NIH GUIDE, Volume 21, Number 11, March 20, 1992

P.T. 44


  Biomedical Research Training 

  Grants Administration/Policy+ 

National Institutes of Health

In October, 1989, the NIH issued a report titled the Review of the NIH

Biomedical Research Training Programs, hereafter called the Review,

which summarized the recommendations of three NIH Task Forces on

Research Training established by then NIH Director, Dr. James

Wyngaarden.  These Task Forces recognized the important role of the NIH

research training programs in the development of productive researchers

and the advancement of biomedical sciences.  They also reiterated the

NIH commitment to ensuring the training of an adequate number of

individuals with appropriate skills to meet future personnel needs in

biomedical research.  After a careful analysis of existing programs,

the Task Forces developed a series of recommendations designed to

enhance those aspects of institutional training programs known to be

correlated with the production of successful researchers.  Many of

these recommendations will be implemented by the modification of the

review criteria to emphasize the record of successfully placing former

trainees into research intensive positions.  The changes outlined in

this notice are designed to improve the efficiency of the NIH funded

research training programs.

The four policy changes listed here will be administered through the

initial review process.  Revised review criteria for all T32

institutional research training grants will be presented near the end

of this notice.  These criteria will be in place beginning with

applications received for the May 10, 1992 receipt date.  In some

cases, compliance with the revised policy will be phased in and

reviewers will be instructed to take the date of implementation into

account.  In other cases, the proposed modifications will not represent

a significant departure from existing policy.  Applicants are advised

to consult with the appropriate NIH program administrator to determine

the best way to emphasize information in their applications related to

these policy directives.  A clear presentation of related information

will facilitate the peer review process.

1.  Emphasize Past Performance of the Training Program at Review.

Background:  Based on information discussed in the Review, the single

best predictor of future success for a research training program is the

record of past performance in terms of producing trainees who remain

engaged in research careers.

Policy Implementation:  Program directors on all competing and non-

competing research training grants are expected to select postdoctoral

trainees who are genuinely interested in a career in research.

Additionally, postdoctoral trainees already appointed to research

training grants are expected to enter research careers after

termination.  Competing renewal applications submitted for the May 10,

1992 and subsequent receipt dates are to include detailed information

related to the activities of all trainees supported by the training

grant who have terminated during the last ten years as specified in the

instructions to Form PHS 398 (rev. 9/91).  In addition, non-competing

renewal applications are to contain information on research involvement

for all trainees who terminated during the previous budget period.

Evidence of research involvement should include information on

employment, publications, grants, and any other relevant information.

Review:  Beginning with competing renewal applications received for the

May 10, 1992 receipt date, reviewers will focus on the research

involvement of former NRSA trainees taking into consideration the date

of implementation of this policy.  Certainly, trainees appointed after

July 1, 1992 should have been informed about the purpose of NRSA

support and the expectation that a career in research is the

anticipated outcome.  Training programs in which there has been a

consistent pattern of transition to an active research career after

termination will be considered favorably at review.  On the other hand,

training programs in which few former trainees are participating in

research activities will be considered less meritorious.

2.  Minimum Two Year Training Periods for Health-Professional

Postdoctoral Trainees.

Background:  Data presented in the Review showed very clearly that

postdoctoral trainees with longer periods of appointment to an

institutional research training grant were more likely to apply for and

receive PHS research grant support.  This trend was especially

pronounced for postdoctoral trainees with the M.D. degree.  The NIH is,

therefore, emphasizing a policy that encourages all health-professional

postdoctoral trainees appointed to a research training grant to commit

at least two years to research or research training.  For the purpose

of this policy, individuals who have the M.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.V.M., or

similar clinically related doctoral degrees are considered to be


The Review also recognized that it would be inappropriate to limit all

trainees to appointments on research training grants that last two or

more years because there may be other more appropriate training and

research opportunities available.  In some cases, for example, it may

be appropriate for a postdoctoral trainee to obtain a second year of

support from an individual fellowship, from a career award, or from a

research grant(*).  The important concept, however, is that more than

one year of postdoctoral research experience is necessary to develop an

independent research career.

* The National Eye Institute encourages postdoctoral trainees to obtain

other support for the second and subsequent years of postdoctoral

research experience.

Policy Implementation:  Beginning with competing and non-competing

training grants made from fiscal year 1992 funds, training program

directors will be expected to be more selective in appointments to

research training grants so that appointments to be filled by health-

professional postdoctoral trainees are preferentially given to

individuals who are willing to engage in a research career and are

willing to devote at least two years to research training or some other

research related activity.  Additionally, health-professional

postdoctoral trainees who are currently appointed to positions on

training grants are to be strongly encouraged to remain in research or

research training for at least two years.

Applications for competing renewal research training grants beginning

with the May 10, 1992 deadline are to include information on the

duration of appointment for all trainees who have terminated during the

previous 10 years.  For each trainee who terminated before receiving at

least two years of research training, the application must also contain

an explanation for the short appointment and whether the former

trainee's activities subsequent to termination involved research or

additional research training.

Non-competing T32 applications submitted on or after September 10, 1991

must also contain information on the duration of support for all NRSA

trainees that terminated during the previous budget period.  Support

periods of less than two years must be followed by an explanation of

post-termination activities in the narrative section.

Review:  Beginning with competing renewal applications received for the

May 10, 1992 receipt date, reviewers will consider the duration of

research training and other research activities in the determination of

quality.  If there is a consistent pattern of appointment of health-

professional postdoctoral trainees for periods less than two years with

no indication of subsequent research involvement, it will detract from

the assessed merit of the grant application.  Of course, the Initial

Review Group will take into consideration the date this policy was

implemented.  For example, all appointments made after July 1, 1992

should reflect compliance with this policy.  The duration of the

research or research training experience for health professional

trainees will also be considered in non-competing research training

grants received after May 10, 1992.

3.  Encourage Postdoctoral Trainees to Apply for Independent Training

or Career Development Support After Training on an Institutional

Research Training Grant.

Background:  Several studies on career patterns of former NRSA

recipients have shown that individuals who compete for and receive

individual postdoctoral fellowship support are more likely to apply for

and receive PHS research grant support than individuals supported

solely on research training grants.  It is, therefore, in the best

interest of postdoctoral trainees to move from a training grant

experience to an individual support mechanism such as an individual

postdoctoral fellowship, a clinical investigator award, a FIRST award,

or a physician/dental scientist award at an appropriate time.  It is

felt that in many cases postdoctoral trainees will be ready for this

transition after completion of one or two years of research training on

a research training grant.  At that point, most postdoctoral trainees

are still in need of further supervised research experience but they

should have gained the ability to contribute substantially to the

development of a competitive application for individual support.

Obviously, health-professional postdoctoral trainees engaged in

training leading to a graduate degree might require longer periods of

support from a research training grant.

Policy Implementation:  By one year from implementation of this policy

(May 1993), program directors of research training grants should have

established a record of encouraging postdoctoral trainees, who have had

one or more years of support from the research training grant, to apply

for individual support for further research training or career

development.   Applicants for competing renewal research training

grants are advised to document instances in which trainees have

converted to individual support mechanisms such as fellowships,

research grants, and career awards.  Applications for non-competing

renewals should indicate instances of transfer to individual funding

for all trainees who terminated during the previous budget period.

Review of Applications:  Reviewers will be instructed to examine

renewal applications for evidence that postdoctoral trainees have been

encouraged to convert to individual support mechanisms.  A pattern of

application for or receipt of individual fellowships, career awards, or

research grants after termination will be considered favorably at


4.  When Health-Professionals are included in a postdoctoral research

training program, the training program will be given special

consideration during review if the program incorporates concomitant

training of health-professionals with individuals trained in the basic

sciences (e.g., individuals with the Ph.D.).  Background:  Data

discussed in the Review indicate that M.D. trainees who are supported

on training grants that include Ph.D. trainees are more likely to apply

for and receive independent NIH research support than M.D. trainees who

train only with other M.D. trainees.  It was therefore recommended that

training programs which in the past have exclusively supported

postdoctoral research training for health-professionals should consider

shifting the focus of the program to include more fundamental

approaches in order to attract Ph.D.s. The overall objective is to

enhance the focus on research and research related activities in order

to improve the likelihood that the health-professionals who finish the

training program will have had sufficient experience to launch an

independent research career.

Policy Implementation:  Beginning with all institutional research

training grants received for the May 10, 1992 receipt date, program

directors on training grants that typically train health-professional

postdoctoral trainees should consider modifying the training

environment in order to make the program more attractive to individuals

interested in basic research questions.  For example, an integration of

training for M.D.s and Ph.D.s could be achieved by developing active

linkages with basic science departments through joint appointments for

the training faculty or by creating training experiences that involve

collaboration between the clinical department and basic science

departments.  Other modifications of the program to increase the

exposure of health-professional trainees to basic research should also

be considered.  One measure of success would be the appointment of

postdoctoral trainee(s) with the Ph.D. or equivalent degrees.  It is

recognized that such an integration may not be feasible for all

training programs.

Review:  Initial Review Groups will evaluate the program plan to assess

whether or not trainees with health-professional doctorates receive a

proper grounding in basic sciences and are provided with exposure to

basic biomedical or behavioral research during the training period.

Initial Review Groups will also consider the appropriateness of such

plans to the overall goals and focus of the training program.  When

appropriate, the establishment of linkages with basic science

departments and the concomitant postdoctoral training of physicians or

dentists with individuals with doctorates in the basic sciences

(Ph.D.s) will be considered as one indicator of a meritorious research

training program.


These four policy modifications will result in an increased emphasis on

the past success of the training program in producing biomedical or

behavioral researchers.  Beginning with applications received for the

May 10, 1992 receipt date, initial review groups will consider the

following criteria when assessing the merit of a research training

grant application:

o  Past research training record for both the program and the

designated preceptors in terms of the rate at which former trainees

establish independent and productive research careers

o  Past research training record in terms of the success of former

trainees in obtaining individual awards such as fellowships, career

awards, and research grants for further development

o  Objectives, design, and direction of the research training program

o  Caliber of preceptors as researchers including successful

competition for research support

o  Training environment including the institutional commitment, the

quality of the facilities, and the availability of research support

o  Recruitment and selection plans for appointees and the availability

of high quality candidates

o  The record of the research training program in retaining health-

professional postdoctoral trainees for at least two years in research

training or other research activities

o  When appropriate, the concomitant training of health-professional

postdoctorates (e.g., individuals with the M.D., D.O., D.D.S.) with

basic science postdoctorates (e.g., individuals with a Ph.D., Sci.D.)

will receive special consideration


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