Answers to Frequently Asked Questions from the NIGMS Predoctoral Institutional Research Training Grant (T32) Webinar

Answers to many questions can be found on the NIGMS training website, including a robust list of Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants FAQs, and in the NIGMS-specific Predoctoral T32 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) (PAR-17-341) for Training Grants in Basic Biomedical Sciences. New applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NIGMS predoctoral training grant staff to discuss their plans to submit a new application as early as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Program Design

Q. We plan to propose a new T32 program within an institution that already has many T32 programs. The new program will have a distinct training focus from the existing programs. Are new T32s permissible under the new FOA?

A. Yes, as long as the proposed training program is broadly-based, within the NIGMS mission, and fits one of the predoctoral training grant program areas.

Q. What is the relative importance of the "training" portion in the new skills/areas of focus on this grant, and how much is for the science itself?

A. The science is important and so are the skills and career development. The relative focus, to be determined by the training program, may depend on any number of factors including the institutional environment, training program objectives, the characteristics of trainees, etc. Overall, each program should provide high-quality research training, mentored research experiences, and additional opportunities that equip trainees with the technical, operational, and professional skills required for careers in the biomedical research workforce.

Q. If our only NIGMS training grant is MSTP, can we still apply to the Transdisciplinary Basic Biomedical Sciences program?

A. No. Institutions that only have an MSTP can apply for a training grant in any of the other basic biomedical sciences areas, but not Transdisciplinary Basic Biomedical Sciences.

Q. Our program is adding computational training for life scientists, and computational biology fits within the NIGMS domain. Would NIGMS support this, regardless of whether the research projects of the faculty are in the NIGMS wheelhouse?

A. Bioinformatics and computational biology predoctoral training programs are among the areas of basic biomedical science disciplines supported by NIGMS. Faculty mentors’ research support is important, not the source of support (NIGMS, NIH, other federal or private foundation, etc.)

Q. NIGMS will no longer support parent F31s. Will this mean more T32s?

A. As we have written previously, NIGMS will no longer participate in the Parent F31, but will continue to accept NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (F31) (PA-16-308) and NRSA Individual Predoctoral MD/PhD or Other Dual-Doctoral Degree Fellowships for Students at Institutions Without NIH-Funded Institutional Predoctoral Dual-Degree Training Programs (F30) (PA-16-306). The resources previously devoted to the parent F31 will be redirected toward T32 training programs.

Q. If we have an MSTP, can we apply for a training program with focus on cellular, biochemical, and molecular sciences using the new FOA?

A. Yes. Keep in mind, though, that NIGMS will support only one training program in each training area per institution (normally identified by having a unique DUNS number or NIH IPF number).

Q. What guidelines are available regarding outcomes and assessments?

A. NIGMS provided some examples of programs that are already collecting and making the trainee career outcomes publicly available on their websites. We plan to make available additional resources soon.

Training Tables and Review

Q. In Table 4, should start-up funds, professorships, and other discretionary research funds be included, or only sponsored grants and contracts?

A. All funds available to the faculty member should be listed on the table, including university funds (like start-up funds), and foundation and other discretionary funds. Do not include grant applications pending award or review.

Q. For Table 5A, should the publications of all current predocs be included, or only those current predocs who are training grant eligible?

A. Table 5A can only list Training Grant Eligible (TGE) students.

Q. Please expand what Table 8 should include, should it contain overall institutional success in all biomedical Ph.D. programs?

A. Table 8 Part III should include the students graduating from your institution over the last 5 years that could have been part of the proposed program had it been in place. Include only TGE students and students in participating mentors’ laboratories in the proposed training program.

Q. For Table 6A Part II, each of our participating graduate programs do not collect “Mean Months of Prior, Full-Time Research Experience” for all new entrants. How should we address this field?

A. Many programs have not traditionally collected this data, but you should have all your participating programs start collecting this data going forward. Explain in the text that you had not previously collected this data but that you are now and provide any partial data that you can (and explain its limitations).

Q. For Table 6A Part II, each of our participating graduate programs do not collect data on students with disabilities and do not have access to this data unless a student self-reports directly to the department or program. How should we address this field?

A. NIGMS is aware of the difficulties in collecting this self-reported data, and that not all students are comfortable disclosing their disabilities. However, NIGMS training grants require a recruitment plan to enhance diversity which must specifically address outreach activities to students with disabilities (beyond a statement on the program website). For more information, please see suggested strategies for enhancing diversity in training programs.

Q. What are the key differences between instruction in "Methods for Enhancing Reproducibility" and "Responsible Conduct of Research"?

A. Responsible conduct of research focuses on training in the ethics involved in research, and there is guidance listed in NOT-OD-10-019. Methods for enhancing reproducibility focuses more on ensuring that students receive training the methods of doing rigorous science such as solid experimental design, minimizing bias, consideration of relevant biological variables, etc. We expect that instructions in both areas be infused throughout your training program.

Q. If RCR is incorporated throughout into the overall curriculum, at multiple stages and in a variety of formats, what should be included in the mandatory syllabus for the appendix?

A. The syllabus for the initial RCR course is required in the appendix, as per funding announcement PAR-17-341. This syllabus is expected to cover all the NIH required components.

Q. Each year we recruit students from Kenya to our Ph.D. program. Would these individuals "count' toward diversity enhancement? They are not US citizens.

A. No. While NIGMS encourages diversity in the broadest sense, only students who are training grant eligible (i.e. US citizens and permanent residents) should be included when describing students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. Non-citizens should not be included when describing students from underrepresented groups.

Q. Is the level of NIGMS support for the faculty considered during the review process?

A. The level of support for faculty is an important consideration for review but it does not matter if it is NIGMS or NIH support.

Q. Is there a preference for when students are supported on the training grant (years 1 and 2, 2 and 3, etc.)?

A. NIGMS strongly encourages the use of training grant support for 1- 2 years during the early years of graduate research training (e.g., during the first 3 years) to provide maximum flexibility in the selection of courses, rotations, research fields, and mentors. So, years 1 and 2 or 2 and 3, if you are funding for 2 years; and either year 1 or 2 if you are funding for only one year. Funding a student for more than 2 years requires extremely strong justification. Your program’s plan for funding students should be clear and deviations from your funding plan must be carefully justified.

Q. If our students join research labs at the end of year 1, what guidance can you give regarding your suggestion that students join the T32 in year 1? The trainee may wish to join the research group of a faculty member who is not affiliated with the T32. Should we allow that, and then add the mentor to the program?

A. See the answer to the question above. Some programs recruit their own students and have them rotate with approved faculty (who are current or potential program mentors). There is an expectation that training programs mentor their trainees on rotation choices. There is also an expectation for a mechanism to admit appropriate faculty to your program.

Q. If we have 20 training-grant eligible students, what is the reasonable number of training slots to request on a new training grant?

A. The actual request for the number of slots must not only reflect the program’s pool of qualified applicants but also the ability of the program to effectively mentor that number of trainees. Thus, the slot number appropriate for every program will vary. Generally, the new training grants start out with about four slots in year 1, with possible ramp up in future years.

Q. Will gender be considered in diversity?

A. There is an expectation for good gender diversity in the trainee pool as well as in the mentor pool. If there is not, that issue should be addressed. The recruitment plan to enhance diversity must specifically address efforts to recruit trainees from underrepresented groups (see NOT-OD-18-129), specifically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and individuals with disabilities. Given that many biomedical fields have gender parity at the Ph.D. training stage, gender is not typically included when describing a program’s goals to enhance diversity.

Grants Management

Q. When is the RPPR due?

A. Annual RPPRs are due on November 15. This differs from other NIH ICs, therefore we include a reminder in the Terms and Conditions section of the training grant Notice of Award.

If a competitive renewal (Type 2) application has been submitted, the recipient must submit an Interim-RPPR 120 days from the project period end date. In the event the Type 2 is funded, NIH will treat the Interim-RPPR as the annual performance report for the final year of the previous competitive segment. If the Type 2 is not funded, the Interim-RPPR will be treated as the Final RPPR.

A. Final RPPR is required for any grant that is terminated and is due within 120 calendar days of the end of the project period.

Q. We are asked to request full tuition costs in the application and not to apply the formula NIH uses to calculate the award amount. This could push the budget over the $500,000 direct cost limit. Do we need prior approval to submit an application for over $500K?

A. No. The $500K prior approval memo is not required for T32s.

Q. Does the support period for students have to be continuous? I would like our students to participate in internships over the summer, but many companies require that the students be supported by them rather than off a training grant. E.g. Would it be possible to have two semesters on, summer off, two semesters on, summer off, one semester on to make up the full 2 years?

A. It is possible, but there are a few things to consider. Applicants are strongly encouraged to describe any proposed internships, including research training experiences away from the parent organization, that are part of the training program with sufficient detail in the grant application. If this is not included in the grant application, NIH prior written approval is required prior to the internship.

To complete a break in training grant support (in this case for a paid internship), submit a Termination Notice via X-Train. Upon resumption of Kirschstein-NRSA support, document the reappointment on another Statement of Appointment form submitted via X-Train.

Q. Can you define training eligible student? If we want to change the demographic of students recruited to our program, then we might not have those types of students in our current program.

A. Predoctoral research training is for individuals who have a baccalaureate degree and are enrolled in a doctoral program leading to either a Ph.D., a comparable research doctoral degree, or a combined clinical degree and Ph.D., such as M.D./Ph.D. Students enrolled in health-professional programs that are not part of a formal, combined program (i.e., M.D./Ph.D.), and who wish to postpone their professional studies to gain research experience, also may be appointed to a Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grant. Predoctoral research training must emphasize fundamental training in areas of basic biomedical, behavioral, and clinical sciences.

The proposed trainee 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. Noncitizen nationals are individuals who, although not citizens of the United States, owe permanent allegiance to the United States. They generally are people born in outlying possessions of the United States (e.g., American Samoa and Swains Island). Individuals who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence must have a currently valid Permanent Resident Card (USCIS Form I-551) or other legal verification of such status. For example, if an individual has the proper validation on his/her passport, a notarized photocopy of the passport could suffice. Because there is a 6-month limitation on this validation, it is the recipient's responsibility to follow up and ensure that the individual received the I-551 prior to the 6-month expiration date.