Frequently Asked Questions

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A payback agreement is required only if the appointment is your initial 12 months of postdoctoral NRSA support. If you received any other NRSA postdoctoral support that totals 12 months, on either another training grant or fellowship, a payback agreement is not required.

Public Health Service (PHS) funds may not be used to supplement a NRSA stipend. Furthermore, the trainee must devote full-time effort to the NRSA program. Conditions of the employment may not interfere with, detract from, or prolong the trainee's approved NRSA training program.

No. Pre-award costs are not allowable charges for either stipends or tuition on institutional training grants since stipends and tuition costs may not be charged to the grant before the trainee appointment is actually made.

Each U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) operating division deals with this issue differently. Generally, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) expects grantees to rebudget to accommodate this type of change within the total amount already awarded, due to AHRQ's limited funding availability. The grantee may submit a formal, written request for additional funds to cover the higher stipend level; however, if NRSA funds for the given Fiscal Year have been exhausted, the request will not be approved.

Additional compensation is income accruing to you from employment. AHRQ recognizes trainees may seek part-time employment incidental to their training program to offset their expenses. Funds characterized as compensation may be paid to fellows only when there is an employer-employee relationship, the payments are for services rendered, and the situation otherwise meets the conditions for compensation of students. In addition, compensation must be in accordance with organizational policies applied consistently to both federally and non-federally supported activities and must be supported by acceptable accounting records that reflect the employer-employee relationship.

Under these conditions, the funds provided as compensation (salary, fringe benefits, and/or tuition remission) for services rendered, such as teaching or laboratory assistance, are not considered stipend supplementation; they are allowable charges to Federal grants, including PHS research grants.

Compensation may not be paid from a research grant that supports the same research that is part of the trainees' planned training. Compensated services should occur on a limited, part-time basis apart from the normal full-time research training activities.

Under no circumstances may the conditions of stipend supplementation or the services provided for compensation interfere with, detract from, or prolong the trainees approved AHRQ Institutional Research Training program.

Program Directors must approve part-time employment on research grants to verify that the circumstances will not detract from or prolong the approved training program for the trainee.

The following types of activities satisfy payback responsibilities:

  • Research. Defined as an activity that involves designing experiments, developing protocols, and collecting and interpreting 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. Such research can be conducted in an academic, governmental, 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, will also satisfy the service payback obligation.
  • Teaching. 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, you may include three hours of preparation time for each hour of direct instruction. Acceptable teaching activities must have a healthcare-related relevance.
  • Health-related Activities. 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.

Programs can supplement student stipends to defray the cost-of-living, as long as the supplement carries no additional obligation from the student, is awarded according to the institution's policies, and is uniformly applied to all students in a similar category. Public Health Service (PHS) funds or Federal funds cannot be used for this unless specifically authorized.

Check the NIH Guide each Fiscal Year for a Notice regarding that Fiscal Year's Policy for Funding of Tuition, Fees, and Health Insurance on Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards.

If the PhD has been achieved less than a year ago, the first level of experience is "0" years of experience.

Yes, TRE funds may be used to cover part of the remainder of the tuition. However, the rebudgeting of funds out of TRE should not be detrimental to accomplishing the aims of the program. Rebudgeting funds awarded for TRE does not require prior AHRQ approval.

Unobligated funds are unspent funds that accumulate in the grant. These funds are reported on the annual Federal Financial Report (FFR). AHRQ routinely uses these funds to offset future year funding.

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