Transitional Style: Postdoc to Faculty Fellowship Program

** Note: as of 03/22/17, the program has been updated to also actively seek mentors.**

 

The Graduate School recently announced a new initiative for post-doctoral students with a stated goal “to build a strong applicant pool of early-career, urban disparity scholars who will contribute to diversity and bolster academic excellence on our campus.”  Applications will be accepted starting April 1, 2017 for a September 1, 2017 start date; questions regarding application and further information are to be directed to Dr. Ambika Mathur (ambika.mathur@wayne.edu), Associate Provost for Scientific Training, Workforce Development and Diversity, and Dean of the Graduate School.  No deadline has been attached.

 

According to the announcement, fellows will receive stipends 20 percent above National Research Service Award levels, plus benefits. They will work with faculty mentors, participate in learning communities and receive funding for two national conferences for every appointment year. Fellows who obtain external grants during their postdocs will be eligible for tenure-track appointments at WSU with competitive compensation and startup packages.  Further application details will be released by targeted email shortly.

 

To read the announcement in its entirety, please follow this link: http://i.wayne.edu/view/58b5a041821e6 

 

 

Hey Fellow[ship]: Don’t Keep Doin’ What You’re Doin’

It’s August 2; do you know where your tuition rates are?  If you’re planning to submit an F-series fellowship application for the August 8 deadline (or an F-31 on August 13/15), watch your bottom line when you are calculating your stipend; credit costs have changed, and so have the associated costs of health coverage.  To check your tuition base rates, be sure to visit the Tuition and Fees resource pages provided by WSU Records and Registration, and factor increases in your budget as averages.  Are you an MD/PhD candidate but not sure how to calculate your credits? Unsure which medical coverage to use in your calculations?  Just overwhelmed by the stipend calculations in general?  Reach out to RAS; we’ll help you figure out into which category you fall and which numbers to use!

 

Pay mind also to the changes present in the Forms-D iteration of the NIH fellowship packages. The following are five (yes, five!) new attachments:

  • Applicant’s Background and Goals for Fellowship Training (6 page limit; G.430 Guide, Section 2)
  • Letters of Support from Collaborators, Contributors, and Consultants (6 page limit; G.430 Guide, Section 10)
  • Description of Institutional Environment and Commitment to Training (2 page limit; G.430 Guide, Section 11; includes Additional Education Information section required for F30 and F31 applications which was previously included as an “Other Attachment” in FORMS-C applications)
  • Data Safety Monitoring Plan (G.430 Guide, Section 16; used with applications involving Clinical Trials)

Note that the “Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources” attachment has been delayed for fellowships, even though it is listed as “required” in several resources;  don’t use it  yet, as implementation is delayed until after FY2017  (NOT-OD-16-034).

 

Biosketch instructions specifically for research, career development and fellowship applicants are now available as well; pay close attention especially to “D: Additional Information: Research Support and/or Scholastic Performance.”  Instead of “Research Support,” applicants for both predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships should use this section to provide information on their scholastic performance.

 

We think that’s enough for one post, don’t you? 😉

Supplementing the supplement

Federal stipends are certainly helpful in supporting research and experience for early investigators.  Even so, there are strict limits on amounts and sometimes a PI wants to reward extra work with extra pay.  This is allowable, but the supplement cannot come from another federal source.  Consider NIH Grants Policy section 11.2.10.1 which states:

 

Kirschstein-NRSA fellows receive stipends to defray living expenses. Stipends may be supplemented by an institution from non-Federal funds provided this supplementation is without any additional obligation for the fellow. An institution can determine the amount of stipend supplementation, if any, it will provide according to its own formally established policies governing stipend support. These policies must be consistently applied to all individuals in a similar status regardless of the source of funds. Federal funds may not be used for stipend supplementation unless specifically authorized under the terms of the program from which funds are derived. Under no circumstances may PHS funds be used for supplementation.

An individual may use Federal educational loan funds or VA benefits when permitted by those programs as described in Other Income: Educational Loans or GI Bill in this chapter.

 

If your department chooses to supplement the stipend of a fellow, be sure that your source of supplementation is not another federal award.  Further, be sure there is no federal flow-through (not a subcontract with federal origins, for instance).  Feel free to drop us a line if you’re not sure!

Fellowing the Leader

Here comes August, and you know what that means: NIH F Series application deadlines (F Series is due August 8; F31 Diversity is due on August 13).  Whether you’re a bit stuck or late to the party, templates are available to help you put together your submission.  Check out our NRSA form templates and the NIH general annotated SF424 (the initial checklist will guide you on what is mandatory.  If you have any questions, we’re here to help!

Taxation with Proper Representation

Documentation of tax withholding is so in right now.  If you’re an employee of the university (or UPG), you’ve probably received your W2 by now (and if not, you can look it up in Academica under Employee Resources > Employee Self Service > Tax Forms).  If you are a research fellow (or if you have fellows in your lab), tax season is a little less clear.  Remember, fellows are not considered employees and are paid by stipend, which is not actual payroll.  In most cases, WSU does not withhold taxes for its U.S. citizen stipend recipients as there is no requirement to do so (the university DOES have withholding and reporting requirements for non-resident alien stipend recipients, however; country-specific tax treaties may apply, so know your country’s rules and take a look at the IRS requirements for international taxpayers if this applies to you).

 

Stipend monies may not be subject to withholding by the university, but that doesn’t mean they are not subject to taxation; they are: all income that doesn’t go directly to tuition, fees and benefits is taxable income.  As non-employees, stipend recipients will receive a Form 1099 instead of a W2.  If you or stipend recipients in your lab have not yet received a 1099, be sure to contact the office of Total Compensation and Wellness here at WSU.  If you have not already, check your quarterly tax reporting requirements.  Some stipend recipients may be subject to the payment of estimated taxes for the calendar year are due in four installments; April 15th, June 16th, September 15th and January 15 to avoid underpayment penalties.  If you’re unsure, check with an accountant to avoid future sanction.

Supplemental Form

Most NIH announcements at this point have required the use of the Forms-C package, with two notable exceptions: PA-12-149 “Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Admin Supp)” and PA-12-150 “Research Supplements to Promote Re-Entry into Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers (Admin Supp)”.

 

As of last week, both of these programs do, in fact, require the Forms-C set.  For more information, see NOT-OD-14-118.  If you need clarification or guidance on the Forms C set, see our prior post, “Forms “C” and Fringe Rates and Agents, Oh My!” or contact RAS with specific questions!

NIH Wants to Make Your Student Loan Payments

In order to retain health professionals as researchers, the NIH is offering Research Loan Repayment Programs (LRP) in specific fields: clinical, pediatric, health disparities, contraception/infertility, and clinical research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (click on the fields for their official NIH definitions).  The basic premise is simple: you do the research, NIH repays your loans.   In order to qualify, you must be researching in one of the highlighted areas and meet the basic eligibility requirements, summarized as:

 

  • Status as a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or permanent resident of the U.S.
  • Possession of  a health professional doctoral degree* (M.D., Ph.D., Pharm.D., Psy.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.M.D., D.P.M., D.C., N.D., O.D., D.V.M., or equivalent; NOTE: the Contraception and Infertility Research LRP is also open to nurses, physician assistants, graduate students, and postgraduate research fellows training in the health professions)
  • Educational debt equal to or in excess of 20 percent of your institutional base salary at the time of award
  • Research supported by a domestic nonprofit foundation, university, professional association, or other nonprofit institution, or a U.S. government agency (federal, state, or local)
  • Engagement in qualified research that represents 50 percent of your level of effort and consumes an average of at least 20 hours per week during each quarterly service period during the contract (2 years for the initial contract)

 

If this sounds like you, check out the details on the NIH Extramural LRP program information page for more details.

 

 

Recipients of a Kirschstein (NRSA) fellowships and training grants can apply for and receive LRP awards but may have to defer their NRSA service payback until the completion of the LRP.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…! The new NIH Biosketch format.

Mark your calendars, the new format is expected to go into effect in early FY2015 (for projects expected to start in FY2016).  Here are some of the changes that you will see:

  • Length: A five page length will apply to the entire biosketch.  
  • Publications: Instead of listing publications, researchers will include a link to complete list of publications in SciENcv or My NCBI.
  • Significance: Description of up to five significant contributions to science, the associated influence of  each, and any subsequent effects on health or technology.
  • Role: Researchers are allowed to describe their specific role in listed significant discoveries, annotated their description with up to four publications.

Several entities (including Sally Rockey) suggest that you begin to familiarize yourself with SciENcv now, so you will be familiar with format by the time the new biosketches are required in approximately six months’ time. The first round of tests is already complete (NIH implemented this requirement on two RFAs already), and the second “fine-tuning” phase – involving more applications – will begin this month.  For more information, see the notice from NIH (NOT-OD-14-09) and/or the latest peer review notes from the Center for Scientific Review.  If you would like some assistance in setting up your SciENcv profile, or you have any questions about the new format, feel free to contact RAS anytime!

A1 is Not Just a Steak Sauce

Since 2009, the NIH has not allowed the resubmission (otherwise known as an “A1”) of a failed application without a significant change to the scope and content of the science.  Well, times they are a changin’.  Last week, NIH announced a policy change that allows for submissions of similar ideas that were unsuccessful in the past.  While the new policy still allows a single resubmission per application, ideas that were unsuccessful as a resubmission (A1) may now be presented in a new grant application (A0) without having to materially redesign the content and scope of the project.  This policy applies to all NIH announcements that allow resubmissions, including: FOAs for research grants, the NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, Career Development Awards, Individual Fellowships, Institutional Training Grants, Resource Grants, Program Projects, and Center Grants.

NIH’s policy for accepting overlapping applications stays the same (see NOT-OD-09-100). The NIH will not accept duplicate or “highly overlapping” applications under review at the same time. This means that the NIH will not review:

  • a new (A0) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement for  a new (A0) or resubmission (A1) application that is considered “overlapping”;
  • a resubmission (A1) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement for the previous new (A0) application;
  • an application that has “substantial overlap” with another application that is pending appeal of initial peer review (NOT-OD-11-101).

Additionally, NIH will not accept a resubmission (A1) application that is submitted later than 37 months after the receipt date of the application that it follows (see NOT-OD-12-128 and NOT-OD-10-140).  There is, however, no time limit between an unsuccessful resubmission (A1) application and a subsequent, new (A0) application; or between an unsuccessful new (A0) application and a subsequent new (A0) application (see NOT-OD-14-082).

 

What this means: The ability to submit a previously-rejected idea as new frees it from previous negative associations; that is, you don’t have to respond to previous reviews or carry the burden of prior analysis.  This gives ideas the possibility of maturing before resubmission without the penalty of being presented before their time. In fact, reviewers will be briefed on review as new ideas, even if they have seen it in previous cycles. Another advantage is that applicants will be able to consider previous reviewers’ comments in strengthening their applications for each submission, even without having to answer for them.  In addition to future submissions, this also applies to previous “virtual A2s”, meaning that an application that was not accepted earlier for being too similar to a formerly-reviewed resubmission (A1) application can now be submitted now as a new (A0) application.

 

For further explanation as to implementation of the new policy, check out NOT-OD-14-074, its clarifications, and the Resubmission Frequently Asked Questions pages.  Dr. Sally Rockey also has an excellent explanation as to the thought behind the policy change on her blog, Rock Talk, from April 17, 2014.

Helping your Fellow, Man

One of the more difficult awards to navigate is the fellowship.  Fellowships are awards that come with lots of prestige and the opportunity for excellent research pursuits, but they aren’t without their hardships for the recipient (and often for the administrator as well).  Federal policies have a significant impact on the policies and practices of research institutions, and Wayne State University is no exception.  If you have a pre- or postdoc in your department who has been offered a fellowship, it is very important to have a conversation with him or her so s/he fully understands both the benefits and consequences of accepting a fellowship.  Here are some points that potential fellows need to understand:

  1. Fellows are not employees.  They are not employees of the university, and they are not employees of the agency awarding the fellowship.  Legally, fellows are considered “trainees” or “stipendees” performing independent research, and therefore not subject (or entitled) to the same set of standards and benefits as an employee.  There is an excellent article in Science Magazine from several years ago that discusses how this has come out in the courts, for better or worse.
  2. Medical and dental benefits come out of the fellowship payment, not provided by the university or the granting institution.  This is related the above point, as perhaps the most difficult concept to grasp for many fellows. The fellow can enroll in a university health care plan, however the premium is at a higher rate.  Most fellowship stipends provide for this in the explanation of the award’s intent; NIH provides for this as an “institutional allowance”, a defined part of the award specifically meant to defray the costs of healthcare.  This means that for a fellow, when selecting health care coverage from the university options, a higher-cost plan will mean more money out of pocket, but whose pocket?  Some departments choose to help their fellows by picking the excess costs from departmental funds, but are under no obligation to do so and often do not.  The burden of responsibility for health care costs is a very important conversation to have with your fellow.
  3. When administrators are reconciling fellowship accounts, check the FRIGITD and PHICHEK screens for the correct account codes:  6223 indicates Medical Insurance and 6224 indicates Dental Insurance.   It is important that these codes show the correct proportions of the fellowship stipend dedicated to satisfying the charges associated with these coverages.   In many cases, administrators have found either incorrect deductions, or no deductions at all.  Ensuring that the account codes are correctly entered when the account is initially established will prevent not only future deficit, but the painstaking steps necessary to correct them.

For documentation of Wayne State University’s definition of a fellowship status, check out the  Administrative Policy and Procedure Manual (APPM) section 1.3.4; section 4.0 specifically discusses procedure for establishing the correct payment line.  If you are specifically working with an NIH F32 award, PA-06-373 details the required allotment for stipend funds in section II.2. (Note: if you are APPLYING for an F32, don’t forget to use the new codes from the reissue!)  For help in deciphering your award, contact us anytime!