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Find answers to frequently asked questions about CERES. This page will continue to be updated with new FAQs in the weeks post go-live. Find additional FAQs in CERES articles in the Northwestern Knowledge Base.

General Questions

How do I get access to CERES or change my system access?

You/your designated department approver will need to submit a General Security Access Form. Visit the Security Forms and Reports page to find out more about getting access to other administrative systems and Cognos Reporting.

Are we able to only see the queue for proposals or queues for other items, such as agreements and awards and modifications as well?

The Tableau tab in the Grants-FP page shows everything as of the nightly refresh.

What should I do if I do NOT see expected actions so that I can take next steps (e.g., when working on an agreement, not being able to locate the “create amendment” tab)?

A good rule of thumb if you don’t see activities you expect you should see is to use the "Manage Access" and set yourself as the primary contact (Agreements) or Admin Contact (Grants).

Do I need to access different applications/systems (outside of CERES) to complete a proposal?

CERES has system-to-system submission capabilities to sponsors who use, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Energy (DOE), and Department of Defense DOD). Non-system to system submissions will continue to have an internal proposal record and budget routed in CERES for reviews and approvals, with submission occurring via the sponsor’s preferred method (Proposal Central,, etc). Multi-project proposals such as NIH P-series proposals will continue to be submitted using ASSIST, with an internal proposal and budget in CERES for reviews and approvals.

How long does CERES take to timeout?

60 minutes is the current timeout length. The system will prompt you to refresh your session, which will require you to log in again. You’ll use your NetID and password.

I see something in my inbox. How do I start to identify what is needed and why it got there?

The key to identifying what action is needed for items in your inbox is to look at the project type (proposal, award, agreement, etc.) and the project state. Things that are in draft need to be completed; a common thing you'll see in your inbox is a proposal in draft that you may have started but did not finish. It will remain in your inbox until you do. If the state indicates clarifications are requested, that signals that you need to take an action to look at reviewer comments and make changes. Items in your inbox will almost always be in draft or some level of clarifications requested. One exception to this rule award in in draft state, if you see one in your inbox that means that you need to complete the award budget reconciliation and complete the ancillary review on the award.

Can I see previous versions of uploaded documents or the history of a record?

Yes, you can see previous versions and the history of a record. Document history can generally be viewed by clicking the ellipses next to the document and choosing ‘View History’. However, if you replace documents instead of uploading a revision, there is no history to view. The full history of a record is on the History workspace tab both in Grants and Agreements. Grants also has an Activity Log that can be viewed by clicking ‘View More Details’ link to show specific property and document changes.

How can I compare versions of a SmartForm in CERES?

The History tab has records of who executed which activity. Within the View History tab, you can go to the SmartForm and find a compare button at the top left that will let you compare versions of SmartForms.

What do I do when I receive a Clarification Requested notification?

Navigate to the History tab in the item’s workspace to drill down into an activity and see more details. From there you can click on the “clarifications requested” activity header, in order to see what additional clarification or information has been requested from Sponsored Research.

Will CERES provide push notifications of action items or needs for approval to the RA on a record?

Yes, there are several notifications in CERES throughout each workflow process.

Do we still need to allow delegate access for items in workloads, for instance when someone is out of the office?

CERES does not have the concept of delegate access, but each department is configured with a set of people who are “administrative editors” who can see and modify all records for that department. Visit the Northwestern Knowledge Base to read more about Financial Management Systems Security Access.

If a department (like DOM) has multiple divisions (with unique Dept. IDs), will the dashboard show all divisions?

You will have one dashboard that will show all records accessible to you. There will not be separate dashboards for each division.

What will transfer over to OnBase automatically vs what will have to be uploaded manually?

Most documents will be sent when an item reaches an end state; there will also be a manual activity to send documents to OnBase. Certain documents related to proposals, awards, and agreements are configured to transfer to OnBase automatically.

I have an Award Modification Request (AMR) submitted by a former department staff member; how can I reassign it to a current staff member?

The process will depend on the current workflow state of the AMR. In all cases, the person you would like to have assigned as the new Submitter must first be granted read or edit rights to the parent award using the Manage Access activity (on the parent award).

  • If the AMR is in Review state: Use the ‘Log Comment’ activity to ask the Specialist in SR to execute the ‘Assign Submitter’ activity, and let them know who should be selected in place of the original Submitter. (Note: only CERES users listed ad administrative contact or having read or edit rights on the parent award will appear in the dropdown list for SR to reassign as the submitter.)
  • If the AMR is in Clarifications Requested or Draft state: The AMR is editable by the department. The staff member currently assigned as Submitter should log in and run the ‘Assign Submitter’ activity, and reassign to the appropriate person in the department. If the original Submitter is no longer a Northwestern employee, then a department representative can email a request to to reassign the Submitter; be sure to provide the AMR record number in CERES, and the name of the Submitter you would like the record reassigned to.

I need to grant read or edit rights to a parent award, or update the administrative contact on a parent award; how can I do that?

  1. Navigate to the workspace of the award in CERES and execute the Manage Access activity.
  2. In the relevant section - #1 administrative contact, #2 edit rights, or #3 read-only rights – select the user to add and click OK.

Funding Proposals

Why can't I or others in my department access and/or modify an SF424?

The set of people who are allowed to edit an SF424 are derived from the funding proposal from which it was created - those who can edit the proposal can edit the SF424. If someone else needs access to an SF424 after creation, it can be granted by following these steps:

  1. Add the person who needs access as an editor of the funding proposal by using the "Manage Access" activity on the funding proposal workspace. 
  2. Run the "Create-Update SF424" activity on the funding proposal workspace (it is recommended that you uncheck all the boxes next to the forms in the activity window so you don't overwrite anything accidentally on your application), then click OK. 

These two steps allow anyone who has access to the proposal to update who can edit the associated SF424 application. This method could even be done by the person who needs the access, it does not have to be done by someone who is already an editor. 

How do I resubmit something that was in InfoEd but that didn’t transfer over to CERES?

The process for these cases is simple but a bit misleading. You make the proposal like it is new, but in the SF424 you mark it as a resubmission. The designation in CERES doesn’t matter for this - even though it will still say "new," it will get submitted as a resubmission.

I generated a PDF from the SF424 screen (before the SF424 is completed) but I’m not sure where to view the PDF version.

On the SF424 workspace, you’ll see a link generated next to the “PDF Versions.” You can then download it and send to the PI or direct them to view it in CERES.

How can I see proposals that are not in my department but which my PIs are on?

Contact the RA on those proposals and ask that they add you as a reader/editor on a case-by-case basis.

Will we have to enter Person to be Contacted each time on the SF424 RR Cover?

It will default from the Specialist assigned to the Funding Proposal record.

Are the proposal, budget, and SF424 combined into a single area?

The Funding Proposal, Budget, and - for system-to-system submissions - SF424 are the components that make up proposals in CERES. From the Proposal workspace you can see the budget summary and the SF424 submission status using the “Financials” and “SF424 Summary” tabs. You can also navigate to the SF424 area and Budget area using the links in the Proposal workspace.

Is it possible to clone the funding proposal for resubmissions?

Yes, if the proposal is Not Funded, you can create a resubmission proposal which will create a copy of the proposal and link it to the original new proposal as a follow-on proposal submission. Additionally, there is a Copy Proposal feature available for any proposal in the system if you want to create a new proposal record that is similar in structure to a previously created proposal.

What if I receive the message "Error validating the project. Contract site administrator." while validating my budget?

The error message below is a known bug. If you receive it click OK and proceed forward with your funding proposal.

pop-up window in CERES reading: Error validating the project. Contact site administrator.



Who can edit an award or award modification outside of Sponsored Research?

Those who do awards management must make sure they assign the primary contact on the award to the same person as they are sending the award/award modification request to for the budget reconciliation. The only person who can edit an award or award modification outside of SR is the primary contact of the award.

Where do we attach IRB documents on an award?

Before you submit the ancillary review, submit your documents to question #5 (Supporting Documents).

In a situation where Northwestern is waiting for an official notice of award (award or subaward) to be sent and an award is not yet set up, how can I get the award set up so that I can pre-spend while waiting for the award/subaward document?

You will use an Advance Account request that you would make on the proposal record in this specific instance. See the question above on at-risk spending and advance accounts for more details.

Is the term “pre-spend” going away and the term “Advance Account Request” the term going forward?

For existing awards, at-risk spending (to incur expenditures for necessary project activities when the next budget period has not yet been formally authorized by the sponsor or pass-through entity) can be requested via an Award Modification Request. For proposals that are still pending (the sponsor has not issued any award notifications yet), use the Request an Advance Account activity to ask Sponsored Research to set up an advance account. See Advance Accounts for additional guidance.

Once the advance account is approved, will there be a way in CERES to see the chart string?

Yes, once the advance account is set up, the NUFinancials/PeopleSoft Project ID will be stored in CERES. This will be the same with regular awards.

Where can I locate the chart string # on my award for NCE request?

The Project ID will appear in the far-right column in the ‘Select One or More Financial Accounts’ selection list.

Screen shot showing the location of the chart string on the right-hand side of screen

What is the difference between AMR vs AWD?

AMR = Award Modification Request and AWD = Award Record

An AMR is initiated from an AWD by executing the Request Award Modification activity.

Will RPPR’s/continuations have their own record number?

RPPR’s/continuations will be created from an award record and have a –CON suffix added to the award number and can be opened from the award workspace.


Who will be responsible for uploading the agreement draft – Research Administrators or Sponsored Research and when in the process does that happen?

Sponsored Research will complete the upload of the subcontract agreement draft. In many cases, it will be generated from a template in the system. You should notice a check mark beside the subcontract agreement SmartForm question, “First draft to be generated internally?” indicating that this process will be completed by SR.

What prompts the Subcontracts team that an outyear has been activated through the amendment?

After an award that has outgoing subawards has been modified with a new period of funding, the subaward status will automatically update so that it appears on a list that Sponsored Research will monitor to create corresponding amendments for the department to complete and submit.

How will the FP/AWD/SUBK # correlate to each other? How can you tell which award a SUBK agreement is attached to?

All of this information can be found on the related projects tab. There is a tab at the bottom that says Related Projects with a link.

How will the subaward get to the RA to process? How is that triggered when an award is made? How will this differ if we have a subaward that wasn’t part of the original proposal?

When the award setup is complete, Sponsored Research will start the agreement process. Whatever was in the proposal will trigger Sponsored Research to set up the corresponding subagreement records. As the award setups are finalized, a report will be run to ensure everything has been caught. If you need to change a setup later, Sponsored Research will take updates to the award via award modification requests.

When should I use the Outgoing Subaward Modification Award Modification Request (AMR) type?

The Outgoing Subaward Modification Award Modification Request (AMR) type should be used to request changes to existing outgoing subcontracts that will affect (only) an outgoing subaward (not the parent award.) This AMR type should not be used to request the issuance of new subcontracts or amendments related to parent award modifications.

On the Outgoing Subaward Agreement Info page, which amounts are supposed to go in which fields (for #4,5,6)?

  • #4 Cumulative Costs: This should be the cumulative amount authorized to the subrecipient once this amendment is executed.
  • #5 & 6 Project Period Direct Costs and Project Period Indirect Costs: This should be the anticipated amount overall for the subrecipient, regardless of what’s been authorized.
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