Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about PREP relate to the following topics:


Program Expectations and Requirements

What is the goal of PREP?

The Overachieving Objective of PREP is to develop a diverse pool of well-trained postbaccalaureate participants who will transition into and complete rigorous biomedical, research-focused doctoral degree programs (e.g., Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D.) in biomedical fields relevant to the NIGMS mission.

What is the approach PREP takes to achieve this goal?

PREP provides institutions the resources to support and provide research experiences and courses for skills development to research-oriented postbaccalaureate participants from diverse backgrounds who upon completion of a one-year research education program are likely to successfully transition into and complete rigorous research-focused doctoral degree programs (e.g., Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D.) in biomedical fields relevant to the NIGMS mission.

PREP participants will be required to work as research postbaccalaureates at 9 person-months (75% full-time) effort, with the other 3 person-months (25% full-time effort) devoted to further skills development. The academic preparations may include courses, workshops, seminars, supplemental instruction, or lectures that will enhance the technical, operational and professional skills of the participants. The courses taken should be appropriate to the requirements for admission to, and successful completion of rigorous biomedical research-focused doctoral degree programs.

As postbaccalaureate scientists, the participants will be involved in independent research projects where they will learn to develop and answer scientific questions, allowing them to experience the fulfillment of discovery as scientists. The research environment should be inclusive, supportive and safe, and should include opportunities for the participants to interact with doctoral student peers, postdoctoral researchers, and other investigators who could contribute to their growth and will allow them to thrive in rigorous doctoral programs.

Can PREP support postbac participants for two years?

It is the expectation that most PREP participants will transition to a rigorous biomedical, research-focused doctoral degree program following a one-year postbaccalaureate experience. NIGMS also recognizes that each participant has individual strengths and areas of academic development, and that a one-year program may not be sufficient for some to fully prepare to be competitive for a rigorous biomedical, research-focused doctoral degree program. Therefore, a second year of support is allowable at the discretion of the PREP Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) if within the awarded costs of a particular program. The second-year experience must enhance participants' competitiveness to enter a rigorous doctoral program and not simply allow participants more time to decide if they wish to obtain a graduate degree or to explore other career options.

What are the expected outcomes of the PREP grant?

Since PREP participants should have an interest in obtaining a research-focused higher doctoral degree as a condition of enrollment in the program, NIGMS expects that a successful PREP will provide the knowledge and skills such that the vast majority (e.g., greater than 75%) of its participants enter such programs within two years of completing PREP. Furthermore, with this expertise and experience, NIGMS expects that PREP participants who enter research-focused higher doctoral degree programs will complete the degree at rates comparable to or greater than students in similar disciplines at their institutions. Applicant institutions should design their program strategies within the context of the NIGMS's expectations and in line with their institutional settings and missions.

It is also anticipated that institutional PREP awards will help awardee institutions in achieving greater diversity in their doctoral programs, either through institutional change fostered by experience with the PREP program and/or through recruitment of successful PREP participants into those programs.

Can PREP grants be used to support students going on to MD-only training?

No.


Eligibility

What types of institutions are eligible to apply and what are the other institutional requirements for an application?

Institutional eligibility is specified in the PREP funding opportunity announcement. PREP is limited to research-intensive institutions (i.e., those with NIH research project grant (RPG) funding averaging greater than or equal to $7.5 million in total costs per year over the last three fiscal years) that have strong biomedical Ph.D. degree programs in NIGMS mission areas. That is, institutions that are eligible for MARC or IMSD are eligible to apply, but those that are eligible for U-RISE or G-RISE are not eligible.

NIGMS encourages applications from highly research-intensive institutions (i.e., those with an average of NIH funding greater than or equal to $20 million total costs per year over the last three fiscal years) that have a significant number of faculty mentors with active and extramurally funded research programs (e.g., R01, R35 or equivalent awards) and robust research education environments.

Institutions can assess their eligibility by using NIH RePORT.

Who is eligible to participate in the institutional PREPs?

In order to receive salary support, the participant must be a citizen or a noncitizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time of appointment. Additionally, participants must have a baccalaureate degree in a biomedically relevant science from an accredited college or university awarded no more than 36 months prior to applying to a PREP, and must not be currently enrolled in a degree program. Parental, medical, or other well-justified leave for personal or family situations is not included in the 3-year eligibility limit, nor is national service (e.g., Peace Corps, or service in the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserves). All individuals selected as participants should intend to apply to research-focused biomedical doctoral degree programs (e.g., Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D.) during or immediately following completion of the research education program.

The overarching goal of this program is to develop a diverse pool of well-trained postbaccalaureate participants who will transition into and complete rigorous biomedical, research-focused higher degree doctoral programs (e.g., see the Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity). For the purpose of this announcement, institutions are strongly encouraged to identify candidates who will enhance diversity on a national basis. 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 this program.

Can participants be appointed for less than 12 months?

No. The individual participant development plan must be designed such that participants will have to carry out and finish a research project as well as take courses, workshops and/or supplemental instruction that will allow them to enhance their research skills and academic credentials within a 1-year period.

Can a PREP apprenticeship be longer than one year?

As described above, a second year of support is allowable at the discretion of the PREP Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) if within the awarded costs of a particular program. The second-year experience must enhance participants' competitiveness to enter a rigorous doctoral program and not simply allow participants more time to decide if they wish to obtain a graduate degree or to explore other career options.

Applications that propose two-year programs for all participants will generally be considered a low priority for funding.


Application

Who can serve as the PI?

The PD(s)/PI(s) must be able to provide both administrative and scientific leadership to the development and implementation of the proposed program. NIGMS encourages multiple PD(s)/PI(s), particularly when each brings a unique perspective and skill set that will enhance the research education program. At least one of the PD(s)/PI(s) should be an established investigator in the biomedical sciences (e.g., individuals who are the PI of active research project grants). Additional PD(s)/PI(s), including individuals with experience in the science of education, relevant social science disciplines, program evaluation, mentoring, and university administration may be included to achieve the program goals. Any of the PD(s)/PI(s) may serve as the contact PD/PI.

Should I include the biosketches of participating program faculty?

Yes. Program faculty are considered to be key personnel and assigned the role of Other: Program Faculty, and their biosketches must be included after those of the PD/PIs and any other key staff members. Faculty biosketches should describe the faculty member's commitment to mentoring and promoting diversity in the biomedical sciences.

Is there a limit to the number of departments that can participate in PREP?

No. Programs are expected to have mentors from a broad range of biomedical disciplines relevant to the NIGMS mission to provide a breadth of research experiences to participants. Proposed programs focused in a single discipline (e.g., neuroscience, immunology, etc.) will be low priority for funding.

How many participants can participate in an institutional PREP?

PREP institutions may request support for up to ten postbaccalaureate positions per year.

Is there a cap on the amount of funds that can be requested?

Total direct costs are limited to $400,000 annually.

Are any letters required?

Yes. The application must include:

  • Institutional Support Letter. The application must include a signed letter on institutional letterhead from a President, Provost, Dean, or similar key institutional leader that describes the activities and resources provided by the institution that will ensure the success of the planned research education program and its participants (10 page maximum). See the FOA for more details.
  • Institutional Eligibility Letter. (1-page maximum). The Authorized Organization Representative/Business Official or similar official with institution-wide responsibility must certify that all the components of the institution under the applicant DUNS number together have received support from the NIH greater than or equal to an average of $7.5 million per year (in both direct and F&A/indirect costs) in the past 3 fiscal years.

Applications lacking either the Institutional Support Letter or Institutional Eligibility Letter will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.

Are other letters of support allowed?

Yes. Additional letters of support (such as those from partner institutions or organizations) are permitted; however, these letters may not contain any information required in the Institutional Support Letter.

When applicants name specific institutions or programs they plan to partner with for recruitment, reviewers often expect to see a letter of support.

Are there required components of the Research Education Program Plan?

Yes. The Research Education Program Plan must include the following components described below:

  • Proposed Research Education Program
  • Program Director/Principal Investigator
  • Program Faculty
  • Program Participants
  • Recruitment Plan to Enhance Diversity
  • Plan for Instruction in Methods for Enhancing Reproducibility
  • Plan for Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Evaluation Plan
  • Dissemination Plan

What will happen to the application lacks a required component?

Applications lacking any required component will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.

What baseline and outcomes data are needed in order to assess the institutional impact of the program?

Applicants should include the following baseline information:

Current Status of the Graduate Biomedical Science Academic Programs: Describe the size of the graduate student body (Ph.D. level) in biomedically relevant disciplines. Provide institutional data on Ph.D. student enrollment from the last five years and indicate the percentage of students from underrepresented groups. Provide the number of Ph.D. students (overall and underrepresented groups) from the participating departments or programs, and their graduation rates for the last 5 years. Present this data in table format within the text (not in the appendix or with the required data tables).

Are there any additional characteristics of PREP applications that review and receive scores that are competitive for funding?

Applicants should read the entire FOA and review criteria closely to ensure they are all addressing all criteria by which the application will be reviewed.

Does NIGMS have a payline for PREP?

No. NIGMS considers many factors when making funding decisions:

  • Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review.
  • Availability of funds.
  • Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities (e.g., breadth of disciplines in the NIGMS mission represented by the proposed program).
  • Geographic distribution of PREP institutions


Unallowable Costs

What types of activities are unallowable with PREP funds?

The following items are unallowable costs for the PREP:

  • Housing, food, or recruitment expenses of any kind
  • Support for faculty research (all faculty preceptors are expected to have their own research support)
  • Support for participant research costs
  • Participant support in the form of a "stipend" (note: "stipend" differs from "salary/wages," which is allowable)
  • Faculty mentors' time or effort compensation
  • Cost of workshops or courses with a limited focus of preparation for a specific test (e.g., GRE, MCAT)
  • Foreign travel by PD(s)/PI(s), faculty, coordinators, research mentors, or PREP participants
  • Equipment for participant research
  • Alterations and renovations
  • Consortium/contractual arrangements

Other prohibited costs See: 45 CFR §75, Subpart E "Cost Principles"


Award and Noncompeting Annual Progress Report

Can I appoint more participants than the number allotted for the program?

No, you can only appoint the number allotted for the program in the notice of award with NIGMS funds. Request for additional participants must be discussed with the designated TWD Program Director.

How do I submit and what do I include in my noncompeting annual progress report? What is the page limit?

Progress Reports must be submitted following the Streamlined Noncompeting Award Process (SNAP) as defined by the NIH Grants Policy Statement. Information about eSNAP is available on the eRA Commons Web site. If your institution has never used eSNAP before, review the eSNAP User Guide [PDF, 1MB] as it has information on how to enable the eSNAP feature for your institution as well as step-by-step instructions on how to submit your annual progress reports electronically.

The progress report should summarize the progress achieved in the reporting period with respect to the PREP program goals. The narrative part is limited to three pages and numerical and other data may be presented in tabular form (tables and figures are not included in the three-page limit). Follow instructions for the e-SNAP as well as the NIH Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) Instruction Guide [PDF, 2.4 MB].

Are there any required tables or reports as part of the RPPR?

Yes. PREP programs must submit a Trainee Diversity Report [PDF, 162KB] and NRSA Training Table 8D (Undergraduate Programs).

For Training Table 8, we encourage grantees to use specific language for the “initial position” and “current position” columns. That is, reviewers tend to find the word “student” (or even “graduate student”) ambiguous, so we recommend using specific language to describe the program they are in (e.g., “PhD Student,” or “MD/PhD Student,” etc.) in describing positions of PREP participants.

How does an institution request a change in PI?

The institutional business official should send a request for change to the grants management specialist for the award, copying the TWD Program Director.

Include rationale for the change, the new PI’s biosketch, an updated “Other Support” page for each PI including the level of effort proposed for the grant and Information regarding any impact which the proposed request may have to the grant’s budget. If the award is a multi-PI award, include a multiple PI leadership plan.

NIH expects that institutions will disclose whether a change of recipient organization is occurring within the context of an ongoing or recent investigation of misconduct of any kind, including but not limited to professional misconduct or research misconduct.


As the Award Ends

What happens if there is money left over at the end of the year? Can I request a carryover of funds?

While funds awarded for any year should be spent in that grant year, PREPs now have expanded authority, meaning that unobligated unspent funds for a particular year can be carried over into a new budget period. These funds can be rebudgeted within the scope of the PREP program; however, the PI/PD must contact their TWD program official to rebudget any funds originally requested for program-supported participants (e.g. PREP scholar salaries/fringe benefits, tuition, travel etc.). Recipients must be sure to address Section G.10 (Unobligated Balance) in the RPPR, if applicable.

Can I apply for a no-cost extension if the program is on its last year? If so, how do I do this?

The grantee institution has the authority to extend the final budget period of the project using eRA Commons for up to 12 months if the request is submitted on or before the anniversary date of the parent grant and there is no change in the scope of the program. Additional extensions require NIH approval and will be considered if no additional funds are required.

Can a new trainee be appointed during no-cost extension?

Generally, only existing program participants can be supported while a grant is on a no-cost extension. Consideration may be given (1) if the program has existing funds to support the new students for a minimum of 12 months, (2) there is a plan to submit a renewal or new application to continue the program, and (3) there is evidence of appropriate program management and successful outcomes. The PI should contact the Program Officer and Grants Management Specialist for prior approval.