Understanding options for funding predoctoral and postdoctoral research training can be confusing. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides two main options to support extramural research training—institutional training programs (discussed in a previous blog) and individual fellowships. In this blog, I hope to clear up some common questions about individual fellowships (also known as “F-awards”).
What Are Individual Fellowships?
These awards support promising predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers to obtain individualized, mentored research training to develop into independent research scientists. Applicants must propose a mentored research project and detailed training plan, which will be evaluated in NIH peer review. Awarded fellows receive a stipend, tuition and fees, and an institutional allowance to defray costs like health insurance and travel to scientific meetings. To be eligible, an individual 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. Predoctoral researchers must be at the dissertation phase of their training, while postdoctoral researchers must have their terminal degree by time of award. The NIH Research Training F-Kiosk has more detailed information on F-awards.
What Individual Fellowships Does NCCIH Support?
NCCIH supports three different fellowship programs, which are described on the NCCIH Training website under the “Fellowships” tab:
- F30 Awards for Predoctoral Dual-Degree Programs (PA-19-191 and PA-19-192)
- F31 Awards for Predoctoral Fellowships (PA-19-195 and PA-19-196)
- F32 Award for Postdoctoral Fellowships (PA-19-188)
How Do I Apply?
Individuals interested in applying for an F-award should identify a mentor to be their primary sponsor and work with their mentor to develop compelling training goals and a rigorous mentored research plan. Remember, reviewers will focus on your potential to develop into a productive, independent research scientist as a result of the F-award. Plan to contact NCCIH program staff several months in advance of the application due date for feedback on the fit of your research and training aims with NCCIH Strategic Priorities. Completed applications are submitted through Institutional Authorized Officials to NIH for review.
Can I Propose a New Clinical Study in an Individual Fellowship Application?
As described in the “Table of IC-Specific Information, Requirements and Staff Contacts,” within each funding opportunity, NCCIH will not accept F-award applications proposing to conduct new, free-standing clinical trials or studies. Instead, those interested in clinical research are encouraged to participate in the planning, design, and implementation of the mentor’s ongoing clinical trials and studies to gain the training and experience necessary to become independent clinical investigators.
Individual fellowships offer an excellent opportunity to gain research experiences, training, and career development in preparation for a research career. They also provide an avenue for gaining experience with applying to and receiving an award from NIH. I encourage predoctoral and postdoctoral scientists interested in complementary and integrative health research to apply for one of these opportunities!