NICHD provides the following answers to common training-related questions to help potential trainees navigate through the application process. Please note that these answers are specific to the NICHD's procedures and activities.
For more general answers, visit the NIH Research Training and Career Development website.
If, after looking through the FAQs, you still have questions about extramural training, contact Dennis A. Twombly, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the NICHD Office of Extramural Policy.
- NIH supports training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows through individual Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) programs. NICHD participates in the Parent F30 Fellowship for dual-degree students, the Diversity F31 Predoctoral Fellowship program, the Parent F31 Predoctoral Fellowship program, and the F32 Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship program. These fellowships provide stipends for salary support as well as a small institutional allowance to partially offset costs of research, tuition, and health insurance. Visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov/grants-contracts/training-careers/extramural/individual for more detailed information.
- Predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows can also receive support on slots (FTEs) awarded to an Institutional Training Grant (T32). Trainees interested in such programs should consult with the Program Director/Principal Investigator of those grants at their institution.
- Underrepresented graduate students or postdoctoral fellows can receive support through Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Clinical Trial Not Allowed). These supplements are provided to faculty sponsors who are the designated PD/PI on an NICHD-supported grant. Eligible students/fellows include those:
- From underrepresented racial and ethnic groups
- With disabilities
- From disadvantaged backgrounds
Applications for supplements must be submitted by the Principal Investigator of the parent (existing) grant.
NICHD offers fellowships and career development awards in research areas relevant to the institute's scientific priorities. Prospective applicants are strongly advised to contact the NICHD to determine if their research fits within the NICHD mission.
Foreign students are not eligible for NRSA fellowships.
By the time of an F31 or F32 award, the individual must be a citizen or a non-citizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence (i.e., possess a currently valid Permanent Resident Card USCIS Form I-551, or other legal verification of such status). See the specific program announcement for more information.
Yes, foreign training for postdoctoral fellows is allowable.
Foreign clearance from the Fogarty International Center is needed prior to award. Eligibility for foreign training of postdoctoral fellows is described in the Grants Policy Statement (GPS).
The following provisions pertain to foreign work by postdoctoral fellows:
- GPS Section 188.8.131.52: Foreign Sponsorship. An individual may request support for training abroad. In such cases, the fellowship applicant is required to provide detailed justification for the foreign training, including the reasons why the facilities, the mentor, or other aspects of the proposed experience are more appropriate than training in a domestic setting. The justification is evaluated in terms of the scientific advantages of the foreign training as compared to the training available domestically. Foreign training may require additional administrative reviews and will be considered for funding only when the scientific advantages are clear.
- GPS Section 184.108.40.206: Review Considerations. Applications involving foreign training are considered by reviewers under "Additional Review Considerations," which do not receive scores and do not enter into the overall impact/priority score. For applications from foreign sponsoring institutions, the reviewers will also assess whether the research training experience presents special opportunities for the fellowship applicant through the use of talent (e.g., mentor) resources, populations (if applicable), or training environment that are not readily available in the United States or augment existing U.S. talent and/or resources.
- GPS Section 220.127.116.11: Travel to Foreign Training Sites. For fellows at foreign training sites, in addition to the institutional allowance, awards may include a single economy or coach round-trip travel fare. No allowance is provided for dependents. U.S. flag air carriers must be used to the maximum extent possible when commercial air transportation is the means of travel between the United States and a foreign country or between foreign countries. This requirement shall not be influenced by factors of cost, convenience, or personal travel preference. Any funds awarded for travel to/from foreign training sites must be reported on the Termination Notice as part of the "Amount of Stipend" column. For additional information regarding foreign travel, see Cost Considerations-Allowability of Costs/Activities-Selected Items of Cost-Travel/Employees.
In most cases, the sponsoring institution should be a site other than where the applicant fellow trained as a graduate student.
However, if the applicant fellow is proposing postdoctoral training at his/her doctoral institution, the application must carefully document the opportunities for new research training experiences specifically designed to broaden his/her scientific background.
In addition, the application should propose research experiences that will allow the fellow to acquire new knowledge and/or technical skills to become a productive, independent investigator.
No. Fellowship support would probably not be able to continue after a new appointment.
The relevant policies include:
- The F32 Program Announcement states: "At the time of award, individuals are required to pursue their research training on a full-time basis, normally defined as 40 hours per week or as specified by the sponsoring institution in accordance with its own policies." Any new faculty appointment would normally involve significant duties that are no longer considered postdoctoral research training.
- A Kirschstein NRSA fellowship may not be used to support the clinical years of residency training. However, these awards are appropriate for the research fellowship years of a residency program. Research clinicians must devote full-time to their proposed research training and confine clinical duties to those activities that are part of the research training program.
- Accepting a new position at a new university, presumably with a new mentor, would be considered a change in project or at least a change in scope. Individual fellowship awards are made for training at a specific institution under the guidance of a particular sponsor. The approval of the NIH awarding Institute or Center is required for a transfer of the award to another institution, a change in sponsor, or a project change.
Individual fellowship awards are made for training at a specific institution under the guidance of a particular sponsor. The approval of the NIH awarding IC is required for a transfer of the award to another institution, a change in sponsor, or a project change. As part of the approval process, if a fellow sponsored by a domestic non-Federal institution requests a transfer to another domestic non-Federal institution before the end of the current award year, the institutions are responsible for negotiating which will pay the stipend until the end of the current year. Disposition of the institutional allowance is also negotiable between the two sponsoring institutions. No Activation Notice is required from the new sponsoring institution.
Transfers involving Federal or foreign sponsoring institutions require unique administrative procedures and approvals. Because each transfer varies depending on individual circumstances, the sponsoring institution should contact the NIH awarding IC for specific guidance.
Any proposed change in the individual's specified area of research training must be reviewed and approved in writing by the NIH awarding IC to ensure that the training continues to be within the scientific scope of the original peer-reviewed application.
When the sponsor plans to be absent for a continuous period of more than 3 months, an interim sponsor must be named by the institution and approved in writing by the NIH awarding IC.
NRSA fellowship recipients are entitled to 15 days of sick leave per year, and up to 60 calendar days of parental leave. The NRSA stipend will continue during those periods. The fellow would be trading some research training time for the opportunity to take family leave.
The fellow may also take an unpaid leave of absence if more than 60 days off are expected. No NRSA funds can be spent during the unpaid leave period, though health insurance coverage may be continued by the institution. Institutional allowance or other NRSA funds may not be used during the unpaid leave. The overall award period would be extended to offset the duration of the unpaid leave. The key NRSA leave provisions are explained in the Grants Policy Statement, Section 18.104.22.168.
The NRSA program requires full-time professional effort, normally defined as 40 hours per week. "Supplementation" is extra salary support provided to an NRSA fellow (T32 or F32) to raise the rate above the standard NRSA stipend scale.
This support cannot be derived from Public Health Service funds, which includes NIH funds from research grants or contracts.
Moreover, any supplementation must be provided to all students in a particular program, namely all predoctoral or postdoctoral trainees appointed to the slots. A T32 program director cannot supplement the stipend of just one trainee.
"Compensation," in contrast, is salary paid to an individual who is in a formal employee-employer relationship with the university. That would include compensation as a teaching assistant, research assistant, or other job category. Compensation may come from NIH grant funds, but it cannot be from a grant that is already part of the trainee's research training experience. It also cannot detract from or delay progress on the proposed training program.
NIH usually uses 25% time (equivalent to 10 hours per week) as the maximum commitment on employment for compensation. The employment should be restricted to activities that enhance the trainee's professional skill set. For example, working on a different grant or teaching would provide experience that would foster the fellow's career in the long run.
An NRSA stipend is provided by the NIH as a subsistence allowance to help defray living expenses during the research training experience. NRSA recipients are not considered employees of the federal government or the grantee institution for purposes of the award.
NIH takes no position on the status of a particular taxpayer, nor does it have the authority to dispense tax advice. The interpretation and implementation of the tax laws are the domain of the Internal Revenue Service.