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

Frequently Asked Questions about PREP relate to the following topics:


Program Expectations and Requirements

Q. How should success of institutional PREPs be measured and what are the expectations of the TWD Division?

A. It is expected that upon completion of the program, PREP participants will apply to high-caliber doctoral training programs. It is also anticipated that institutional PREPs 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.

Success of the institutional programs should be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. Measurable outcomes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Aggregate number and demographic characteristics of participants
  • Subsequent educational/career progress, including:
    • Enrollment in a doctoral or dual-doctoral (such as M.D./Ph.D.) degree program in a STEM field
    • Successful completion of a doctoral or dual-doctoral degree STEM graduate program
Since PREP participants should have an interest in obtaining a Ph.D. degree as a condition of enrollment in the program, NIGMS expects that a successful PREP will provide the knowledge and skills such that at least 75% of its participants enter Ph.D. or dual-doctoral (such as M.D./Ph.D.) degree programs. Furthermore, with this expertise and experience, NIGMS expects that at least 75% of the participants who enter Ph.D. programs will complete the degree. Thus, applicant institutions should design the strategies and interventions, as well as set the goals and measurable objectives for their PREPs, within the context of the NIGMS’s expectations and in line with their institutional settings and missions.

Q. Is an evaluation plan for the program required?

A. Yes. All institutional PREPs must have an assessment or evaluation plan. The efficacy of the program interventions, as well as impacts on the participating departments, must be determined. Program implementation must be regularly assessed and, if needed, changes for further improvement should be carried out. Assessment plans should include measurable objectives and outcomes relevant to the Ph.D. preparation and completion of PREP participants. In order to measure the impact or changes due to PREP, baseline information must be provided. Expectations by the institutional PREPs must be clearly described based on this baseline and should be congruent with the expectations of the TWD Division.

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

A. Applicants should include the following baseline information:

1) Institutional Setting and Current Status of the Graduate Biomedical Science Academic Programs: Provide a brief description of the mission of the institution and its academic components. Describe the current academic programs and support services, as well as the size of the graduate student body (Ph.D. level) in the biomedically relevant sciences. Describe aspects of the institutional environment likely to foster the success of the PREP program. Describe and summarize institutional and externally sponsored programs that have encouraged and helped train underrepresented students at the participating institution within the last 5 years.

2) Student Enrollment, Graduation, and Career Paths: Provide institutional data on Ph.D. student enrollment from the last five years, and indicate the percentage of individuals 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

Q. What will happen to the application if an assessment plan is lacking?

A. Applications submitted without an assessment or evaluation plan and plans to track the career path of the PREP participants will be considered noncompliant and will not be reviewed.


Eligibility

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

A. Institutional eligibility is specified in the PREP funding opportunity announcement. Applicant institutions must be research institutions that have a significant number of faculty mentors with NIH or other extramural support in the biomedical science fields. These institutions must have strong Ph.D. programs in the relevant biomedical fields and demonstrated experience in training Ph.D. candidates. The institutions must be able to provide the PREP participants with excellent, challenging, and supportive peer groups.

Q. Who is eligible to participate in the institutional PREPs?

A. For support with NIGMS funds, PREP participants must be recent baccalaureate graduates in the biomedical sciences and must belong to underrepresented groups or from a disadvantaged background in these sciences. These individuals must be U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals or permanent residents and must have obtained their baccalaureate degrees from an accredited U.S. college or university no longer than 36 months prior to their application to PREP.

Q. Can participants be appointed for less than 12 months?

A. 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.

Q. Can a PREP apprenticeship be longer than one year?

A. Appointment of PREP participants will be for one year, with a possibility of a second-year extension at the discretion of the principal investigator. NIGMS recognizes that each participant has individual needs and that a one-year program may not be sufficient for some to fully prepare to be competitive for graduate school. 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. This does not require NIGMS pre-approval, but should be used selectively for those participants who would benefit from a second year in the 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. 


Application

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

A. No. Although the institution is allowed to apply for or hold only one PREP award, participation of all departments relevant to biomedical sciences is strongly encouraged.

Q. How many students can participate in an institutional PREP?

A. PREP institutions may request support for between five and ten postbaccalaureate positions per year.

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

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

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

A. 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.


Unallowable Costs

Q. What types of activities are unallowable with PREP funds?

A. The following costs are not allowed to be charged to the PREP grant:

  • Housing, food, or recruitment expenses of any kind
  • Support for faculty research (all faculty preceptors are expected to have their own research support)
  • Student 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). However, expenses for courses, supplemental instruction, or workshops that could help participants build their vocabulary, writing, communication skills, verbal reasoning, analytical and critical thinking and that might them gain entry to and complete a Ph.D. program are allowable. The description of these workshops, expected outcomes and long-term impacts must be described.
  • Foreign travel by PD(s)/PI(s), faculty, coordinators, research mentors, or PREP participants
  • Equipment
  • Alterations and renovations
  • Consortium/contractual arrangements
Other prohibited costs are described 45 CFR §75, Subpart E “Cost Principles": http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?node=pt45.1.75#sp45.1.75.e

Noncompeting Annual Progress Report

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

A. 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, please 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].

As the Award Ends

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

This page last reviewed on November 20, 2017