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ARCHIVED - NIH Grants Policy Statement (03/01)

Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards
Subpart B: Terms and Conditions for Specific Types of Grants, Grantees, and Activities -- Part 5 of 8

Payback Reporting Requirements for Recipients


The NRSA legislation requires some recipients of support to pay back the Federal Government by engaging in health-related biomedical or behavioral research, including the direct administration or review of health-related research, health-related teaching, or any combination of these activities. Recent policy changes have significantly broadened the definition of "health-related." See "Payback—Service Payback—Definitions" for a complete interpretation.

The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993, signed into law on June 10, 1993, includes provisions in Section 1602 that substantially modify the service payback requirement for individuals supported by the NRSA. For research training grants, these new provisions are applicable to all new appointments or re-appointments on or after June 10, 1993. For individual fellowships, these provisions apply to all fellowship awards beginning on or after June 10, 1993. For competing fellowships, the award beginning date refers to the award activation date.

An individual who was appointed to a research training grant or who had a fellowship award activated before June 10, 1993 would be governed by the service payback provisions in effect at the time of the appointment or award until the end of that appointment or budget period.


The incurrence of a payback obligation for an NRSA recipient is solely dependent upon when NRSA support was received.

Prior to August 13, 1981

Prior to August 13, 1981 (enactment of the Omnibus Reconciliation Act), a payback obligation existed for all prebaccalaureate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral support received.

Effective August 13, 1981

Effective August 13, 1981, a 12-month legislative allowance waiving payback obligation for the first 12 months of support was enacted for all predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees/fellows. This legislation provided that all trainees/fellows who were not in delinquent status on that date receive the allowance (this was retroactive to the beginning of the NRSA program). Individuals in delinquent status continued to have a payback obligation for all support received. This legislative change also eliminated the payback obligation for prebaccalaureate recipients.

Historically, short-term trainees supported by the T35 mechanism (NRSA Short-Term Training) incurred no payback obligation. However, for short-term trainees supported within a T32 program, the period(s) of support accrued and ultimately counted toward the total NRSA support.

Effective June 10, 1993 (NIH Revitalization Act)

Predoctoral Recipients

For predoctoral trainees beginning appointments and for predoctoral fellows activating awards on or after June 10, 1993, no payback obligation is incurred. Thus a Payback Agreement Form (PHS 6031) is no longer required.

Postdoctoral Recipients

For postdoctoral recipients, a payback obligation is incurred for the first 12 months of NRSA support with the 13th and subsequent months of postdoctoral support serving to pay back this obligation on a month-by-month basis. A Payback Agreement Form (PHS 6031) is still required but only for the initial 12-month postdoctoral support period.

The requirements established by the Revitalization Act also provide that the 13th and subsequent months of postdoctoral NRSA-supported research training will be used to discharge any prior postdoctoral NRSA service payback obligation. See "Payback—Service Payback—Initiation of Payback Service" for detailed changes effective with the Act.

Short-term Training

Any predoctoral short-term training does not incur a payback obligation. Postdoctoral short-term training incurs a payback obligation. Any support accrues along with any subsequent postdoctoral support until the first 12 months is established. At that point, the 13th and subsequent months of support serve to offset the obligation on a month-by-month basis. In the event that subsequent postdoctoral support is not received, the individual has an obligation to pay back in the traditional manner.


The NIH awarding office generally assumes responsibility for handling payback activities once the Termination Notice has been submitted and accepted. For some awarding offices, the NIH NRSA Payback Service Center assumes this responsibility. Established in the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Payback Service Center personnel are NIH's experts in the NRSA payback arena. For those awarding offices participating in the Center, the authorities normally delegated to the IC are automatically delegated to the Chief, NRSA Payback Service Center.

Most NRSA recipients eventually fulfill their payback obligation by engaging in activities that are determined to be acceptable service. Some recipients fulfill their obligation via financial payback. On rare occasions waivers of the payback obligation are granted.

As indicated in "Payback Reporting Requirements for Recipients—Implementation," the amount of a payback obligation incurred is solely dependent upon when NRSA support was received. Timing of NRSA support also is a factor with respect to the type of service that qualifies as acceptable payback.

Service Payback


For the purpose of fulfilling the NRSA service payback obligation, the following definitions apply:


Research is defined as an activity that involves the design of experiments, development of protocols, and collection and interpretation of data. In addition, review of original research or administration of original research that includes providing scientific direction and guidance to research may be acceptable if a doctoral degree and relevant research experience is required for individuals filling such positions. Such research can be conducted in an academic, government, commercial, or other environment in either a foreign or domestic setting.

In addition, when consistent with the cumulative amount, type, and frequency of research or research training experiences, functions that involve analytic or other technical activities conducted in direct support of research, as defined above, also will satisfy the service payback obligation.


Teaching is an instructional activity that takes place in an organized educational or other instructional environment. Activities classified as teaching are generally carried out in a formal didactic setting but other activities will be considered if they are consistent with the certifying institution's policy on the definition of teaching responsibilities. Such teaching can be conducted at universities, professional schools, research institutes, teaching hospitals, primary schools, secondary schools, or colleges. When calculating hours of teaching per week, it is permissible to include 3 hours of preparation time for each hour of direct instruction. Acceptable teaching activities must have a biomedical or health-related relevance.


This incorporates a broad range of activities related to the description, diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of disease from the most basic biomedical or behavioral research to the most applied or clinical research. In addition to fields usually considered to be directly related to human disease, activities in other fields such as agriculture, environmental sciences, biotechnology, and bioengineering also will be considered health-related.

Time Commitment

All acceptable activities must be undertaken for periods that average at least 20 hours per week. Total employment in such activities averaging less than 20 hours per week cannot be counted towards fulfilling the obligation except in cases of disability or other pressing personal or family circumstances, such as child care or elder care responsibilities. It is not permissible for individuals otherwise engaged in full-time employment to engage in service payback activities at effort levels below 20 hours per week.

If less than 20 hours commitment per week is permitted, the total period of service obligation will be prorated. For example, an individual who owes 12 months of service and can devote only 10 hours per week to service payback activities due to a disability will be required to engage in such service for 24 months. These exceptions are rare and must receive prior approval from the NIH IC.

Initiation of Payback Service

Support Received Prior to NIH Revitalization Act

For NRSA recipients who incurred a payback obligation from support received prior to June 10, 1993, payback service must be performed following completion of NRSA support. No amount or type of activity prior to or during the period of NRSA support will satisfy the NRSA service payback obligation. However, payback service may be initiated immediately after termination of NRSA support if the research or teaching activities meet the criteria cited in "Payback Reporting Requirements for Recipients—Payback—Definitions"

Support Received Post-NIH Revitalization Act

Beginning with awards made under the authority of the NIH Revitalization Act (appointments on or after June 10, 1993), service payback obligations for postdoctoral recipients may be discharged in the following ways:

  • By receiving an equal number of months of postdoctoral NRSA support beginning in the 13th month of such postdoctoral NRSA support;
  • By engaging in an equal number of months of health-related research, training and/or teaching averaging more than 20 hours per week.
  • Trainees and fellows beginning appointments for the 13th and subsequent month of postdoctoral NRSA support on or after June 10, 1993 will be engaging in service that also satisfies prior postdoctoral NRSA service payback obligation. Post-award service in non-NRSA supported health-related research, training, and/or teaching is creditable toward any NRSA service payback obligation.
  • Individuals who have completed their predoctoral NRSA training and have an existing NRSA service payback obligation are still required to engage in service payback or make financial repayment. Postdoctoral NRSA support may not be used to satisfy an existing predoctoral payback obligation.

Source of Funding

The source of funds supporting an individual's service payback activity is not restricted beyond the fact that, for predoctoral payback activities, it must not be supported by NRSA funds. An individual could be supported by a PHS grant or from any non-NRSA Federal or non-Federal source. Unpaid service also is permitted.

Timing of Service Obligation

An individual must begin to undertake the payback service requirement within 2 years after the termination date of the individual's NRSA support unless an extension of time to begin payback has been approved by the NIH IC (see "Payback—Extensions of Payback—Extensions of the 2-Year Period to Initiate Payback").

Alternative Service

Alternative service in lieu of research and teaching was deleted by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981. Individuals who entered the NRSA program on or after August 13, 1981, the date the Act was signed, are not eligible for alternative service. Individuals who entered the NRSA before August 13, 1981 are governed by the alternative service provisions in effect when their appointment started. Additional information concerning alternative payback service is available from the NIH IC.

Financial Payback

Policy and Principal Calculation

If any individual to whom the requirement for service is applicable fails to undertake or perform such services, the United States Government shall be entitled to recover from the individual the amount determined in accordance with the following formula plus interest:

A = O (t-s)

Where "A" is the amount the United States is entitled to recover, "O" is the sum of total amount paid to the individual under the National Research Service Award support, "t" is the total number of months in service obligation, and "s" is the number of months of such obligation served.

The total paid to the individual under institutional grants and individual awards at domestic, non-federal sponsoring institutions is considered to be the stipend only. The total paid an individual under a fellowship award at a foreign sponsoring institution includes the payment for the round-trip travel costs. The total paid an individual under a fellowship award at a Federal sponsoring institution includes any money expended from the institutional allowance provided for such purposes as health insurance, travel, tuition, and fees.

Interest & Interest Rate Calculation

NIH computes interest on the principal amount beginning on the date the U.S. became entitled to recover stipends. The interest rate is the rate fixed by the Secretary of the Treasury after taking into consideration prevailing consumer rates of interest. Accordingly, interest may be accruing on any NRSA obligation if the 2-year grace period has passed, or if deferment has expired, or if service has terminated before completion of the payback obligation. The Department of the Treasury certifies NRSA interest rates on a quarterly basis. Interest is computed on a 360 day-a-year basis and is applied through the date of receipt. Any outstanding amount will continue to bear interest at the initial rate set by the Secretary of the Treasury until financial payback is complete.

Determination of the "date" which sets the applicable rate of interest is dependent upon the type of NRSA account received for collection. If financial payback is voluntary, the signature date of the notification of voluntary payback is the date that determines the interest rate as well as the initiation of the 3-year repayment period. If financial payback is involuntary, the date which determines the interest rate and the 3-year repayment period is the date of expiration of the 2-year period following the termination of NRSA support. For example, if during June 1998, OFM received an account reflecting January 31, 1996 as the termination date of NRSA support, the Government, lacking any documentation to the contrary, becomes entitled to financial payback effective February 1, 1998. The rate of interest applicable is determined based on the February 1, 1998 date and the total NRSA obligation is required to be fulfilled by January 31, 2001.

The amount to be recovered financially, as determined from the Termination Notice plus applicable interest, shall be paid to the United States within the 3-year period following such date.

Extensions of Payback

The NRSA legislation and the implementing regulation (42 CFR Part 66) exceptions to certain requirements under the Act.

Extensions of the 2 Year Period to Initiate Payback

Frequently, an Annual Payback Activities Certification (APAC) (Form PHS 6031-1) is returned requesting an extension of the 2-year period to initiate payback. Indication of valid plans to initiate payback soon after the 2-year grace period may be good reason to grant an extension.

Basis for Extensions

The NIH IC may extend the period for undertaking payback service or permit breaks in continuous service. These determinations are based on the following criteria:

  • an extension or break in service is necessary so the individual may complete his or her research or clinical training;
  • the individual is unable to complete the requirements within the specified period because of a temporary disability; or
  • completion by the individual of the requirement within the specified period would involve substantial hardship to the individual and that failure to extend the period would be against equity and good conscience.

Reasons for an extension or break-in-service include such things as completing residency training, where clinical teaching or research are not an integral part of their training, or individuals seeking employment that would fulfill the payback requirements.

Requests must be made in writing (separate letter or APAC) to the NIH IC, specifying the need for additional time and the length of the required extension.

Extension to Complete Payback Service

The awarding office may approve or disapprove requests to extend the period of payback service or permit breaks in continuous service. Decisions to permit breaks in service are based on the criteria described in "Payback—Extensions of Payback—Basis for Extensions."



The NRSA legislation and the implementing regulation (42 CFR Part 66) exceptions to certain requirements under the Act. For waiver requests, NIH may waive, in whole or in part, the payback obligation, upon determination that compliance by the individual is impossible or would involve substantial hardship, and enforcement of the obligation to that individual would be against equity and good conscience.

Waiver Criteria

Requests for waivers should be made in writing to the NIH IC and explain the need for the waiver according to the following criteria:

  • Compliance by an individual will be deemed impossible if the individual is permanently and totally disabled;
  • In determining whether compliance would involve substantial hardship to the individual and would be against equity, the IC shall take into consideration:
    • the individual's financial resources and obligations at the time of request for a waiver;
    • the individual's estimated future financial resources and obligations;
    • In rare cases, the following also might be considered:
    • the reasons for the individual's failure to complete the requirements within the prescribed period, such as problems of a personal nature;
    • the extent to which the individual has engaged in payback activities;
    • whether the individual has received sufficient training to be qualified to perform such activities;
    • the lack of employment opportunities appropriate to the individual's education and training; and
    • any other extenuating circumstances.
  • Any obligation of any individual toward payback will be canceled upon death of the individual.

Certification of Payback Activities

Annual Payback Activities Certification (Form PHS 6031-1)

Annual Certification

Payback service is certified through the use of the Annual Payback Activities Certification (APAC) (Form PHS 6031-1). Individuals with an outstanding payback obligation must complete an APAC annually until their payback obligation is fulfilled.

The APAC is sent by NIH approximately one year after the completion of NRSA support, if an individual has incurred a payback obligation. Payback service may be initiated within the first 12 months of termination even though trainees/fellows have up to 24 months to initiate payback. There is no penalty to those individuals who do not initiate payback within the first 12 months; however, it is critical that they complete an APAC form to ensure contact is maintained and addresses are current.

On this form, the individual will report the activity in which he or she was engaged for the preceding 12 months, within the specified reporting period. These forms are to be returned within 30 days of the reporting period end date to:

Data Management Control Section, OER
National Institutes of Health
Rockledge II, Room 1010
6701 Rockledge Drive MSC-7715
Bethesda, MD 20817-7715

Forms are then forwarded to the NIH IC, which will then review the activity and make a decision on its acceptability and inform the former trainee/fellow of the decision. This process will continue annually until the individual's total payback obligation is satisfied.

Change of Address

Any change in the mailing address of a NRSA recipient must be reported promptly to the awarding office until the service obligation is fully discharged. Notification of changes can be made by letter, telephone, fax, or e-mail.

Breaks in NRSA Support

Sometimes a trainee/fellow will have a period of non-NRSA support between two NRSA awards. An appropriate activity performed during this period of time may count for payback purposes toward the first NRSA award. If the non-support period is 6 months or longer, the individual receives an APAC form through the regular mechanism. However, if the break is less than 6 months, an APAC will not be automatically mailed. If acceptable payback service was performed during the break, the individual may complete an APAC, which can be obtained from the NIH IC, to document the payback service.

National Health Service Corps

Occasionally, an NRSA recipient may have been a National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholar. Legislation provides authority for holders of both awards to pay back the obligation of the two sources of support concurrently. Therefore, activities that qualify as NRSA payback also serve as payback for the NHSC obligation. However, no legislative allowance is provided for NHSC service, e.g., 36 months of NRSA support (prior to June 10, 1993) and 36 months of NHSC support would require 24 months of NRSA payback service and 36 months of NHSC service, respectively. The NIH IC monitors both obligations until they are both satisfactorily completed.


Application Receipt Dates

Review and Award Schedule

All Institutional National Research Service Awards*

Scientific Merit

Advisory Council

Earliest Award

January 10




May 10




September 10





Individual National Research Service Awards (Fellowships)


Initial Review Dates

Range of Likely
Start Dates

April 5




August 5




December 5




The ICs review T32 applications either once or three times per year. A listing of the ICs, specifying the receipt date(s) associated with their application review, is provided below.

Institute/Center Application Receipt Date(s)

NCCAM Jan 10, May 10, Sept 10
NCI Jan 10, May 10, Sept 10
NCRR Jan 10, May 10, Sept 10
NIA May 10
NIAAA May 10
NIAID Sept 10
NIAMS May 10
NICHD May 10
NIDA May 10
NIDCD May 10
NIDCR Sept 10
NIDDK Jan 10, May 10, Sept 10
NEI May 10
NIEHS May 10
NHLBI May 10
NHGRI May 10
NIGMS (postdoctoral training grants) Jan 10
NIGMS (predoctoral training grants) Jan 10, May 10, Sept 10
NIMH (except Office of AIDS
with three dates) May 10
NINDS May 10
NINR May 10

Applicants are encouraged to confirm the application receipt dates by calling the appropriate IC Review Office. Specific NRSA programs may change their receipt dates to complement IC workloads.


Costs are normally provided based on a 12-month budget period. Awards for less than 12 months are prorated accordingly.


Annual stipend levels apply to all individuals receiving support through institutional or individual NRSAs. Stipend levels are published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. These levels also apply to Minority Access to Research Career (MARC) and Career Opportunities in Health (COR) programs. Supplementation, or retroactive adjustments, with NRSA funds to accommodate changes in stipend levels is unallowable. Note, the annual level for postdoctoral recipients is determined by the number of full years of relevant postdoctoral experience at the time of the appointment/award.

TRAINING-RELATED EXPENSES (TRE)—Institutional Training Grants

Sometimes referred to as "Above the Line Costs" or "Other Expenses", TRE funds are awarded to help defray the costs of other training-related expenses such as staff salaries, consultant costs, equipment, research supplies and staff travel. TRE is generally requested in a lump sum, based on the number of trainees requested in the application, and entered on the budget page without further stipulation. Current levels are up to $2,000 per year for each predoctoral trainee, and up to $3,000 per year for each postdoctoral trainee. The training-related expenses for specialized programs, such as MARC and COR, are referenced in the specific program announcements.


Provided annually to help defray the costs for the individual fellow. "Individual NRSAs (Fellowships)—Financial Provisions—Other Costs—Institutional Allowance" describes in detail what are considered acceptable costs for sponsoring institutions for individual fellowships depending on the training site. The institutional allowance is a fixed amount. Expenditures under institutional allowances are not subject to NIH prior approval requirements (as specified in Subpart A of this Part), and the organization is not required to account for these expenditures on an actual cost basis. However, NIH policy governs the type of expenditures appropriate for the institutional allowance.

Beginning with awards made with FY 2001 funds, whether competing or noncompeting, and until the allowance level is changed, an institutional allowance will be provided for each year of the fellowship as follows:


Up to $4,000[24]. Note, many ICs provide individual predoctoral fellowships with a reduced institutional allowance (usually $2, 500) since costs for tuition, fees and health insurance are awarded separately. Specific program announcements and/or ICs should be contacted for guidance.


$5,000 per 12-month period (for fellows at non-Federal, non-profit, or foreign institutions).

Up to $4,000[25] (for fellows at Federal laboratories or for-profit institutions).

For postdoctoral fellowships, tuition and fees (except health insurance), when applicable, are no longer included as part of the institutional allowance. That cost is awarded in accordance with the tuition policy described below. The cost of health insurance is a charge to the institutional allowance.


Reference: NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Vol. 28, No. 51, December 23, 1999

In FY96, NIH instituted a new policy for funding tuition costs. Note, applicant institutions are instructed to continue to request the full amount of these costs in competing applications. NIH IC staff will apply the formula at the time an award is calculated. The formula is used for award calculation only. Actual reimbursement is not limited to the formula. Funds are awarded in a sum. Unless otherwise restricted, grantees may apportion funds as best meets their actual needs for tuition and fees.

Institutional Grants

For competing and noncompeting awards issued in FY 00 and until changed by NIH, the combined costs of tuition, fees and health insurance are funded at the following per trainee rate: 100% of all costs up to $3,000 and 60% of costs above $3,000. Future years provide no escalation.

Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships

For competing and noncompeting awards issued in FY 00 and until changed by NIH, when applicable, tuition and fees (excluding health insurance) are funded at the following rate: 100% of all costs up to $3,000 and 60% of costs above $3,000. Future years provide no escalation. For postdoctoral fellowships, health insurance will continue to be paid as part of the institutional allowance.

Individual Predoctoral Fellowships

Payment of tuition and fees (including health insurance) varies among the NIH ICs. Therefore, specific program announcements and/or awarding offices should be contacted for guidance.

  • When tuition and fees and health insurance are awarded as a separate cost, (for competing awards issued in FY97 and until changed by NIH), this cost will be funded at the following rate: 100% of all costs up to $3,000 and 60% of costs above $3,000. Future years provide no escalation.
  • Non-competing awards funded in FY97 will continue to be reimbursed at previously established levels.

SHORT-TERM TRAINING—Students in Health Professional School

Most short-term trainees are funded at the predoctoral stipend level prorated for the number of months of support. Up to $125 per month for each participating student may be requested to defray other costs of training such as staff salaries, consultant costs, research supplies, tuition, and travel. Some NIH ICs provide short-term training at the postdoctoral level as well. Specific program announcements and ICs should be contacted for guidance.


Research Fellowship Activation Notices (PHS 416-5) are automatically mailed with applicable Notice of Grant Awards. Additional forms are available from the Grants Management Office of the awarding office.

Statement of Appointment Forms (PHS 2271) are automatically mailed with applicable Notice of Grant Awards. Additional forms are available from the Grants Management Office of the awarding office.

NRSA Payback Agreements (PHS 6031) are automatically mailed with applicable Notice of Grant Awards. Additional forms are available from the Grants Management Office of the awarding office.

NRSA Termination Notices (PHS 416-7) are automatically mailed with applicable Notice of Grant Awards. Additional forms are available from the Grants Management Office of the awarding office.

NRSA Annual Payback Activities Certifications (PHS 6031-1) are automatically mailed annually to applicable recipients.

These forms are available from the NIH Forms and Applications Page ( located on the NIH Office of Extramural Research Administration's web site (

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