Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, NRSA, institutional research training grants, training grants, application requirements and receipt dates, special program considerations, recruitment plan to enhance diversity, training in the responsible conduct of research

11.3.3 Application Requirements and Due Dates

11.3.3.1 Application

All applications for Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grants are submitted electronically through Grants.gov and use an application package that combines form components from the SF424 (R&R) application along with the PHS398 components. Application forms and instructions are provided as part of each FOA. Applicants should pay particular attention to the special instructions for institutional research training grants found in the SF424(R&R) Application Guide.

11.3.3.2 Due Dates

Several NIH ICs receive training grant applications three times each year; however, many ICs use only one or two receipt dates. Information on ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award.-specific receipt dates is available in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts in the NIH-wide T32 and T35 FOAs and FOAs issued by the individual NIH ICs or by contacting the appropriate NIH ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. program official. For a list of the standard receipt dates and review cycle, see the https://grants.nih.gov/grants/how-to-apply-application-guide/due-dates-and-submission-policies/due-dates.htm. (Also see http://researchtraining.nih.gov.)

Applicants are encouraged to contact the appropriate NIH staff before preparing and submitting an application. Applications requesting funding of $500,000 or more in direct costsCosts that can be identified specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity, or that can be directly assigned to such activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy. for any year must generally include a cover letter identifying the NIH staff member within the specific NIH ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. who has agreed to accept assignment of the application. NIH ICs, however, may opt to forgo this requirement for certain types of grants, such as training grants; applicants should consult the Funding Opportunity AnnouncementA publicly available document by which a Federal Agency makes known its intentions to award discretionary grants or cooperative agreements, usually as a result of competition for funds. Funding opportunity announcements may be known as program announcements, requests for applications, notices of funding availability, solicitations, or other names depending on the Agency and type of program. Funding opportunity announcements can be found at Grants.gov/FIND and in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. for specific instruction and/or contact the NIH ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award. if there are questions about the applicability of this policy.

11.3.3.3 Special Program Considerations

The duration of training, the transition of trainees to individual support mechanisms, and their transition to the next career stage are important considerations in institutional training programs. Studies have shown that the length of the research training grant appointment of postdoctoral trainees with health-professional degrees strongly correlates to subsequent application for and success in receiving independent NIH research support. Therefore, Training PD/PIs should appoint only those individuals who are committed to a career in research and plan to remain on the training grant or in a non-Kirschstein-NRSA research experience for a minimum of 2 years in the aggregate. It also has been shown that transition to independent support is related to career success. Therefore, Training PD/PIs also should encourage and provide training in the skills necessary for postdoctoral trainees to apply for subsequent support through individual postdoctoral fellowships, mentored career development awards (K programs), or independent research project grants. When reviewing Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grant applications, peer reviewers will examine the training record to determine the average duration of training appointments for health-professional postdoctoral trainees and whether there is a history of transition to individual support mechanisms.

Studies also have shown that health professional trainees that train in combined programs with postdoctoral researchers with intensive research experience are more likely to apply for and receive research grant support. Programs located in clinical departments that focus on research training for individuals with the M.D. or other health-professional degrees should consider developing ties to basic science departments, or, if consistent with the goals of the program, modifying the program to include individuals with research doctorates. In these cases, applications should describe the basic science department's contribution to the research training experience and also indicate whether both health professional trainees and trainees with research doctorates will be included in the training program.

Training PD/PIs also must develop methods for ongoing evaluation of the quality and effectiveness of the training program. This should include plans to obtain feedback from current and former trainees to help identify weaknesses in the program and provide suggestions for program improvements as well as plans for assessing trainee's career development and progression, including publications, degree completion, and post-training positions. Evaluation results are to be included in competing continuation (renewal) applications and as part of the Final RPPR.

Within the framework of the program's longstanding commitment to excellence and projected need for investigators in particular areas of research, attention must be given to recruiting trainees from diverse backgrounds, including racial or ethnic groups underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral and clinical sciences, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from socially, culturally, economically, or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds that have inhibited their ability to pursue a career in health-related research. Institutions are encouraged to identify candidates who will enhance diversity on a national or institutional basis. NIH's requirements for diversity recruitment and retention are described below.

11.3.3.4 Recruitment Plan to Enhance Diversity

Every facet of the United States scientific research enterprise-from basic laboratory research to clinical and translational research to policy formation–requires superior intellect, creativity and a wide range of skill sets and viewpoints. NIH's ability to help ensure that the nation remains a global leader in scientific discovery and innovation is dependent upon a pool of highly talented scientists from diverse backgrounds who will help to further NIH's mission.

Research shows that diverse teams working together and capitalizing on innovative ideas and distinct perspectives outperform homogenous teams. Scientists and trainees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences bring different perspectives, creativity, and individual enterprise to address complex scientific problems. There are many benefits that flow from a diverse NIH-supported scientific workforce, including: fostering scientific innovation, enhancing global competitiveness, contributing to robust learning environments, improving the quality of the research, advancing the likelihood that underserved or health disparity populations participate in, and benefit from health research, and enhancing public trust.

Underrepresented Populations in the U.S. Biomedical, Clinical, Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Enterprise

In spite of tremendous advancements in scientific research, information, educational and research opportunities are not equally available to all. NIH encourages institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations to enhance the participation of individuals from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences, such as:

  1. Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis (see data at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/showpub.cfm?TopID=2&SubID=27, and the report Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering). The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research: Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. In addition, it is recognized that underrepresentation can vary from setting to setting; individuals from racial or ethnic groups that can be demonstrated convincingly to be underrepresented by the grantee institution should be encouraged to participate in NIH programs to enhance diversity. For more information on racial and ethnic categories and definitions, see the OMB Revisions to the Standards for Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-1997-10-30/html/97-28653.htm).
  2. Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended. See NSF data at, https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/static/data/tab7-5.pdf.
  3. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as those who meet two or more of the following criteria: 

    1. Were or currently are homeless, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Definition: https://nche.ed.gov/mckinney-vento/);
    2. Were or currently are in the foster care system, as defined by the Administration for Children and Families (Definition: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/focus-areas/foster-care);
    3. Were eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program for two or more years (Definition: https://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/income-eligibility-guidelines);
    4. Have/had no parents or legal guardians who completed a bachelor's degree (see https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018009.pdf);
    5. Were or currently are eligible for Federal Pell grants (Definition: https://www2.ed.gov/programs/fpg/eligibility.html);
    6. Received support from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as a parent or child (Definition: https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/wic-eligibility-requirements).
    7. Grew up in one of the following areas: a) a U.S. rural area, as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Health Grants Eligibility Analyzer (https://data.hrsa.gov/tools/rural-health), or b) a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-designated Low-Income and Health Professional Shortage Areas (qualifying zipcodes are included in the file). Only one of the two possibilities in #7 can be used as a criterion for the disadvantaged background definition.

    Students from low socioeconomic (SES) status backgrounds have been shown to obtain bachelor's and advanced degrees at significantly lower rates than students from middle and high SES groups (see https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_tva.asp), and are subsequently less likely to be represented in biomedical research. For background see Department of Education data at, https://nces.ed.gov/; https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_tva.asp; https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf

  4. Literature shows that women from the above backgrounds (categories A, B, and C) face particular challenges at the graduate level and beyond in scientific fields. (See, e.g., From the NIH: A Systems Approach to Increasing the Diversity of Biomedical Research Workforce https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008902/)

Women have been shown to be underrepresented in doctorate-granting research institutions at senior faculty levels in most biomedical-relevant disciplines, and may also be underrepresented at other faculty levels in some scientific disciplines (See data from the National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, special report available at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310, especially Table 9-23, describing science, engineering, and health doctorate holders employed in universities and 4-year colleges, by broad occupation, sex, years since doctorate, and faculty rank).

Upon review of NSF data, and scientific discipline or field related data, NIH encourages institutions to consider women for faculty-level, diversity-targeted programs to address faculty recruitment, appointment, retention or advancement.

Training Program Requirements

NRSA training programs require all applicants to submit a recruitment plan to enhance diversity. New applications must include such a plan and may wish to include data in support of past accomplishments. Renewal applications also must include a detailed account of experiences in recruiting individuals from underrepresented groups during the previous the funding period. Information must be included on successful and unsuccessful recruitment strategies including aggregate information on the distribution of:

  • Students or postdoctorates who applied for admission or positions within the department(s)/program(s) relative to the research training grant;
  • Students or postdoctorates who were offered admission to or a position within the department(s)/program(s);
  • Students actually enrolled in the academic program relevant to the research training grant;
  • Students or postdoctorates who were appointed to the research training grant.

For those trainees who were enrolled in the academic program, the application should include information about the duration of research training and whether those trainees finished their training in good standing.

Applications without a recruitment plan to enhance diversity will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.

The review panel's evaluation will be included in an administrative note in the summary statement. If the recruitment plan to enhance diversity is judged to be unacceptable, funding will be withheld until a revised plan (and report) that addresses the deficiencies is received. Staff within the NIH ICThe NIH organizational component responsible for a particular grant program or set of activities. The terms "NIH IC," or "awarding IC" are used throughout this document to designate a point of contact for advice and interpretation of grant requirements and to establish the focal point for requesting necessary prior approvals or changes in the terms and conditions of award., with guidance from its National Advisory Council or Board, will determine whether amended plans and reports submitted after the initial review are acceptable.

A detailed account of experiences in recruiting individuals from underrepresented groups during the previous budget period also must be provided in the non-competing progress report submitted as a prerequisite to receiving non-competing continuation support.

11.3.3.5 Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Every trainee supported by an NRSA training grant must receive instruction in the responsible conduct of research. All applications must include a plan to provide such instruction. The plan must address the five components listed below. Renewal (Type 2) applications must, in addition, describe changes in formal instruction over the past project period and plans for the future to address any weaknesses in the current instructional plan. All training faculty who served as course directors, speakers, lecturers, and/or discussion leaders during the past project period must be named in the application. Applications lacking a plan for instruction in responsible conduct of research will be considered incomplete and may be delayed in the review process. Plans and past record will be rated as acceptable or unacceptable. Applications with unacceptable plans will not be funded until the applicant provides an acceptable, revised plan. For additional instructions, see the specific FOA.

1. Format. Substantial face-to-face discussions among the participating trainees; a combination of didactic and small-group discussions (e.g. case studies); and participation of research training faculty members in instruction in responsible conduct of research are highly encouraged. While on-line courses can be a valuable supplement to instruction in responsible conduct of research, online instruction is not considered adequate as the sole means of instruction. A plan that employs only online coursework for instruction in responsible conduct of research will not be considered acceptable, except in special instances of short-term training programs, or unusual and well-justified circumstances.

2. Subject Matter. While there are no specific curricular requirements for instruction in responsible conduct of research, the following topics have been incorporated into most acceptable plans for such instruction:

  1. conflict of interest – personal, professional, and financial
  2. policies regarding human subjects, live vertebrate animal subjects in research, and safe laboratory practices
  3. mentor/trainee responsibilities and relationships
  4. collaborative research including collaborations with industry
  5. peer review
  6. data acquisition and laboratory tools; management, sharing and ownership
  7. research misconductFabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them. Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that research is not accurately represented in the research record. Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit. Research misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences of opinion. and policies for handling misconduct
  8. responsible authorship and publication
  9. the scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research

While courses related to professional ethics, ethical issues in clinical research, or research involving vertebrate animals may form a part of instruction in responsible conduct of research, they generally are not sufficient to cover all aspects of responsible research conduct.

3. Faculty Participation. Training faculty and sponsors/mentors are highly encouraged to contribute both to formal and informal instruction in responsible conduct of research. Informal instruction occurs in the course of laboratory interactions and in other informal situations throughout the year. Training faculty may contribute to formal instruction in responsible conduct of research as discussion leaders, speakers, lecturers, and/or course directors. Rotation of training faculty as course directors, instructors, and/or discussion leaders may be a useful way to achieve the ideal of full faculty participation in formal responsible conduct of research courses over a period of time.

4. Duration of Instruction. Instruction should involve substantive contact hours between the trainees and the participating faculty. Acceptable programs generally involve at least eight contact hours. A semester-long series of seminars/programs may be more effective than a single seminar or one-day workshop because it is expected that topics will then be considered in sufficient depth, learning will be better consolidated, and the subject matter will be synthesized within a broader conceptual framework.

5. Frequency of Instruction. Reflection on responsible conduct of research should recur throughout a scientist's career: at the undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, predoctoral, postdoctoral, and faculty levels. Institutional training programs are strongly encouraged to consider how to optimize instruction in responsible conduct of research for the particular career stage(s) of the individual(s) involved. Instruction must be undertaken at least once during each career stage, and at a frequency of no less than once every four years. It is highly encouraged that initial instruction during predoctoral training occurs as early as possible in graduate school. Individuals at the early career investigator level must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research at least once during this career stage. To meet the above requirements, instruction in responsible conduct of research may take place, in appropriate circumstances, in a year when the trainee is not actually supported by an NIH grant. This instruction must be documented in the submitted plan.

Information on the nature of the instruction in the responsible conduct of research and the extent of trainee and faculty participation also must be provided in the annual progress report submitted as a prerequisite to receiving non-competing continuation support.