Restructuring of Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Institutional Research Training Grants (T32 and T35) Supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Notice Number: NOT-ES-06-007

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

  • February 5, 2010 - See Notice NOT-ES-10-007 Elimination of Required Ratio of Predoctoral Training Slots for Institutional Training Grants .

Key Dates
Release Date: January 12, 2006

Issued by
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), (

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) announces the restructuring and redirection of its Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) institutional research training programs (T32 and T35).

The restructuring includes 1) a definition of the scope of the research training to better reflect the areas of research within the mission of the NIEHS; 2) a definition of the expected research base for training grant support; 3) a requirement of the ratio of predoctoral vs. postdoctoral training slots to be supported in the NIEHS funded NRSA T32 programs; 4) a change in eligibility for T35 short-term training programs to comply with current NIH guidelines; and 5) enforcement of the standard page limitation for the research training program plan for T32 and T35 grant applications and suggested formats for tabular information.

These changes will be effective for competing NIEHS renewal and new T32 and T35 applications beginning with applications submitted in response to the May 10, 2006 receipt date. In addition to these programmatic requirements, applications will continue to be required to conform to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guidelines outlined in PA-02-109 NIH National Research Service Award Institutional Research Training Grants (T32) and in PA-05-117 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Short-Term Institutional Research Training Grants (T35).

Definition of scope:

The overall purpose of the National Research Service Awards Program of the NIH is to ensure that a highly trained workforce is available to assume leadership roles related to the Nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research agenda. Training grants supported by the NIEHS have been very effective in producing leaders in government and industry settings, and to some extent, in academia. In the future, NIEHS will place greater emphasis on training programs which can demonstrate success in developing and supporting scientists who establish successful research programs in the academic setting, and who contribute to the research grant portfolio in the environmental health sciences.

A goal of NIEHS research training programs is to better equip trainees to work in the research teams of the future to solve critical problems in the environmental health sciences, while at the same time, providing the depth of knowledge and research experience in one or even two areas of research to prepare them to be competitive for individual research grants and to build research capacity in the environmental health sciences.

Training programs supported by the NIEHS should emphasize interdisciplinary and integrated approaches to environmental health sciences. The goal is for training programs to serve as an umbrella to integrate environmental health sciences across related relevant disciplines in basic sciences, clinical research, computational sciences and public health. The purpose of this redirection is to sharpen the emphasis of training on the role of environmental exposures in human biology and disease, and to focus on pathophysiologic, clinical, and public health endpoints.

NIEHS training programs will be expected to promote and provide training in grantsmanship skills, and instill in students a strong research commitment to the environmental health sciences. Inclusion of training in laboratory and project management, as recommended by the recently released National Research Council report on new investigators, is also encouraged.

All trainee research projects supported by the training grants should have a defined focus in the environmental health sciences, and be responsive to the mission of the NIEHS, which is distinguished from that of other Institutes by its support of research programs seeking to understand how environmental exposures alter biologic processes and affect the risk of either disease development or the distribution of disease in populations. Examples of environmental exposures relevant to the mission of the NIEHS include industrial chemicals or manufacturing by-products, metals, pesticides, herbicides, air pollutants and other inhaled toxicants, particulates or fibers, fungal or bacterially derived toxins due to ambient exposures. Agents considered to belong to the mission area of other NIH Institutes include: alcohol, chemotherapeutic agents, ionizing radiation, drugs of abuse, pharmaceuticals, smoking (except second-hand smoke), and infectious or parasitic agents, except when these are disease co-factors with an environmental toxicant exposure to produce the biological effect. Training in ecology, ecologic or microbial biotransformation, ecologic biodegradation and remediation, ecological monitoring, wildlife and fisheries biology or studies of sentinel species, geochemistry and other ecologically based environmental studies is supported by the training component of the Superfund Basic Research Program, and will no longer be supported by the NIEHS National Research Service Awards (T32) Program. Training in veterinary medicine where the endpoint is animal health or in food science is also not responsive to the NIEHS NRSA Program. Training in exposure assessment should concentrate on exposure biology, which is at the interface of exposures and human health, and research centered on biomarkers as indicators of body burden, pathophysiological changes, or inception/progression of disease, rather than environmental measurement of ambient contact or point of exposure.

NIEHS funded training programs are encouraged to become more integrated into, and synergistic with, other NIH funded training programs and other resources available for conducting human health related research within their Institutional setting. This includes specifically the clinical research homes being established by the Clinical and Translational Science Awards supported by the National Center for Research Resources (, other NIH Roadmap initiatives, and training and other grants being funded by the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research. If they propose such an integrated program, applicants should provide information on the other programs and on the nature of the integration. Where two or more NIEHS funded training programs are supported at the same University, grant applications should clearly explain how the programs are different, how they interact, identify faculty who participate in both, and discuss mutually derived strengths and areas of potential overlap. Training programs should be distinct and must ensure that there is no duplication of effort or funding when two or more programs are being supported.

Training Directors are encouraged to develop a plan to attract physician scientists to the training programs funded by the NIEHS, and to foster collaboration among clinical, epidemiological, public health, computational, and basic investigators through joint mentorship of trainees and mutual service on thesis committees.

Base of research grant support:

All training programs will need to demonstrate a substantial base of ongoing, independent research project grant support in the environmental health sciences and environmental medicine, with a substantial portion of the base supported by the NIEHS.

All faculty listed as potential trainee mentors in NIEHS grant applications are expected to have extensive experience in mentorship and have substantial peer-reviewed research funding to support trainee projects. Each mentor should be a Principal Investigator of peer reviewed research funding from the NIH or other equivalent grants, be the Principal Investigator on a subproject of multiple project grant, or be a co-investigator on an R01 research grant funded by the NIH in the mainstream of the mission area of the NIEHS, as defined above. Pilot or Institutional grants are not considered as qualifying for faculty to be included in the mentor pool.

Investigators with industrial support and investigators in governmental laboratories may serve as mentors to trainees in NIEHS supported training programs if their research is within the NIEHS mission area. However, the base of NIH grant support at the sponsoring Institution should serve as the primary source of support for the conduct of trainees research projects.

As a benchmark, for the support of six training slots, the proposed program should represent a research base of three independent NIH funded research grants from three different Principal Investigators. These grants should have at least 6 months of support remaining at the time of T32 or T35 submission, and not be administrative or supplement extensions. Research grant support which is considered appropriate as a base for the trainee projects includes: R01, R21, R37, P01, P42, P50, U-series (Cooperative Agreements), or other R-series grants. R03 grants may, in some circumstances, support the thesis projects of students, but because of their small size and limited duration, should not be considered as contributing to the research base. R25 research education grants may, in some circumstances, support trainee projects when they support hypothesis based research, but the R25 mechanism is primarily considered an educational grant rather than part of the research base for the training program. The extent to which the research base is responsive to the mission focus of the NIEHS will be considered in the review and responsiveness to mission priorities will be considered in programmatic decisions. This will include, to some extent, the amount of funding derived from the NIEHS, particularly in the case of competing continuation applications. It is expected that training grant support will allow the grantee program to coalesce research and initiate new projects in the mission area of the NIEHS, and therefore be able to direct a greater number of grants to the NIEHS as the training program matures.

Applications requesting fewer than 6 slots will be expected to have a funding base of least two independent NIH funded research grants, and applications requesting more than 6 trainee slots should have one additional distinct funded NIH research grant per additional two slots requested.

Training in biostatistics must demonstrate that all trainees are pursuing research projects and consulting activities directly related to the mission areas of the NIEHS. In addition, training in biostatistics must demonstrate that a similar base of research funding as above is available for collaborative or consulting projects of grantees, and that the grantees are participating regularly in these projects.

Available grant support should be clearly listed in a table in the grant. The grants from NIEHS should be listed first, followed by other NIH support, other federally derived support, and other grant support. Multicomponent projects should be listed only once, along with the principal investigator and the subproject investigators who qualify as mentors based on participation in the multicomponent project. Only current grant support (not pending or past support) should be listed, along with the current project period. Any grant in a no-cost or administrative supplement extension should be clearly indicated as such. See below for information to be submitted in tabular form.

Balance of predoctoral and postdoctoral trainee slots:

T32 training programs which propose only a predoctoral component will no longer be supported by NIEHS. All programs must have a defined postdoctoral program centered in the environmental health sciences, and demonstrate the program can recruit, appoint, retain and train training grant eligible postdoctoral appointees.

All T32 institutional training programs, except those in biostatistics, must have a ratio of no more than two predoctoral trainee slots for each postdoctoral trainee slot requested and approved for support by the initial review committee. Programs in biostatistics which support more than four predoctoral students should propose a 4:1 ratio of predoctoral slots to postdoctoral slots. Programs in biostatistics are encouraged to recruit individuals with backgrounds in quantitative fields, such as mathematics, to careers in the environmental health aspects of biostatistics or biomathematics. Programs in epidemiology are encouraged to recruit individuals with backgrounds in the quantitative and basic sciences, as well as those with health professional degrees, as postdoctorals. Postdoctorals can be enrolled in formal master’s programs and have tuition charged to training grants.

Training grants which only support postdoctoral level training will continue to be accepted. Postdoctoral training grant applications will need to describe a defined training program in the environmental health sciences where the interdisciplinary and integrated approaches to environmental sciences is required for those appointed to the training grant.

Administrative requests to convert postdoctoral training slots to predoctoral slots will no longer be entertained.

Short-term training slots for professional students will continue to be supported on NIEHS T32 or T35 training grants. Short-term slots are predoctoral, but will not be counted in the expected pre to postdoctoral ratio.

Short-term training programs:

Program Announcement PA-05-117, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Short-Term Institutional Research Training Grants (T35), released June 3, 2005, specifically requires the trainees supported by this mechanism be at the predoctoral or postdoctoral training level. The NIEHS has, for the past 10 years, supported a program of short term research experiences for undergraduate minority students under program announcement PAR-94-064. Since the T35 mechanism cannot support undergraduate student research training, applications for new or renewal applications for training for undergraduate minorities will not be accepted for this program announcement. Support for undergraduate short term research training experiences by the NIEHS by other grant mechanisms is under discussion and any subsequent programs will be announced in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts.

Short-term training programs for health professionals will continue to be supported under the T35 program announcement PA-05-117.

At the present time, the NIEHS does not support short-term training for other types of pre or postdoctoral trainees.

Page limitations:

Applicants are reminded that the limitation of 25 pages for the narrative, non-tabular sections of T32 and T35 grant applications as specified in the PHS 398 form instructions applies to T32 and T35 applications.

In response to requests for additional guidance regarding suggested formats for presenting the tabular information required in the T32 and T35 application packages, NIEHS applicants can refer to examples posted by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences found at:


Direct inquiries regarding this notice to:

Carol Shreffler, Ph.D.
Program Administrator
Cellular, Organs and Systems Pathobiology Branch
Division of Extramural Research and Training
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
111 TW Alexander Drive, MD EC-23
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2233
Telephone: (919) 541-1445
Fax: (919) 541-5064