Creating People and System-Friendly PDF Attachments


Grant applications, Just-in-Time information, and progress reports all require PDF attachments as part of their submissions.

These attachments are used in different ways. Some are read as stand-alone documents. Most, however, are subject to sophisticated processing upon receipt into eRA systems before the information they contain is used by staff and others. They may be combined with additional forms and data to create consolidated applications or reports in stylized formats. Or, they may undergo text data mining to create grant application fingerprints that enable categorization, searches, reporting and analyses.

Since both people and systems are consumers of the information conveyed through these attachments, we depend on applicants and recipients to follow a set of formatting ground rules that facilitate readability as well as timely and successful system processing.

Keep these rules in mind to create people and system-friendly documents:

See Format Attachments for additional details.


  1. NIH should require that if the PDF is the result of scanning a paper document, that it undergo OCR processing prior to submitting. It should indicate a preference for PDFs generated from the original layout software, e.g. Microsoft Word. It is very annoying to try and electronically review a document that is purely created from scanning as it is difficult to annotate and mark up during the review process.

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