xTrain Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Program-Specific Questions


What is xTrain?

xTrain provides the ability to electronically prepare and submit PHS 2271 Statement of Appointment forms associated with institutional research training grants, institutional career development awards, individual fellowships and research education awards. xTrain is also used by the agency's program officers and agency grants management staff to review and process the appointments submitted electronically.

Must I appoint a student to the program?

Yes. NIGMS policy requires that students participating in programs supported by R25 or T34 awards be formally "appointed." And in keeping with NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-10-072, appointment forms must be electronically completed and submitted through the xTrain module of the eRA Commons.

Which programs require use of xTrain?

Bridges to the Baccalaureate, Bridges to the Doctorate, IMSD, MARC U-STAR, PREP and RISE programs require use of xTrain.

How do I learn to use xTrain?

Detailed instructions are available in the xTrain User Guide [PDF, 32MB]. New users are encouraged to familiarize themselves with xTrain and learn about its features in a sample environment at the Commons Demo site.

Briefly, the steps of the appointment process are as follows:

  • PD/PI (or Assistant) initiates a 2271 appointment in xTrain and invites the trainee to register in the eRA Commons.
  • The trainee accesses the link in the eRA Commons automated e-mail invitation and completes eRA Commons registration. The eRA Commons will send an automated e-mail to the PD/PI and trainee once the account is activated. It is important that the information provided in eRA Commons is accurate - data from the eRA Commons Profile is used to populate the PHS 2271 appointment form.
  • After the trainee's eRA Commons account is activated, they must log in and update their personal profile. IMPORTANT: They should complete all personal information (e.g., biographical data, degrees, contact info, etc.). If they fail to complete all the sections of their eRA Commons personal profile, the 2271s will have missing fields since much of the information on the forms is pulled in from the student’s eRA Commons profile. Additional information about this is available in the Quick Reference Guide for Trainees [PDF, 45KB].
  • After the trainee has updated his/her eRA Commons profile, the PD/PI (or Assistant) routes the 2271 to the trainee.
  • The trainee goes into xTrain and accesses the 2271. He/she should review the information and check "No" for the "Is the Trainee in a dual-degree program (e.g. M.D.-Ph.D.)" question since this does not apply to T34 or R25s. When finished, the trainee clicks the "Save & Route to PI" button at the bottom of the 2271 screen.
  • Once the form is routed back to the PD/PI, it should be reviewed for missing information and/or errors one last time and if everything is correct, click the "Save & Route to Agency" button.
  • If the form is acceptable, NIH will accept the form. If not, it may be returned with comments on what needs to be corrected.

Can a program director/principal investigator delegate authority to an assistant?

Yes. A PD/PI may delegate many xTrain functions except for the authority to submit Appointments to NIH. See xTrain Delegation of Authority [PDF, 483KB].

When do I appoint program-supported participants?

Appointments must be made to the year in which the appointment begins, even if it crosses into another budget period (i.e., a single appointment that crosses into the next budget period should NOT be split into two separate appointments, one to each budget period). If appointments do cross budget periods, be sure to inform participant that payment is contingent upon availability of NIH funds. Failure to appoint students may result in delays in processing the progress report and Notice of Award.

When do I reappoint program-supported participants?

A participant, if eligible, can be reappointed after the initial 12 month appointment ends. For reappointments, click the “Re-Appoint 2271” link for that specific trainee/participant on the xTrain Trainee Roster screen. Do not create a “New” appointment for trainees being reappointed to the grant unless there is a break in service between the original appointment period and reappointment period. See the xTrain Appointment, Re-Appointment, and Amendment Quick Reference Guide for Institution Users [PDF, 56KB].

What is the minimum length of appointment?

Program participants must be appointed at least 2 consecutive months.

How do I handle interruptions in support?

If the interruption is less than 1 month and the student participant is being paid partially within the month that the interruption occurs, there is no need to submit a separate appointment. However, if the interruption is more than 1 month, then separate appointments are required, making sure that each appointment is more than 2 months in length. (x-Train will not take any appointments less than 2 months.)

When to terminate an appointment to the program?

Termination notices are not required. If a trainee's period of support changes from what was stated in the original appointment form, then you must submit an amended Statement of Appointment form with the actual dates the participant was supported by the program.

Does the entire form need to be completed, even if the answer is N/A or does not apply?

Yes. All sections must be completed. Enter or select N/A or Does Not Apply, where applicable. Please note that much of the information is pulled into the 2271 form automatically from the student's eRA Commons account profile. Therefore, it is imperative that students make sure that all of the information in their profile has been completed and is kept up-to-date.

What is the difference between a warning and an error?

In general, an appointment form can still be processed if a warning appears as long as the information is validated by the Official completing the form. An appointment form cannot be processed if an error appears. Related to the length of appointment, an appointment for less than 9 months but more than 2 months will give a warning, but the form can still be submitted. If the appointment is less than 2 consecutive months, an error will appear, and the form cannot be submitted until the period of appointment is corrected. (Note: this applies for R25 grants, not T34 grants.)

My questions remain unanswered—what now?

For additional FAQs regarding appointments, roles (Institution, Principal Investigator and Trainees), technical issues and troubleshooting, go to the eRA Commons Frequently Asked Questions website. For additional training materials, go to the xTrain Appointment, Re-appointment and Amendment Quick Reference Guide for Institution Users [PDF, 56KB].

For xTrain and eRA Commons user and technical questions:

eRA Commons Help Desk
Website: http://grants.nih.gov/support/index.html
Toll-free: 1-866-504-9552
Phone: 301-402-7469
TTY: 301-451-5939
Hours: Mon.- Fri., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time

For policy related xTrain questions:

For questions about appointment forms, contact the Grants Management Specialist listed on the latest Notice of Award.

For questions about program expectations, policies and qualifications of the students to be appointed to the program:

  • Contact the Grants Management Specialist listed on the latest Notice of Award.

Program-Specific Questions


On the Form PHS 2271, how does the student answer question 18 "Degree Sought?"

The student should answer "No." Note that under Question 16, the student should also include his or her undergraduate institution and degree awarded.