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Travel Policy FAQs

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​​​​​​​Non-NIH Hosted Conference Policy FAQs

The following FAQs refer to the NIH Efficient Spending Policy effective November 1, 2015.

Submission Approval Q&As

Q:  Who approves conference travel?
A:  All conferences $5k and below can be approved by an EO providing, to the best of their knowledge, they will be the only IC attending the event.  Conferences $5k-$75k are approved by the STO and conferences above $75k are approved by Building 1.

Q:  Will ICs receive approval within one month of OFM submission?
A:  Yes and no.  If the cumulative cost of the conference is below $75k (allowing for STO approval), the turnaround time is usually one month.  Conferences above $75k need to go to Building 1 for approval.  Again, the turnaround time is usually one month.  However, in both cases there may be required justifications or reductions.  This along with other extenuating circumstances could extend the approval timeline.

Q:  If the cost of a single IC attended conference is below $5k, then is only EO approval required?
A:  Yes, providing the IC, at the time of the submission, is sure to the best of their knowledge that they are the only IC attending.

Q:  Does a request still need to be entered in the OFM Conference Travel System if the EO approved submission request is less than $5k (IC specific) authority rule?
A:  Yes.  All conference travel submissions need to be entered into the OFM system for documentation and retention purposes.  EO approvals should be entered manually/individually, as opposed to bulk upload and the EO approval checkbox must be marked.

Q:  If the Conference Travel System shows that the NIH-wide $75k aggregate cost threshold has been exceeded, can an IC submit a new request after the final submission deadline?
A:  The approved submissions remain approved while all new requests will be submitted for Building 1 approval once the cost reaches above the $75k threshold.  

Q:  When will submissions be processed if submitted after the deadline?
A:  If the monthly deadline for submissions is missed, the submitted data will not be pulled and processed until the next business cycle (the next month).  Therefore, it is important to make sure all submissions are entered on time.  If due to extenuating circumstances the deadline is missed, notify OFM immediately if the request cannot wait for processing during the next cycle.

Q:  If an IC receives approval for a conference at the 6 month submission deadline and at the time of the final 3-month submission deadline, what happens if the overall amount is exceeding $75k (NIH-wide)?
A:  Yes, providing the IC, at the time of the submission, is sure to the best of their knowledge that they are the only IC attending.

Q:  If the NIH-wide $75k aggregate cost threshold has not been exceeded and the final deadline has past, is it still possible to obtain approval for a late request?
A:  A new request for a late conference submission can be sent to the STO for approval providing the conference remains under $75k, inclusive of the new request.

Q:  What should you do if you received a late request for a conference that takes place in 15 days?
A:  ICs will have the ability to view their submissions on the home page of the application immediately after submitting their records.

Q:  Do you still need to enter a submission in the Conference Travel System if you obtain approval for a late conference request via email?
A:  Yes.  All conferences must be entered into the system.  If a late approval is provided by the STO for expeditious reasons via email, you must still submit the request into the SharePoint Site for documentation and retention purposes.

Q:  How can you enter a request if you received a late approval from the STO and are receiving a 90 day error message when trying to enter it in the system?
You must submit the request in a bulk upload and name the file as follows:  90-day limitation-IC Name-Date.  Once you have submitted the data, you must notify OFM, so that the bulk upload can be pulled and the entry marked approve, so that the request is not re-processed.

A:  If the late request is below $75K allowing for STO approval, it can be processed up to 10 days prior to the conference start date.  However, due to the one month approval turnaround time, this request will need to be processed outside the normal business flow.  In this situation you will need to email OFM alerting them to the URGENT late request and expeditious need for processing.  OFM will need the following data to process the request (include in email).  Also, please state in your email that this request has been reviewed and approved by your EO for OFM submission.

Conference System Q&As

Q:  Can anyone use or access the OFM Conference Travel System?
A:  No.  OFM is the business owner of the application, so provisioning requests need to come through our office.  Email a request for system access to the OFM Travel Mailbox (found in the address book).

Q:  Are there instructions on how to use the OFM Non-NIH Hosted Conference Travel System?
A:  Yes.  Instructions can be located on the SharePoint Site “Resource” page, along with demos.

Q:  What is the process for uploading a bulk file?
A:  Instead of copying and pasting records into a SharePoint site, ICs will now be uploading the designated Excel Template directly into the OFM Conference Travel Application System which is also a SharePoint site. Detailed procedures for uploading spreadsheets into the new application are provided on the site under Bulk Requests.

Q:  Can you use your own spreadsheet and upload it to the OFM SharePoint Site?
A:  No.  You must use only the approved Bulk Load Template.  The template has validation rules and changing the format will impact the ability to upload the data.  The appropriate Conference ID must be included.  Please click here to access the correct template (NIH Access Only).

Q:  Can bulk uploading be used for the submission of 1-2 conference travel requests?
A:  Yes.

Q:  When an Excel template is used for a bulk submission, must we also supply one year of historical data?
A:  For now, yes.  A requisite for using the Excel template for bulk submissions is making sure each conference has already been assigned a conference ID #.  The requirement for supplying one year of historical data will not be required once the system has been in production for one year as this data will prepopulate at that time.

Q:  Do you need to have an ID number to enter a request? 
A:  Yes.  All conferences must have an assigned ID number.  You cannot enter a request into the SharePoint system without an ID number.

Q:  How long does it take to obtain a conference ID#? 
A:  The target is no later than 5 days, but every effort is made to provide the IDs in less time.

Q:  What if the conference I am looking for is not listed in the system?  
A:  The conference request form for adding/obtaining an ID for a new conference must be submitted.

Q.  Can a request of a conference ID# be submitted when you only have the name of a conference?
A.  No. you need the date of conference, location, sponsor, website and conference description for generating a conference ID.

Q:  What should you do if there is more than one ID number for a new conference request?
A:  If, you find more than one ID number for the same conference, this is an error.  Notify OFM and make them aware of the duplication.  They will have the numbers merged and provide you with the correct ID number.

Q:  Will the conference ID be able to be used in the CGE System?
A:  Yes, however the ID will appear at the end of the conference name in the CGE system.

Q:  What should you do if you can't find the conference title in CGE and how often is CGE updated?
A:  OFM provides NBS/CGE with a new list of conference ID numbers and names weekly.  If you can’t find your conference title, wait and try again the next day.

Q:  What should you do if you keep receiving an error code when trying to enter a conference for next year?
A:  The OFM system will only allow ICs to enter attendance/costs for conferences occurring within the next 12 months.  You cannot put in a request for a conference that is starting more than a year from time of entry.  You will need to wait and submit when the timeframe is appropriate.

Q:  Will conferences need a new description each year or will the first description entered for the parent conference apply to each conference event thereafter?
A:  Yes, for now it has to be entered each year.  Prior year conference information enhancements will be made in a future release of this application. 

Q:  If you had a traveler attend the conference last year should you add the data from last year?
A:  Yes, last year’s total attendance data is required (not by name).  In future years this will not be required as this information will roll forward.

Q:  Can the Conference Travel System be searched using a keyword?
A:  Yes.

Q:  Can identifiers for an IC's divisions be provided to help manage the data if reductions are required?
A:  At present time Phase I does not allow for division identifiers.  Recognizing that many ICs use identifiers internally to aggregate their data, this requirement will be considered in Phase 2.

Q:  Can data be exported?
A:  Yes.  The data can be exported to Excel.

Q:  Is there a way to see a summary of what an individual created in the system?
A:  No.  Reports will be available to view the records created by ICs but not by each individual POC name.

Q:  How will reporting and analysis be conducted?
A:  Both QlikView (QV) and Excel based reports will be provided. However, QV is the preferred method for the analysis provided.

  What if an IC does not have a QlikView license?
A:  Excel could be used for reporting and analysis. Additional capabilities will be explored when defining requirements for Phase 2.

Q:  Can the new system become overloaded and "crash" if too many users are on the system at the same time?
A:  No, the user base is not large enough for this to be a concern. However, NIH related network problems could affect the efficiency of the application.

Q:  Who can you contact if you have a question that hasn't been addressed here?
A:  OFM is always available to answer your questions.  Please free to call the OFM Travel Team or email us using the OFM Travel Mailbox with your questions.  We are here to help.  Also, information can be found in OFM’s weekly NEWSFLASH that is disseminated to IC Conference Travel POCs and EOs every Friday.


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