Frequently Asked Questions (T32 Applications)
Applications for the Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institutes of Health
Revised: April 2015
It is critical that applicants review the NHLBI T32 Supplemental Guidelines web page and NIH website for many of the common questions asked NIH-wide about the Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award (T32), and see the additional NHLBI-specific FAQs below.
Frequently asked pre-award questions related to NHLBI T32 applications:
- What is the NHLBI receipt deadline for a competing T32 grant application?
Receipt dates for competing applications:
January 25 - The NHLBI will accept all types of competing T32 applications (new, renewal/competing continuation, resubmission/amended, and revision) on this date.
September 25 - Only resubmission/amended T32 applications will be accepted on this date.
Award Date: New competing awards for T32 grants will be issued as early as February. Competing Renewals will usually follow the dates of the last non-competing award end date.
- Are competing T32 applications subject to the NIH policies on applications with direct costs exceeding $500,000 in any one year?
Yes. If the requested costs for your T32 application exceed $500,000 in direct costs for any year of the award, you must receive approval to accept the application from the NHLBI prior to submission. Policies for requesting approval are available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/research/funding/research-support/t32/500k-budget-tables and in the NHLBI Supplemental Guidelines for the Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award (T32).
- To what Study Section will my T32 grant application be assigned?
All applications referred to NHLBI are reviewed by the NHLBI Institutional Training Mechanism (NITM) Review Committee, unless there is an NITM member conflict at which point the application is reviewed by an NHLBI Special Emphasis Panel.
- Can a T32 grant be awarded for less than 5 years?
Yes. The length of the award is at the discretion of the Review Committee. The Committee may perceive a problem which may occur in the near future with the grantee and may elect to award a shorter period in order to monitor events. Other reasons for shorter periods may be: a new or unusual training program is being initiated and there is a question of its effectiveness; funding sources cited by the Program Director to maintain a viable training program may be in question or appear inadequate; recruitment of trainees over an extended period may be difficult.
- The NHLBI, along with other NIH Institutes, uses a formula to calculate what would be the allowable costs to be awarded for tuition/fees to each grantee; should the grantee use this formula to request a budget?
No. Grantees must request full costs (100%) in the application. The NHLBI’s Office of Grants Management will apply the formula at the time of award, as formulas are subject to change at any time by congressional action.
- How is the stipend level determined for the T32 trainee?
One stipend level is used for all predoctoral trainees regardless of level of experience. The stipend level for a postdoctoral trainee is determined by the number of full years of relevant experience after the doctorate at the time of appointment. The stipend levels are regulated by Congressional legislation and are periodically adjusted to meet the rise in the cost of living. It is important that Program Directors and trainees know how to determine the number of years of relevant postdoctoral experience and are aware of the current stipend levels to ensure that the correct stipend is being requested by the institution on behalf of the trainee. Institutions have been known to make errors in determining the correct amount. The current NRSA stipend levels are located at the following URL: http://grants.nih.gov/training/nrsa.htm.
- Is an MD postdoctoral trainee eligible for a 3rd year of support?
Yes, MD postdoctoral trainees are eligible for a 3rd year of support to strengthen their experience, skills, and knowledge in biomedical research.
- Are there specific formats for the tables in the grant application?
Yes. Use the specific tabular formats included in the SF424 Research and Related (R&R) Application Package.
- Where can I find guidance regarding NIH Biosketch preparation?
Current Biosketch guidelines may be accessed at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/424/index.htm.
- Is it possible to get a copy of a successful T32 grant to use as a guide?
You will need to make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request at firstname.lastname@example.org. You must specify the T32 grant number that you would like to receive. If you do not know the grant number you can search the NIH funded T32 grants at www.report.nih.gov. If you have any questions concerning the FOIA process please call 301-496-9737 and a specialist will be able to assist you. The training objectives of individual T32 grants are so very different and cover so many areas of career relevance that to find even a number of "standard" acceptable grants is difficult. There may be local sources available through consultation with T32 directors at your institution or networking with other colleagues with T32 application experience.
- What review considerations should I be aware of in preparing a mentorship plan?
You are advised to: describe time commitments specifically and ensure they are appropriate to defined goals and needs; include descriptions in the training plan of trainees’ specific roles on various projects and how these contribute to career development; ensure that the career development plan, mentoring plan, expertise/expectations of mentors and letters of support are all consistent and coherently directed toward meeting the trainee’s career goals; include methodology for how an individual development plan (IDP) will be developed for the trainee (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-14-113.html); consider inclusion of secondary mentors or mentoring or advisory committees if they are clearly integrated into the overall career development plan; and include description of previous trainees and their accomplishments, and mentors’ roles in their career development, without limiting this description to formal relationships such as past T32 or K programs. Excellent mentorship guides are available from the National Academy of Sciences and the NIH Intramural Program.
- Are there other review considerations to be aware of?
Issues frequently commented upon during review include:
- Whether the Program Director will devote sufficient time to the training grant, based on either no percent effort for the grant specified, or a low percent effort.
- If a very large number of faculty is involved, whether the program would have difficulty in providing a sense of unity, cohesiveness, and true collaboration across departments (as applicable).
- Whether individual development plans (IDP) will be used in the mentoring process and how such plans will be developed and tailored to specific trainees and types of trainees.
- Whether proposed predoctoral programs are given as much attention in preparation and description as proposed postdoctoral programs in the same application.
- Whether the majority of trainees are trained with just one or two faculty.
- Whether the proposed faculty includes experienced, successful trainers with evidence of other research grant support.
- Whether the proposed program overlaps with other training grants at the same institution.
- For competing renewal applications, whether the number of training positions actually awarded was different from the number recommended by reviewers and why.
- Whether the program demonstrates integration among tracks, faculty, multiple campuses or sites, pre-doctoral and post-doctoral programs, basic and clinical research, etc.
- Whether the program includes internal and/or external advisory committees with descriptions of membership, role, frequency of meetings, etc.
- Whether the process for selecting trainees is described and trainees and mentors will be matched.
- Whether the program will provide trainees with up-to-date skills.
- Data tables should provide all requested information as it pertains to the program being proposed.
In addition, if you are proposing an increase in the number of training positions, the need for the extra positions must be justified and supported by a good record of filling previous slots and evidence of an adequate trainee pool. Other criticisms often applied to training grant applications include: sloppy preparation of the application, missing data, unresponsive to previous criticisms, padding with faculty from other training grants, cursory diversity recruitment plans, lack of focus or theme, lack of integrated leadership, lack of modern cutting edge science, inadequate descriptions of didactic coursework, and lack of other research support for faculty.
- What is the NHLBI policy for T32s on training in the responsible conduct of research?
See "Update on the Requirement for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research", (NOT-OD-10-019).
- Can an application with an inadequate diversity recruitment plan be funded?
No. In order to receive full term funding, the Program Director must submit a revised diversity recruitment plan for review and approval by the NHLBI. If the Diversity Recruitment Plan receives an inadequate rating, the Program Director of a T32 grant is urged to contact NHLBI program staff for guidance.
Frequently asked post-award questions:
- Is a Statement of Appointment Form (PHS 2271, Rev.8/2012) required each year for a trainee to be supported by a T32/T35 grant?
Yes. Each appointment begins a new 9 to 12-month period thru the xTrain system.
- Can an individual be appointed to a post-doc training position if he/she has completed all requirements of the doctorate but has not formally received the diploma?
Yes. Some institutions hold formal ceremonies for the awarding of diplomas after all relevant requirements for the degree have been met. When there is no formal ceremony, then the NHLBI needs formal documentation from the institution that the trainee has completed all requirements for the degree (e.g., their's is signed-off on) and the appointment date on the T32 must be on or after the date cited when the trainee completed all doctoral requirements.
- Is a payback agreement required for all new appointed postdoctoral trainees?
Yes, if the appointee has never been supported on an NRSA award. If an appointee has been supported for 12 months or longer at some previous time by another NRSA grant, there is no need for another payback agreement. The individual only has to do this once. Simple guidelines for completing the payback requirement are available at: Payback. See Payback form at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/416/phs6031.pdf.
- Is a payback agreement required for all NRSA postdoctoral trainees?
Yes, but only once for all NRSA supported candidates at the outset of their initial 12-months of postdoctoral support. If the trainee received prior NRSA support that totals 12 months, on either an institutional training grant (T32) or an individual fellowship (F32), a new payback agreement would not be required. Payback service begins on the 13th month of support and will end at the conclusion of the 24th month. If the trainee is supported for a third year it is without any obligations. Refer to the simple guidelines at: Payback for further information. See Payback form at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/416/phs6031.pdf.
- Is it possible to request an additional T32 trainee position for a trainee underrepresented in the behavioral and biomedical sciences when all slots are filled?
Yes. Institutional NRSA training grants funded by the NHLBI are eligible to request a supplemental training position to support an individual from an underrepresented racial and ethnic group, an individual with a disability, or an individual from a disadvantaged background that has inhibited his/her ability to pursue a career in health-related research. While NRSA pre- and postdoctoral trainees are usually at an advanced level of achievement, individuals from diverse backgrounds will be considered for an additional training position on a case-by-case basis. The position is awarded for the current year and is in addition to the total number of training positions awarded to the grant. For further information about how to make a request please see T32 Slot Procedures.
- Can there be a change of distribution of pre- and post-doctoral trainees after award of the T32?
Yes, if both pre- and post-doctoral programs have been reviewed and awarded. The change of trainees from one category to the other can occur with the prior approval of the NHLBI. The situation must be explained by the Program Director in a letter to the Grants Management Specialist from the grantee's Business Official. A revised NoA is released to change the slot count and a term of approval for the conversion.
- Can the cost of recruiting trainees be charged to the T32?
Excerpt from the NIH Grants Policy Statement: "Project funds may not be used for a prospective trainee's travel costs to or from the grantee institution for the purpose of recruitment. However, other costs incurred in connection with recruitment under training or manpower programs, e.g., advertising, may be allocated to a grant-supported project according to the provisions of the applicable cost principles concerning recruitment costs."
- Can a new trainee be appointed during a no-cost extension of an existing grant?
No. NHLBI does not encourage such an appointment because of the limited training experiences a new trainee would receive as well as the difficulties it poses in fulfilling payback requirements. However, reappointment of current trainees to the full extent of the remaining budget is possible. The NHLBI encourages consideration of pre-doc appointments if the budget is limited during the no-cost extension phase because post-docs have more flexibility regarding relocation.
- Can a trainee be supported on a NIH research grant at the same time he/she is receiving a stipend from a T32 grant?
No. Public Health Service funds may not be used to supplement an NRSA stipend. Trainees are required to devote full-time effort to the training program. Trainees may receive separate salary from an NIH grant when employed for services, such as laboratory technical assistance, on a limited part-time basis. Part-time is considered by NHLBI as up to 20 hours per week. Compensation may not be paid from a research grant that supports the same research that is part of the trainee’s planned training experience. Under no circumstances may the employment interfere with, detract from, or prolong the trainee’s approved NRSA training program.
- In the NHLBI, does the T32 grant have Carryover Authority?
No. As with most Institutes and training grants at the NIH, NHLBI has not included them as carryover status. Automatic carryover of unexpended funds is thus not permitted. If there is a need for carryover, prior approval is required.
- Can I ask for post award changes to my existing T32 award?
Yes, you must contact the NHLBI Office of Grants Management to determine the appropriate procedures to use in making a request for post award changes in your grant. This also applies to any of your needs that require a prior approval from the NHLBI. In general, you will have to make a request that is signed by you and a business official of your institution. After receiving the request, the Grants Management Specialist will consult with the NHLBI Program Official as necessary to determine whether the request can be approved.
- Is there a consistent receipt date for non-competing (Type 5) training grant applications across the NIH?
No. NHLBI’s Type 5 T32/T35 applications are due 4 months prior to the anniversary start date. It is expected that they will be funded as soon as possible after receipt in order to solidify the Institute’s training budget and allow for additional funding decisions to be made in a timely manner.
- Does a trainee have to pay taxes on stipends?
The interpretation and implementation of the tax laws are the domain of the IRS. The NIH takes no position on the status of a particular taxpayer, nor does it have the authority to dispense tax advice.
- An award included stipends for two post-docs at level 1. The actual trainees are one at level 1, but the other is at level 3. What can be done?
NHLBI requires its grantees to re-budget within the committed/awarded funds to cover this change. Additional funds will NOT be provided.