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NIMH Individual National Research Service Award (NRSA) Fellowship FAQs

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Choosing a funding opportunity

Q: What kinds of support for research training are available from NIMH for graduate students or postdoctoral fellows?

A: Please see NIMH Research Training and Career Development Opportunities, which lists programs by career stage.

Q: How can I tell if my research area is within the mission of NIMH?

A: Program priorities at NIMH are diverse but meet the Institute’s guiding mission to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure. NIMH is also interested in research to reduce the incidence of HIV worldwide and to decrease the burden of living with HIV. The research proposed should be well-aligned with NIMH’s Strategic Plan. Before preparing an individual NRSA fellowship application, potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the appropriate NIMH Research Training and Career Development Program representative for feedback on the project’s fit with current NIMH or the Division of AIDS Research priorities. We recommend contacting NIMH at least a few months before the deadline.

For a complete list of funded awards and grants please visit NIH RePORTER. 

Q: Are there other NIMH-supported funding opportunities for predoctoral training in addition to the F30 and F31?

A: Yes. Predoctoral training is also available to individuals who are part of a graduate school program with an institutional training grant (T32) from NIH (see the NIMH Institutional Research Training webpage. Through the T32 program, a student can receive a stipend and tuition support (the length of time depends on the specific program). We recommend that applicants contact their graduate program to discuss potential opportunities. Applicants may also search for currently funded T32 programs in NIH RePORTER. 

In addition to the T32 program, there are other NIMH-supported research training funding opportunities to enhance workforce diversity, such as the Mental Health Research Dissertation Grant to Enhance Workforce Diversity (R36) (see NIMH Research Workforce Diversity Program).

This list is not exhaustive. If you have questions about potential funding mechanisms contact the appropriate NIMH Research Training and Career Development Program representative.

Choosing a sponsor/co-sponsor

Q: Do I need to identify a sponsor before submission?

A: Yes. Before applying, the applicant must identify a sponsor(s) who will supervise the proposed mentored training experience. Applicants are encouraged to identify more than one sponsor (for example, a sponsor team) if this is advantageous for their training program. When there is a sponsor team, one individual must be identified as the primary sponsor who will coordinate the applicant's overall training. 

Q: Am I required to include a co-sponsor as part of my training plan?

A: No. A co-sponsor is not required. However, depending on the applicant’s research and training goals, a co-sponsor(s) may be appropriate.

Q: I would like my application assigned to NIMH. How do I accomplish this?

A: The NIMH strongly encourages applicants to email the appropriate NIMH Research Training and Career Development Program representative before applying to discuss the project’s fit with the Institute’s referral guidelines and current funding priorities. When contacting a Program Officer about their application and potential fit with NIMH funding priorities, applicants should include their NIH biosketch and a draft of their specific aims page.

Applicants may use the optional PHS Assignment Request Form  to list the expertise needed to review their application, exclude reviewers, and request an institute assignment. The application will be assigned based on the most appropriate match between it, the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) terms, and the mission of each possible awarding component, with applicants’ preference(s) taken into consideration when possible.

Q: Does an investigator need to be NIH-funded to serve as a sponsor or co-sponsor for an individual NRSA fellowship application?

A: No. Having a sponsor with NIH funding is not an eligibility requirement. The sponsor must document the availability of sufficient research funds and facilities for high-quality research training, as well as the research resources, scientific and technical expertise, and mentorship experience to effectively mentor a predoctoral or postdoctoral fellow.

Q: Can my sponsor or co-sponsor write a letter of reference for me?

A: No. Sponsors or co-sponsors cannot write one of the three required reference letters. The letters should be from individuals familiar with the applicant’s qualifications, training, and interests but not directly involved in the application. A letter from the predoctoral thesis advisor is not required for postdoctoral grant applications that require submission of reference letters.

Clinical research

Q: Can a clinical trial be part of my research plan in an individual NRSA fellowship application?

A: Stand-alone independent clinical trials cannot be proposed as part of the research plan in a fellowship application. However, applicants can gain research experience in a clinical trial by proposing clinical trial research training as part of a clinical trial study led by a sponsor. The clinical trial must meet the NIH definition  and follow the NIH clinical trial guidelines, but the funding source need not be from the NIH. We recommend using the Clinical Trials Decision Tool  to help determine whether the project meets NIH’s definition of a clinical trial. The NIH clinical trials  website also includes helpful resources such as Case Studies and FAQs to help guide the decision.

For fellowships proposing a research experience in a clinical trial, the sponsor or co-sponsor must include a statement to document leadership of the clinical trial. The statement must include the source of funding; identifier (e.g., NCT87654321), if applicable; and a description of how the sponsor or co-sponsor’s expertise is appropriate to guide the applicant in any proposed clinical trials research experience. This statement must be included in the Sponsor and Co-Sponsor Statements attachment of the F.430 - PHS Fellowship Supplemental Form .


Q: What is paid for by individual NRSA fellowships?

A: The individual NRSA fellowship programs were established to provide stipend support for research, clinical training experiences, and career development activities. Fellowships provide stipends as a subsistence allowance to help defray living expenses during the research or clinical training experiences, contribution to tuition and fees, and an institutional allowance to help defray the cost of fellowship expenses such as health insurance, research supplies, equipment, books, and travel to scientific meetings.

To see the most recent individual fellowship NRSA stipend levels, visit the NIH Research Training Individual Fellowship  page.

Application preparation and submission process

Q: What are the components and page limits of an individual NRSA fellowship application?

A: Each fellowship application requires many parts. Applicants should begin preparing their applications well before the deadline. The major components of an application and the length limits are shown below:

Application ComponentLength Limit
Project Summary/Abstract30 lines of text
Project Narrative3 sentences
Introduction to Resubmission or Revision Application1 page
Applicant Biosketch5 pages
Sponsor Biosketch5 pages
Applicant Background and Goals for Fellowship Training6 pages
Specific Aims1 page
Research Strategy6 pages
Respective Contributions1 page
Selection of Sponsor and Institution1 page
Training in Responsible Conduct of Research1 page
Sponsor and Co-Sponsor Statements6 pages
Description of Institutional Environment and Commitment to Training2 pages
Letters of Support from Collaborators, Contributors, and Consultants6 pages

Q: Can I list manuscripts that are submitted or in preparation on my biosketch?

A: No. Submitted manuscripts or those in preparation cannot be listed on the fellowship applicant's biosketch but can be described under section C. Contributions to Science. As applicable, all applicants may include details on ongoing and completed research projects from the past three years that they want to draw attention to within the personal statement, Section A.

Q: What are the requirements for Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training?

A: The RCR instruction must occur at least once every 4 years during each career stage, and the application must describe the following components: subject matter, format, faculty participation, frequency, and duration of instruction. Acceptable programs generally involve at least eight contact hours. This section should discuss both formal and/or informal instruction in responsible conduct of research and should note the extent to which the sponsor/s will participate in these activities. See NOT-OD-10-019  and NOT-OD-22-055  updated NIH policy on instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Q: How are reference letters submitted?

A: Each of the applicant’s references must submit a letter through eRA Commons using the required reference form, as outlined in the fellowship Program Announcement. Applicants should follow the full instructions on the NIH Application Guide Reference Letters  page, as well as any additional special instructions in the funding opportunity and the SF 424 Application Guide .

Study section and post-submission

Q: Do I need to choose a specific study section or scientific review group to review my application?

A: No. Applicants may recommend an NIH Fellowship Study Section  during the submission process, but it is not required. Once an application is submitted, the Division of Receipt and Referral in the Center for Scientific Review will assign the application to a specific study section. Applicants can review recent study section rosters to gauge the panel's expertise and the scientific scope of the applications reviewed in that section. The NIH RePORTER  database is also helpful for identifying the study sections that reviewed successful applications in relevant research areas. For more information, see how to Request a Scientific Review Group . Applications are assigned based on the most appropriate match between the scientific focus of the application funding opportunity, and the guidelines for each Study Section, with preference(s) taken into consideration when possible. All suggestions will be considered but may not be honored.

Q: Will the NIMH accept supplemental information after I submit my fellowship application?

A: Details regarding the types of allowable supplemental materials can be found in the Update to the NIH/AHRQ/NIOSH Policy on Post-Submission Materials  and in subsequent and related notices listed on that page. Note that any allowable materials must be received by the NIH Scientific Review Officer (SRO) at least 30 calendar days before the first day of the scheduled review meeting. The applicant’s Authorized Organization Representative must send this information to the SRO.

Q: My fellowship application is scheduled for review next week. Can I contact the SRO in the days following the meeting to ascertain my score?

A: The SRO enters review panel scores into the NIH data system within three business days after a review. Once these scores are entered, they can be viewed through the applicant’s NIH Commons account. Applicants should not contact the SRO for their score; they will not provide the score and will refer you to NIH eRA Commons .

Q: How is my impact/priority score calculated? What does it mean?

A: After discussing an application, review group members privately vote a numerical impact/priority score from 1 to 9, where 1 is best. The normalized average of all reviewer impact/priority scores constitutes the final impact/priority score. Impact scores run from 10 to 90, where 10 is best. Learn more about the scoring procedures for evaluation of research applications 

Q: How long after the application receipt date is an award issued?

A: The interval between receipt of an application and funding is approximately 6-8 months. Once an award is issued, the awardee has 6 months to activate the fellowship.


Q: I am resubmitting a fellowship application. Do I need to request new reference letters, or can these letters be carried forward from my previous application?

A: In the NIH review system, a resubmitted/amended application fully supersedes the previous application. No application materials are carried forward to a subsequent submission. Hence, applicants need to arrange for resubmission of the reference letters required for the fellowship program. Applicants can use the same individuals for references, but resubmitted reference letters must be included in the fellowship resubmission. For instructions for Fellowship Applicant Referees, see the NIH Application Guide Reference Letters  page.

Q: My summary statement includes comments from reviewers stating that I should take a course in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR), even though I reported taking such a course in the past as a graduate student. Why is this?

A: The NIH requires NRSA-supported fellows and researchers to take RCR training at least once during each career stage and at least once every four years. Hence, fellows and researchers who took such a course more than four years ago or at an earlier career stage will need to take additional RCR training. If advanced students and postdoctoral fellows have been exposed to the full range of topics traditionally included in RCR instruction early in their scientific training, it may make sense for their ongoing and/or subsequent RCR training to focus on subjects most relevant to their fields. Please see NOT-OD-10-019  and NOT-OD-22-055  for details regarding NIH's RCR requirements.

If you did not find the answer to your question here, please see additional FAQs on the NIH Research Training and Career Development  webpage or contact the appropriate NIMH Research Training and Career Development Program representative.