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NCCAM Pre-Application Teleconference for Research Training

December 04, 2013

Event Description

Purpose of Teleconference:

On Wednesday, December 4, 2013, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) convened a pre-application teleconference to discuss requirements of each grant mechanism of the National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Training Program—established in memory of Dr. Ruth L. Kirschstein. The teleconference provided an overview of the research grant submission process, including an indepth discussion of NCCAM’s research training funding opportunities and aspects of the peer review process. The teleconference also addressed participant questions received via telephone and e-mail.

Research Training Funding Opportunities Discussed:

  • PA-14-015 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grant (Parent T32) 
  • PA-14-016 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Short-Term Institutional Research Training Grant (Parent T35)
  • PAR-13-065 Interdisciplinary Complementary and Integrative Health Clinical Research Training Award (T90/R90)

Application Receipt Dates:

Parent T32 and T35

  • Letter of Intent (optional but recommended) by December 27, 2014
  • NCCAM only accepts applications for the January application submission date (differs each year)
  • Expires January 8, 2017


  • Letter of Intent (strongly recommended) by December 28, 2014
  • NCCAM only accepts applications for the January application submission date (differs each year)
  • Expires January 29, 2015

Teleconference Speakers:

Alberto L. Rivera-Rentas, Ph.D., NCCAM Program Director
Peter Kozel, Ph.D., NCCAM Scientific Review Officer
Anita McRae-Williams, M.A., NCCAM Outreach Program Manager (Moderator)


Summary of Teleconference:

Important Information About the Program Announcements


The NRSA training programs were established in 1974 to ensure that a diverse pool of highly trained scientists is available in appropriate scientific disciplines to address the Nation’s biomedical behavior and clinical research needs.

The purpose of the NRSA programs is to train individuals to conduct research and prepare for research careers in areas relevant to the NIH mission. The goal is to increase the number, quality, and diversity of well-prepared investigators in complementary and integrative medicine modalities and interventions who also have experience in rigorous scientific research. This is outlined in NCCAM’s Third Strategic Plan and specifically delineated in Strategic Objective 4: Improve the Capacity of the Field To Carry Out Rigorous Research.

NRSA Programs Highlights and Similarities:

  • Mentors should be research-funded investigators with their own independent, well-published research work and knowledgeable in research training.
  • Types of organizations that can apply for the NRSA Awards include institutes of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and government.
  • All applicant institutions must have the infrastructure for comprehensive research training and can be led by a single investigator or a group of investigators using the multi-principal investigator approach.
  • Applications can request funds for program-supported activities such as curriculum and academic development, professional development, scientific skills development, mentored research experiences, travel to scientific meetings, and evaluation.
  • All applications must provide a commitment letter from the institution and a recruitment and retention plan to enhance diversity and must describe their training in the responsible conduct of research.
  • Letters of Intent: A letter of intent (LOI) for the Parent T32 and T35 is optional but recommended. While optional, NCCAM’s use of LOIs allows scientific review officers (SROs) some idea of the review load, such as who will be coming in and who key personnel might be. It also helps SROs better plan the review. Again, although letters of intent are not required, they are encouraged. If you are submitting a T90/R90 application, they are strongly encouraged.

Budget Highlights:


Highlights Regarding the Parent T32 (Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Institutional Research Training Grant)

  • The purpose of this research training program is to provide trainees with a strong foundation in research design, methods, and related techniques appropriate for the proposed research area(s) and the development of the trainee as an independent investigator.
  • A letter of intent for the Parent T32 is optional but recommended.


Highlights Regarding the T35 (Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Short-Term Institution and Training Program)

  • Appointees to the T35 training program should be predoctoral or medical students. This program is for short-term research training only, with a minimum of 8 weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks of continuous research training. No postdoctoral positions are allowed.
    • Trainees must have completed their undergraduate degree by the time of their appointment to the program, be citizens or legal residents of the United States, and be enrolled in a research doctorate program.
    • The principle investigator or investigators should be experts in their respective program training areas. A consortium of multiple institutions or organizations is allowed.
    • A letter of intent for the Parent T35 is optional but recommended.
    • An advisory committee is not required but is encouraged. The applicant’s institution will make this determination.


Highlights Regarding the T90/R90 (Interdisciplinary Complementary and Integrative Health Clinical Research Training Award)

  • The T90/R90 program requires a partnership between a research-intensive institution that has a longstanding history of research training and commensurate resources and an institution focused in complementary and integrative health practice. This partnership can be an existing effort or a way to start up a new program. Partnerships with institutions holding clinical and translational science awards (CTSAs) are strongly encouraged.
  • This training program only supports long-term research training for postdoctoral graduates or applicants who hold a doctoral degree; trainees cannot exceed 3 years in the program.
  • This program supports mentored research training and hands-on experiences in clinical research, as well as trainee-focused development efforts. These may include activities in clinical research methodology, integrated health academic development, and training-related research projects in NCCAM’s research priority areas.
  • A letter of intent for the T90/R90 program is not required but is strongly recommended.


NRSA Grant Applications Tips

  • Applications should address the review criteria in the FOA, should be easy to read, and should be organized so that reviewers can easily find information.
  • The composition of the review panel will be a reflection of the science proposed in the applications NCCAM receives. Consequently, the experience of the panel may be broad. All reviewers will provide scores for all applications with which they are not in conflict. This means that an application should be written so that it can be understood by someone who is not an expert in the applicants’ fields.
  • Follow the page limits in the FOA. The T90/R90 uses the standard formatting limitations common to all NIH grant applications. Specifically, margins should be no less than half an inch. Applicants may use only Arial, Helvetica, or Palatino Linotype or Georgia typefaces that are black font color with a font size of no less than 11 points. No more than 15 characters per inch horizontally and 6 lines per inch vertically are allowed. Detailed grantwriting tips can be found at
  • Appendix material is accepted for these FOAs and should be kept to a minimum. Nothing that is critical to the review of your application should appear in the appendix. Tables are not allowed in the appendix, and any material that applicants present must not be in tabular form.
  • The standard review criteria for all three FOAs differ in several ways.  For the T90/R90, NCCAM has added an additional review criterion – evaluation.  Applicants are urged to carefully read, understand, and address all the appropriate review criteria in their applications.
  • Postsubmission materials for training and related applications are allowed. Follow the page limits of the FOA for submission of these materials, which must be in PDF format and submitted via e-mail to Dr. Peter Kozel, Scientific Review Officer (at, no less than 30 days before the review meeting.
  • A diversity recruitment plan is required, and its acceptability will be factored into the overall impact score.
  • Applicants should submit all required material in the FOA to avoid the common error of omission. Address and explain all training program weaknesses. Lack of letters of support from deans and department chairs is usually seen as a very significant weakness.
  • Fellowship plans that have codirectors must include plans for addressing disagreements between the multiple principal investigators.

Questions and Answers

Question: I would like to hear a little bit more about NCCAM’s goals with these training programs, beyond the general NIH goals.

Answer: NCCAM‘s intention is to provide support to trainees who desire to pursue research and research careers within NCCAM’s areas of research interest. We also have an expectation that trainees in our training programs will transition into more mainstream NIH career development and research funding. For example, if you are a predoctoral student and you completed your Ph.D. in a T32 program, you then either go to a T32 at the postdoctoral level or you apply for a fellowship. This exemplifies the step-by-step enhancement of your career that we envision in these programs.

Question: I am interested in hearing how NCCAM is looking at the applications compared to say, the way NIMH would look at them?

Answer: At NIH, each institute or center has a particular research mission. A mission of NCCAM is to make sure that we provide support for research training in complementary and integrative research topics. For example, we have areas of research interests ranging from probiotics to natural products, to mind/body approaches, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation. So these are examples of the interests and unique areas of NCCAM. Furthermore, on NCCAM’s Web site we provide a lot of this information—specifically in our NCCAM Research Training pages.

Question: Are there any NCCAM-specific mechanisms or considerations for early-career independent investigators?

Answer: We encourage you to go to NCCAM’s Web site and look at our Research Training pages. There you will find career development awards (which are called the K Awards), fellowship programs, and training-related administrative supplements.

Question: If you are developing a new cross-disciplinary program and do not have a track record of training, are you eligible for these opportunities?

Answer: Yes, you are. A track record is an important part of the review criteria. However, NCCAM also pursues innovation and uses these funding mechanisms to develop new programs. Applicants are encouraged to pursue a mechanism that will fit their interests and developmental stage. For example, we have seen institutions that are just starting a new program—they have a group of research investigators who can serve as mentors for students, and they start with a small program at the T35 Level. Please be aware that the T35 also allows a consortium, so you might want to partner with other organizations that have more research training experience and a track record to help you move forward with a new program. As far as a track record when it comes to review, reviewers like to see that you have some record of experience providing training. You should convey if you have a training record and if your mentors have a record of providing training at the level that you are proposing to do in your application.

Question: Can you talk about the cross-training at each institution required in the T90 or R90 program?

Answer: As a reminder, last year NCCAM hosted a teleconference specifically on the T90/R90 program. A summary of this teleconference can be found at NCCAM Pre-Application Teleconference to Discuss the Interdisciplinary Complementary and Integrative Health Clinical Research Training Award (T90/R90). The NCCAM R90/T90 mechanism formalizes a partnership among research-training institutions. It requires a student exchange. For example, trainees from the research-intensive institution go to the health-practice institution to get their training in complementary health approaches; and trainees from the health-practice institution go to the research-intensive institution for mentored clinical research experiences. We recommend applicant institutions to assess their own strengths and needs and propose the activities they want to develop. For example, there might be institutions that want to develop some kind of certification program for clinical research training. Another example might be programs for trainees to develop their own research activities and research subprojects.



Programmatic Questions Contact:

Alberto L. Rivera-Rentas, Ph.D.
Program Director
Training, HIV/AIDS, and Special Populations Portfolios
Division of Extramural Research
NCCAM Research Training and Career Development
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
National Institutes of Health

6707 Democracy Boulevard II, Suite 401
Bethesda, MD 20892 (Courier Service - 20817)
Tel: (301) 443-8372

Review Questions Contact:

Dale Birkle Dreer, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Scientific Review
Division of Extramural Activities
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
National Institutes of Health
6707 Democracy Boulevard II, Suite 401
Bethesda, MD 20892 (Courier Service - 20817)
Tel: (301) 451-6570
Fax: (301) 480-2419

This page last modified September 24, 2017

NCCAM Pre-Application Teleconference for Research Training | NCCIH


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