CERES: Grants Research Community Reference Guide


Introduction to CERES Grants

Note: Refer to the attachments for the complete CERES Grants Reference Guide.

CERES is Northwestern University’s (NU) Central Electronic Research System. CERES enables NU researchers and administrators to create, review, submit, and track funding proposals, awards, and agreement negotiations that support their sponsored projects. CERES streamlines processes so they are more efficient, require less administrative burden, and allow for a smoother handoff between teams. CERES ensures visibility and transparency of information by providing complete information about each item in one place, including its status, contact information, and links to related items.

Easy to Use

CERES is easy to use. After first logging into CERES, the user lands on their dashboard, which lists the items requiring attention and provides a direct link to those items. Funding proposals and agreements can also be created from the dashboard. Streamlined data entry forms with built-in error checking ensure data entry is complete and correct with all the information required to start the review process. When items enter review via workflow, CERES automatically routes them to the next person for efficient and timely handling. Help is available throughout the system where it is most needed, including question-level help and a built-in Help Center with reference guides and videos.

Find Status and Key Information Quickly

In CERES, you can find the status of items going through the review and approval process quickly. Each item’s state is clearly visible in multiple places, including on the CERES dashboard. When viewing an item’s detail, the state is prominently displayed on the workspace screen along with a graphical representation of where the item is in the overall workflow. From the workspace, you can swiftly identify contacts, reviewers, and all related information for that item in one place.

Manage and Track Work Efficiently

From an item’s workspace, the Research Administrator (RA) can conveniently reassign team members to better balance and manage workloads, as well as add other reviewers to the process, such as compliance reviewers or cost share approvers using the ancillary review feature. Additionally, Sponsored Research (SR) or the RA can create relationships between funding proposals or awards and any agreements associated with them and easily navigate back and forth between them. The RA can record key information, notes, email correspondence, follow-up tasks, and award deliverables for a complete history of activities performed. The RA, PI, and any reviewers will receive email notifications at key points in the workflow to inform the appropriate person of next steps


CERES Workflow

The CERES lifecycle of a project consists of several different workflows that happen in parallel to ensure proposals are submitted on time, awards are setup, managed, and tracked efficiently, and agreements are negotiated and executed as quickly as possible.

Funding Proposals

The lifecycle starts with an RA creating a funding proposal, including the budgets and SF424 if applicable. Once the funding proposal is complete, the RA submits the funding proposal into the workflow to begin the review process. The department approvers review and approve the proposal first, followed by SR. When reviews are completed and the proposal is approved, the proposal is submitted to the sponsor either by the department or SR.

For proposals involving clinical trials, once the proposal is approved by the department, the RA will create a Clinical Trial Agreement in CERES and submit it to start the agreement workflow. During that workflow, SR will manage the review, negotiation, and signing with the contracting party.


For new awards requiring negotiated contracts before award setup, SR will create and submit an agreement for review, so the terms are in place prior to receiving the award. Note that if a non-funded agreement is needed at any time, RAs can create and submit them to go through the agreement workflow.

If a proposal is awarded and all terms agreed upon, or the research team requests an advance account, SR will create an award in CERES, and it will go through a setup and data quality review process. If the award includes sub-recipients, SR creates a subaward in the Grants module and a Subaward Agreement in the Agreements module for each sub-recipient. SR then sends the Subaward Agreement to the RA to complete the agreement details and then submit it into the agreement workflow for SR to manage the review, negotiation, and signing.

Award Modifications

While an award is active, changes may be required, like budget revisions or personnel changes. RAs will initiate the change request by completing and submitting an award modification request in CERES. The award modification request is reviewed by SR and submitted to the sponsor, if needed. If the award modification request is approved, SR then creates an award modification in the system. Once reviewed and approved, the award is updated with the changes in both CERES and the NUFinancials system.

If an approved award includes multiple years, and the sponsor requires a report to issue the next increment of funding, the RA will create a continuation proposal from the initial award. The continuation proposal will go through the same review and approval process as the initial funding proposal. Once the sponsor issues the next increment of funding, SR will create a continuation-type award modification and add the funds the sponsor has released for the next budget period to the award. Note that an award modification request is not needed for setting up noncompeting increments; SR will automatically create the award modification to add the next year of funding in these cases.

Was this helpful?
100% helpful - 1 review
Print Article


Article ID: 2256
Wed 4/5/23 12:56 PM
Thu 8/10/23 10:36 AM

Related Articles (1)

CERES is Northwestern University’s (NU) Central Electronic Research System. CERES enables NU researchers and administrators to create, review, submit, and track funding proposals, awards, and agreement negotiations that support their sponsored projects. CERES Agreements is a comprehensive, flexible contract management solution that simplifies and streamlines the agreement submission, review, and negotiation process.