Eligibility of students
Citizenship. Students must be U.S. citizens, residents of U.S. possessions (e.g., American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands) or must be permanent residents of the U.S. by the time of appointment to the grant. Being a permanent resident is what is informally known as possessing a “green card”. Technically the card is an Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551) and the student must either possess it or have similar legal verification of status. A notarized statement verifying permanent residency is required with the Statement of Appointment form (Form 2271).
Duration of appointment on awards. (a) Minimum appointment lengths. Except for short term trainees, no trainee can be appointed for a period less than nine months without the prior written approval of NIA. The allowable exceptions are either to permit the student to complete a planned program of training that was supported by other means, or that an assurance is provided that the trainee will be reappointed in the subsequent year to provide longer term support. Appointment lengths of at least two years (i.e., two consecutive 12 month appointments) are encouraged. NIH is particularly concerned that health professional (usually M.D.) postdoctoral trainees receive at least two years of training support and reviewers are asked to examine competing continuations to check the average duration of appointments for such health professionals. (b) Maximum appointment lengths. At the predoctoral level no more than five years of NRSA support are allowed. At the postdoctoral level no more than three years of support are allowed. However, waivers are possible to these limits when the circumstances are appropriate. The most common waivers are (i) for clinicians who are now pursuing Ph.D.s. and (ii) for individuals who have experienced a break in training. However other exceptional circumstances arise from time to time and if appropriately justified may be grounds for a waiver. To apply for a waiver, the trainee must write to the NIA training officer and explain the circumstances and rationale for the request. The training director and an authorized institutional official should endorse the request and certify the need for additional training.
When can trainees be appointed? Trainees can be appointed at any time during the year. If the training director wishes to synchronize appointments the initial appointment can be for less than twelve months. If the appointment is for less than nine months then, as described in (2) above, the training director must assure NIA that the student will be reappointed in the next year of the award.
From time-to-time NIH increases the stipend rates and advertises these increases in the NIH Guide. The increases become effective only with the grant continuation year that follows notice of the increase. For example, stipend rates were increased in FY 2003. The increase was advertised in a notice published on March 21, 2003. Appointments made in the FY 2002 year of training grants (from May 1st 2002 to April 30th 2003) were made at the old stipend rate which was in effect when the noncompeting award was made. Only appointments or reappointments made in the next year of the award (May 1st, 2003 to April 30th 2004) receive the new stipend rate.
Stipend supplementation vs. Student compensation. Stipend supplementation refers to the institution adding funds to the stipend from its own resources. Normally federal funds cannot be used for stipend supplementation. Stipend supplementation cannot require extra duties of the student. Student compensation refers to additional part-time duties that a student undertakes in order to offset expenses. Such work is allowed provided that the duties are part-time, do not interfere with the student's training and are not work on a research grant which would be part of the student's research training on the training grant. Training directors are expected to verify that any work on research grants will not detract from or prolong the training program.
Other direct costs.
General training-related expenses and travel costs. In FY2003, NIH and NIA award $2200 per predoctoral trainee and $3800 per postdoctoral trainee for general training-related expenses. This money is relatively unconstrained and should be used to assist the training program in whatever ways are appropriate. NIA also allows travel costs to scientific meetings for students. A reasonable amount is $500 per predoctoral trainee and $1,000 per postdoctoral trainee per year.
Trainee-specific expenses. Trainee tuition, fees and health insurance are provided on a formula basis. The formula is fixed and cannot be adjusted by the grantee. Beginning in FY 2000 the formula was changed such that that these expenses will be supported at a rate of 100% of the first $3,000 of the combined costs of tuition, fees and health insurance, and 60% of costs above $3,000. Also beginning in FY 2000 health insurance cost coverage was extended to make family health insurance costs eligible for support.
Rebudgeting of funds. NIH distinguishes between specific trainee-related expenses (stipends, tuition, fees and health expenses) and other expenses (general training-related expenses and conference travel). Rebudgeting restrictions apply only to specific trainee-related expenses. These stipends, tuitions, fees and health insurance are considered as a lump sum for rebudgeting purposes. No funds may be moved out of this category without NIA approval. However, it is possible to rebudget general training-related expenses or travel expenses into the specific trainee-related expenses category. It is also possible to lump together the funds provided for conference travel and the funds provided for general training-related expenses.
Submitting the Type 5 non-competing continuation/progress report.
When to submit. NIA strongly encourages training directors to submit noncompeting continuations and progress reports by February 1 or, if the start date is other than May 1, then by three months before that start date. Failure to submit the application by February 1 could delay award of the noncompeting renewal.
Recruitment and retention of minority students. NIH policy requires that information on the recruitment and retention of minority trainees be included in the progress report.
Carryover requests. Sometimes not all the training slots are filled in a particular year of a training grant, and occasionally postdoctoral trainees are appointed who are at lower levels of experience than anticipated. Therefore not all the funds awarded in a given year are obligated. NIA's policy is not to allow requests to obligate these funds in the following year. Exceptions are given rarely. The most common exception occurs following a tuition increase at a university. Carryover funds are usually allowed to cover a portion of the tuition increase.
Submit the Type 5 non-competing continuation to the NIA Grants Management Office.
Background. Statements of Appointment and Termination are the method by which NIH tracks how long individual students have been trained on NRSA grants. One legal requirement is to use that information to find out whether and how much payback requirement a student has incurred through his or her length of service. (Currently only postdoctoral trainees incur payback requirements.) The information is also critical to NIH's ability to analyze and evaluate the program. Because the Statement of Appointment form is the official financial record of the trainee's start of service it requires the social security number of the student.
Statement of Appointment. The Statement of Appointment Form (PHS 2271 (PDF, 624K)) must be submitted prior to, or at the start of, each trainee's appointment or reappointment. No stipend or allowance may be paid until the appointment form has been submitted. If the support is the first 12 months of support for a postdoctoral trainee then a signed payback agreement (PDF, 263K) must also be submitted. Because the Statement of Appointment Form is a financial document the program director should work with institutional financial officials to coordinate the information reported on the form.
Termination Notice. The Termination Notice (PHS 416-7 (PDF, 314K)) should be submitted to NIA immediately upon termination of the trainee's support. Without a termination notice a trainee would be wrongly tracked in the NIH system as accumulating more NRSA service than was actually accumulated. Even if a trainee temporarily leaves the program and then returns, a Termination Notice should be submitted when the student leaves and a Statement of Appointment Form should be submitted when the student returns.
Vacations and holidays. Trainees may receive the same vacations and holidays available to individuals in comparable training positions at the sponsoring institution. Trainees should continue to receive stipends during vacations and holidays. However, the time between semesters or quarters is generally considered an active part of the training period.
Sick leave and other leave. Trainees may continue to receive stipends for up to 15 calendar days of sick leave per year. Under exceptional circumstances the time can be extended via a written request from the training program director to NIA.
Parental leave. Trainees may receive stipends for up to 30 calendar days of parental leave per year for the adoption or birth of a child when those in comparable training positions at the institution have access to paid leave for the same purpose. Either parent is eligible. The leave must be approved by the training director.
Unpaid leave. When students need longer periods of absence, the training program director must request approval for that leave in advance from NIA. The request must be countersigned by an appropriate institutional official. During such a leave of absence an amended Statement of Appointment form and Termination Notice must be submitted. The reappointment is indicated in another Statement of Appointment form.
The NIH Research Training Opportunities Page provides updated information on stipends and on changes in NIH mechanisms and policies that have bearing on training grants.
The most recent NIH Guide announcement,
NIH Guide: NIH NATIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE AWARD INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH TRAINING GRANTS, was published on May 16, 2002. Please note that although across NIH three receipt dates are permitted for training grants, NIA, in company with many other ICs, supports only one receipt date in May. See http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/dates.htm for current submission dates.
The NATIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE AWARDS GUIDELINES were published in 1997. The document is comprehensive but long and not indexed. Some E-mail addresses in it are out-of-date but it is otherwise current.
The NIH Research Training Opportunities Page maintains a useful Frequently Answered Questions site that covers many generic questions on NIH training grants: http://grants.nih.gov/training/faq_training.htm
NIA distributes program management of individual training grants to its four extramural programs - Biology of Aging, Behavioral and Social Research, Neuroscience and Neuropsychology, and Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology. At the same time NIA assigns overall responsibility for the development of the training grant program and the management of training grant policies to the NIA training officer in the Office of Extramural Affairs. Financial issues on training grants are assigned to the grants management office. Therefore every training grant director has three individuals at NIA who can be points of contact. One is the particular program health science administrator (HSA) who is assigned responsibility for the training grant. That individual will be in one of the four extramural programs. The program HSA can help with scientific issues related to the training. The second individual is the NIA training officer. The training officer can help with administrative and policy-related issues on the training grant. The third point of contact at NIA is the grants specialist in the NIA grants management office. Grants specialists are responsible for financial issues related to training grants. Because Statement of Appointment forms, Termination notices and Payback forms are financial documents, the grants specialist is the appropriate individual to work with on these forms.
For scientific issues contact the assigned program administrator in one of the extramural programs.
For the individual extramural programs see: NIA Research Programs
On administrative and policy issues contact:
Dr. Chyren Hunter, NIA Training Officer
Office of Extramural Affairs
National Institute on Aging
Gateway Building, Rm. 2C218
7201 Wisconsin Ave., MSC 9205
Bethesda, MD 20892-9205
On financial matters contact:
NIA Grants Management Office
Gateway Building, Rm 2N212
National Institute on Aging
Gateway Building, Rm. 2C218
7201 Wisconsin Ave., MSC 9205
Bethesda, MD 20892-9205
FAX: 301- 402-3672