organization are applying separately to the same opportunity, you can create multiple workspaces for the same opportunity.
Related to multiple organizations applying together or as a sub, Brandi asks, “If submitting as a subsite, does the lead institution need to add the applicants to their workspace or does the subsite institution initiate and register the applicants?”
The lead/prime institution creates the workspace and then adds participants from the Sub-Organization to the Workspace. The Sub-Organization users also need a Grants.gov Account.
Elizabeth asks, “How do you handle applications you are preparing on behalf of another organization?”
Grants writers or grant consultants only need one Grants.gov account. They do not need to be added to every organization they are working for. The organization creates a workspace and then can add you as a participant. You don’t need to be part of the organization to be added to a workspace.
Filling Out Forms in Workspace
Jamie asks, “Can more than one person update an application at the same time, in real time?”
Yes, each form can be worked on by a different person. When you are working on a form, it is important to lock the form when it is assigned to you, even across edit sessions.
Judy asks, “With multiple individuals able to access and input documents on Workspace, is it secure in terms of one individual not being able to delete or write over another’s work, or is there a tracking mechanism to be able to access revised/deleted work?”
When you are working on a form, it is important to lock the form when it is assigned to you, even across edit sessions. The Activity tab in a workspace provides information on who made changes to a form.
David asks, “What ability will there be to share the workspace with the investigator team during the preparation of the application?”
You can download an Application Preview file (a flat PDF) and send it to them. Otherwise, the investigator team can be added to the workspace as participants.
Nancy would like to know, “How do you duplicate information on the application form from one application to another?”
Please watch this video about reusing forms from a previous application.
Similarly, Sandra asks a variation on this question, “Will I be able to copy forward standard information elements from previous applications into new applications? i.e. address, company name, etc.”
Currently, data populated between previous and new applications copies the entire form and/or application. After copying you can modify any data which needs to change.
“Is it possible to upload documents to the Workspace so they are available for all applications?”
Not at this time. This is being considered for a future enhancement. Currently documents are attached to forms.
8% of the questions received focused on the submission of the grant applications both in the past and future, so we have several questions in this area.
How will we access applications previously submitted using the Legacy PDF Application Package?
Previously submitted applications can be viewed using the Check Application Status functionality.
Are previous Legacy PDF applications readily available on Workspace once I log into Grants.gov?
All past submissions can be viewed using Check Application Status. Once a form is completed in Workspace it can be copied/reused in future Workspaces. But you cannot reuse forms from a Legacy PDF application.
Does the retirement affect grants submitted before the Legacy PDF and do I need to move anything to the new system?
The retirement has no effect on submissions made before the deadline. There is no need to move anything.
Can any of the completed Legacy forms be used in the new system?
No, the Legacy PDF (a stitched package of forms) cannot be used in a workspace.
I’m working on a grant application in the Legacy PDF format right now, but I won’t submit it before December 31st. Do I need to start over in Workspace?
If you plan to submit before March 31st, No. (An exception to this would be if the grant-making agency makes changes to the application package after Dec. 31st. Under such a scenario, the applicant would need to apply using Workspace, even if the application deadline is before March 31.)
If you plan to submit after March 31st, Yes.
Will the change to Workspace result in applications that are easier to download and save?
Yes. Workspace allows for the downloading/saving of separate forms. Workspace also allows applicants to enter data online in webforms, which auto-save every five minutes.
Is it true that you can continue to make changes to an application in Workspace after it’s been submitted and then re-submit it?
Yes. A Workspace can be re-opened after submission and submitted again as needed.
Compatibility & System Requirements
To prepare for the transition, a number of the people would like to know what computer operating system, software, or web browser requirements there are. Could you talk about any system requirements or recommendations?
There are FAQs that address this question on our website, but here is a high-level answer:
The latest versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari are supported for use with Grants.gov. However, these web browsers undergo frequent changes and updates, so we recommend that you have the latest version when using Grants.gov. Legacy versions of these web browsers may be functional, but you may experience issues.
On using Adobe: Adobe Reader may be used in place of Acrobat Standard/Professional version 9 through 11 when completing and submitting grant applications on Grants.gov. To verify your software’s compatibility, see the section titled “Verify the compatibility of your Adobe software” on our Adobe Software Compatibility Page: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants/adobe-software-compatibility.html
Cindy asks, “What if the grant you are applying for is not set up by the agency to be used in workspace? Will it automatically be set that way?”
All grant opportunities currently available as a Legacy PDF can be applied for with Workspace.
Related to that, Sergey asks what applicants should do if the application package is not compatible with Workspace?
This should not happen. If you see that an application is not compatible with Workspace, contact Grants.gov Support.
Francie asks, “Will the process be entirely web-based or is there an option to access the forms in areas with little to no internet capacity?”
After creating a workspace (requires online access), users can choose to download and complete all forms offline as PDFs.
Additional Questions Submitted During the Webinars
Karen asks, “How often will passwords need to be changed?”
Every 60 days.
Nancy asks, “Can the workspace owner unlock pages that have been locked by others?”
Yes, there’s an override that allows the Workspace Owner (as well as participant AORs, AORs with Expanded Access, and the EBiz POC) to unlock any locked form. But there is a warning message saying that you may want to talk to the other person before you unlock the form to make sure they are not in the middle of filling it out.
Stan asks, “Do all forms have to be locked before the application can be submitted?”
No – all selected forms simply need to be validated and listed as in the “Passed” status. And you need to click the Check Application button to run additional validations. When a workspace is submitted, the system actually unlocks any locked forms automatically and puts the workspace in a read-only state.
Lynn asks, “If you start by entering information in the web application then save, and then someone else goes in but downloads that same form, will the first persons entered information be in the downloaded form? Then, when the next person goes in to the web form will everything saved on the downloaded form still be there? In other words, can the web form and pdf form be used interchangeably?”
Yes – the form version that is stored in a workspace is the one that has been most recently uploaded or saved as a webform. So if someone saves form data on a webform and a colleague later downloads that form, this colleague will see the form data that was added via the webform. And if this colleague makes any changes to the form and then uploads the PDF version back to the workspace, then the webform will be synced with the latest changes. That’s why we encourage team members to use the Lock function, so they can protect their work and keep data from being accidentally overwritten.
Stan asks, “So each grant application/opportunity creates a new, separate workspace?”
Yes, you need to have a new workspace for each opportunity, but you can start filling out that workspace by copying from another (previous) workspace.
Julie asks, “I’m confused about reopening a workspace. Once you “submit”, doesn’t it go to the funding agency for review? You can “reopen” and submit an updated application package which replaces the original one, as long as the proposal deadline has not passed?”
You need to follow the agency guidelines. Grants.gov does allow you to reopen and re-submit as long as your deadline has not passed. What the agency does with the two submissions is up to the agency.
Nancy asks, “I’ve heard that some reviewers have had problems accessing attachments. Has that been resolved?”
Some people have mistaken the paperclip icon in Adobe forms (both Workspace forms and forms in a Legacy PDF package) for the place to upload form attachments. Applications should always use the Add Attachment buttons within a form – not the paperclip that appears outside the form in the Adobe application.
Mountain Home VAMC asks, “Is there a test opportunity that exists for AORs to utilize to ensure understanding of all workspace functionality prior to submitting live grant opportunities?”
You can pick any opportunity, create a workspace, play with it, begin filling out forms and adding participants, etc. Just don’t click Sign and Submit. No harm will come from creating a workspace and practicing. Such practice workspaces can be deleted later if you don’t want them in your list of workspaces.