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National Research Service Award: Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships

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Ongoing Program Announcement

Note: This announcement has been superseded and is maintained for archival purposes only. Select for the current AHRQ Individual Awards for Postdoctoral Fellows (F32) announcement.

NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, October 16, 1998

Program Announcement
PA: PA-99-005

Application Receipt Dates: December 5, April 5, August 5 (Annually)

Agency for Health Care Policy and Research


The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) announces its continuing interest in supporting the postdoctoral National Research Service Award (NRSA) individual fellowships(F32) in health services research. These postdoctoral research fellowships provide opportunities for one or more years of academic training and supervised experience in applying quantitative research methods to the systematic analysis and evaluation of health care services. AHCPR supports and conducts research to improve the outcomes, quality, access to, and cost and utilization of health care services. AHCPR achieves this mission through health services research designed to: (1) improve clinical practice, (2) improve the health care system s ability to provide access to and deliver high quality, high-value health care, and (3) provide policymakers with the ability to assess the impact of system changes on outcomes, quality, access, cost and use of health care services.

AHCPR programs and products are designed to be responsive to the needs of consumers, patients, clinicians, and other providers, institutions, plans, purchasers, and public and private policymakers at all levels for evidence-based information they may need to improve quality and outcomes, control costs, and ensure access to needed services.

This Program Announcement (PA) updates and supersedes the "NRSA Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship" PA-94-068, published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts on May 20, 1994.

Healthy People 2000

The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health promotion and disease prevention objectives of "Healthy People 2000," a PHS-led national activity for setting health priority areas. AHCPR encourages applicants to submit grant applications with relevance to the specific objectives of this initiative. Potential applicants may obtain a print copy of Healthy People 2000 (Full Report: Stock No. 017-001-00474-0 or Summary Report: Stock No. 017-001-00473-1) through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325, telephone 202-512-1800.


The AHCPR postdoctoral fellowship program is conducted in compliance with applicable laws that provide that no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination. Applicant organizations are required to have appropriate Assurance of Compliance forms filed with the Office of Civil Rights, Office of the Secretary, HHS, before a grant may be made to that institution. The Research Education Division, Office of Research Review, Education and Policy (ORREP), should be contacted with any questions concerning compliance (see Inquiries).

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for an award under this program applicants for postdoctoral fellowships must, at the time of award, be citizens of the United States, non-citizen nationals, or non citizens who have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence and have in their possession an Alien Registration Receipt Card I-551 or I-151 or other legal verification of such status. Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible.

Applicants must have received, by the activation date of the NRSA fellowship, a Ph.D., M.D., D.D.S., D.M.D., Sc.D., Dr.P.H., D.Pharm., or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited domestic or foreign institution. Certification from an authorized official of the degree-granting institution specifying that all degree requirements have been met is acceptable. (Persons possessing the J.D. degree as the sole advanced degree are not considered postdoctoral for NRSA purposes.) NRSA fellowships may not be used to support studies leading to the M.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.M.D., or equivalent health professional degree—nor do they support residency training.

Before submitting a postdoctoral fellowship application, applicants must identify a sponsoring institution and an individual who will supervise their training and research experience. The sponsoring institution may be private (profit or non-profit) or public. Applicants should select an advisor who is an active investigator in the area of the proposed research. As part of the application the advisor must document the training plan for the applicant, the availability of staff, research support, and facilities for high-quality research training.

Applicants proposing training at their doctorate institution or at the institution where they have been training for more than a year must document the opportunity for new training experiences that would broaden their scientific background and prospective.

Under exceptional circumstances, applicants may request support for training abroad. In such cases, applicants are required to provide a detailed justification for why the facilities, the advisor, or other aspects of the proposed experience are more appropriate and relevant than training in a domestic setting.

Mechanism of Support

Under the NRSA postdoctoral fellowship (F32) mechanism, responsibility for the planning, direction, and execution of the proposed project is solely that of the applicant and the sponsoring institution.

Research Objectives

Through the NRSA postdoctoral fellowship program, AHCPR seeks to expand the number of researchers who conduct health services research in areas identified in the "AHCPR Health Services Research" Program Announcement (PA), which was published in the NIH Guide on March 26, 1998. The PA outlines broad research interests in the following areas:

  • Health outcomes, at the clinical and system levels.
  • Quality measurement and improvement including the use of evidence-based practice information and tools.
  • Organization, financing, and delivery of health care and the characteristics of primary care practices with emphasis on health issues related to priority populations including minority populations, women, and children.
  • Health services research, especially cost-effectiveness analysis.
  • Ethical issues across the spectrum of health care delivery.

Applicants who have questions regarding the relevance of their research to AHCPR goals should contact by telephone, E-mail, or letter, staff listed under Inquiries.

Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children in Research Study Populations Involving Human Subjects

It is the policy of AHCPR that women and members of minority groups should be included in all AHCPR-supported research projects involving human subjects, unless a clear and compelling rationale and justification is provided that inclusion is inappropriate with respect to the health of the subjects or the purpose of the research.

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the "NIH Guidelines on the Inclusion of Women and Minorities as Subjects in Clinical Research," which was published in the Federal Register on March 28, 1994 (FR 59 14508-14513), and printed in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts on March 18, 1994. AHCPR follows the NIH Guidelines, as applicable.

AHCPR is also encouraging investigators to consider including children in study populations, as appropriate. AHCPR announced in the NIH Guide on May 9, 1997, that it is developing a policy and implementation plan on the inclusion of children in health services research. This Notice is available online.

Investigators may obtain copies of these guidelines and policies from the sources listed above or from the AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse (see Inquiries).

AHCPR program staff may also provide information concerning these policies (see Inquiries).

Application Procedures

Applications are to be submitted on the Individual NRSA application form PHS 416-1 (rev. 8/95) and will be accepted on the application receipt dates indicated in the application kit.

If the applicant is lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence, a notarized statement documenting this status is required.

The completed, signed, typewritten, original application and two copies must be sent or delivered to:

Center for Scientific Review
National Institutes of Health
6701 Rockledge Drive
ROOM 1040, MSC 7710
Bethesda, MD 20857-7710
Bethesda, MD 20817 (for express/courier service)

Review Considerations

Applications for NRSA fellowships will be reviewed by a peer review committee that includes experts from appropriate fields of science. The committee will use the following criteria in evaluating applications:

  • An applicant's past academic and research accomplishments.
  • An applicant's research and training goals and potential for a health services research career.
  • Research training program proposed (including the training potential, and the scientific merit of the research project).
  • Qualifications and suitability of the proposed sponsor and appropriateness of the institutional environment.
  • References and other relevant information.

Award Criteria

For AHCPR applications, awards will be made based on the recommendations of the peer review committee, relevance of the application to AHCPR research priorities and training needs, and availability of funds.

Stipends and Other Training Costs

A stipend is provided to each NRSA fellow to help defray living expenses during the research training experience. The stipend amount is determined by the number of full years of relevant postdoctoral experience as of the date the award is issued. Relevant experience may include research experience, teaching, internship, residency, or other time spent in full-time studies in a health-related field beyond that of the qualifying doctoral degree.

No departure from the standard stipend schedule may be negotiated between the institution and the fellow. Current postdoctoral stipend levels are listed below:

Full years 
of relevant              Annual
experience               stipend

None                    $21,000
1                        22,176
2                        26,160
3                        27,492
4                        28,824
5                        30,144
6                        31,476
7 or more                33,012

Select for updated information on increased NRSA stipend levels.

AHCPR will provide an allowance of $4,000 per 12-month period to non-Federal, non-profit sponsoring institutions to cover such awardee expenses as self-only health insurance, research supplies, equipment, travel to scientific meetings, and related educational items.

AHCPR will provide for-profit institutions with up to $3,000 for the fellow's self-only health insurance, scientific meeting travel expenses, and books. The $3,000 is paid to the for-profit institution for disbursement to the fellow, and any unexpended funds are to be returned to AHCPR.

For new competing fellowships applications submitted in response to this program announcement, tuition and fees (except health insurance), when applicable, are no longer included as part of the institutional allowance. That cost will be awarded in accordance with tuition policy below.

Additional funds may be requested by the institution for extraordinary costs for fellows who are disabled, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such additional funds are provided only in exceptional circumstances and must be fully justified and explained by the institution.

Supplementation. Institutions may use non-Federal funds to supplement NRSA stipends. Federal funds may be used for stipend supplementation only if specifically authorized under the terms of the program from which the supplemental funds are derived. An individual may use Federal educational loan funds or Veterans Administration benefits when permitted by those programs. Supplementation, when provided, must be without obligation to the trainee.

Compensation. Trainees may be permitted to receive compensation for work in another position (for example, teaching or laboratory assistance) when the trainee is in an employee-employer relationship, the payments are for services rendered, and the situation otherwise meets conditions for student compensation as specified in the PHS Grants Policy Statement. Compensation may not be from a research grant that supports the same research that is part of the NRSA experience. Compensation for services must occur on a limited, part-time basis apart from the normal, full-time training activities. A minimum of 40 hours per week of training activities is required; other activities must not interfere with the successful completion of the training program.

Under no circumstances can the conditions of either stipend supplementation or student compensation for coincidental employment detract from or prolong the research training. Further information on stipend supplementation and compensation is available in "National Research Service Awards—Guidelines for Individual Awards Institutional Grants." This guideline may be obtained at:

Tuition and fees. For competing awards submitted in response to this solicitation, tuition and fees are limited to specific courses required by the sponsoring institution and must receive approval from AHCPR prior to the award. Applicable tuition and fees (excluding health insurance) will be reimbursed at the following rate: 100 percent of all costs up to $2,000, and 60 percent of costs above $2,000. Future years provide no escalation. Tuition costs (both adjusted and unadjusted in accordance with this policy), need to be clearly identified by the applicant and certified by the sponsoring institution. This information needs to be included at the time of submission with the application materials.

Conditions of the Award

Applications may be for 1, 2, or 3 years of fellowship support. No one is eligible for more than 3 years of aggregate NRSA support at the postdoctoral level, including any combination of support from institutional training grants and individual fellowships.

Fellowships are awarded for full-time research training. However, it is recognized that a close interrelationship between teaching and research may exist in the academic environment. Fellows are permitted, with the approval of the sponsor, to undertake teaching that can contribute meaningfully to their academic training. Any teaching undertaken by a fellow may not occupy more than 10 percent of work time during the year or exceed 4 hours per week. Fellows in clinical areas are expected to devote their time to the proposed research training program and to confine limited clinical duties to those that are part of the research training.

Concurrent awards. An NRSA postdoctoral fellowship may not be held concurrently with another federally sponsored fellowship or similar Federal award that provides a stipend or otherwise duplicates provisions of the NRSA.

Activation. The awardee must start work on the fellowship within 6 months of the issue date on the award notice. No funds may be disbursed until the award is activated. Under unusual circumstances, AHCPR may grant an extension of the activation period upon receipt of a specific request from the fellow.

Tax liability of stipends. Section 117 of the Internal Revenue Code applies to the tax treatment of all scholarships and fellowships. It must be emphasized that the interpretation and implementation of tax laws are the domain of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. courts. AHCPR does not have the authority to advise students or institutions about their tax liability. The business office of the sponsoring institution is responsible for the annual preparation and issuance of the IRS Form 1099 for postdoctoral fellows training at the institution. Individuals should consult their local IRS office for more detailed information on the proper steps to be taken regarding their tax obligations.

The taxability of stipends in no way alters the relationship between NRSA fellows and their institutions. NRSA stipends are not now, and have never been, salaries. Fellows supported under a National Research Service Award are not in an employer-employee relationship with AHCPR or with the institution in which they are pursuing research training. It is inappropriate and unallowable for institutions to seek funds or to charge individual fellowship awards for costs normally associated with employee benefits (such as FICA, workers compensation, or unemployment insurance).

Termination and post-award reporting. At the conclusion of the fellowship, the fellow must submit a termination notice (form PHS 416-7) to AHCPR. NRSA fellowship recipients are responsible for informing AHCPR of changes in their status or address and for submitting the Annual Payback Activities Certification (form PHS 6031-1) yearly until any required payback service obligation is satisfied. The Termination Notice Form PHS 416-7 and the Annual Payback Activities Certification Form 6031-1 will be sent to the fellow by AHCPR prior to the scheduled termination date. For early terminations, the forms will be issued immediately upon receipt of notification from the fellow or an authorized institutional official.

Payback provision. Before an award is made, the fellow must sign an agreement to fulfill the congressionally mandated payback requirements. The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 substantially modified the existing service payback requirements for individuals supported under NRSA programs. For fellowship awards beginning after June 10, 1993, only fellows in the first 12 months of postdoctoral NRSA support will incur a service obligation of 1 month for each month of support. Postdoctoral fellows in the 13th and subsequent months of NRSA support will not sign the Payback Agreement Form (Form PHS 6031) and will incur no further obligation. The 13th and each subsequent month of postdoctoral NRSA support will be considered acceptable payback service; therefore, individuals who begin the initial postdoctoral fellowship on or after June 10, 1993, and continue under that award for 2 years will have fulfilled their first year obligation by the end of the second year of training.

Service payback obligations can also be repaid after the period of training by engaging in health services related research (including research assistantship/associateships and fellowships) and/or teaching for at least 20 hours per week averaged over a full year.

Positions after training are arranged by the individual, not AHCPR.

Recipients must undertake the obligated service on a continuous basis within 2 years after termination of NRSA support. The period for undertaking payback service may be delayed for temporary disability, for completion of residency requirements, or for completion of the requirements for a graduate degree. Requests for an extension must be made in writing to AHCPR and must specify the need for additional time and the length of the required extension.

Individuals who fail to fulfill any required obligation through service must pay back the total amount of NRSA funds paid to them for the obligation period plus interest at a rate determined by the Secretary of the Treasury. Financial payback must be completed within 3 years beginning on the date the United States becomes entitled to recover such amount.

Under certain conditions, the Secretary, HHS, or an authorized delegate may extend the period for starting service or for repayment, permit breaks in the period of service or repayment, or otherwise waive or suspend the payback obligation of an individual.


Written and telephone inquires are encouraged. AHCPR welcomes the opportunity to clarify any issues or questions from potential applicants. Direct inquiries regarding programmatic issues, including information on the policies of inclusion of women, minorities, and children to:

Division of Research Education
Office of Extramural Research, Education and Priority Populations (OEREP)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
540 Gaither Road, Suite 2000
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (301) 427-1349

Authority and Regulations

This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Number 93.225. NRSA individual postdoctoral fellowship awards are made under authorization of Section 487 of the Public Health Service Act, as amended (42 USC 288). Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 66, is applicable to this program. This program is not subject to the intergovernmental review requirements of Executive Order 12372 or Health Systems Agency review.

The PHS strongly encourages all grant and contract recipients to provide a smoke-free workplace and promote the non-use of all tobacco products. In addition, Public Law 103-227, The Pro-Children Act of 1994, prohibits smoking in certain facilities (or in some cases, any portion of a facility) in which regular or routine education, library, day care, health care, or early childhood development services are provided to children. This is consistent with the PHS mission to protect and advance the physical and mental health of the American people.

AHCPR Publication No. 99-R002
Current as of October 1999


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