Working the NIH – part 5 continued F training awards

F and K training awards are two of the more important training awards. If you go looking for links for them on the Office of Extramural Research (OER) home page, you won’t find them. Finding them is a bit of work:

Back to K &T’s: First go to the NIH home page, and from the tabs near the top of the page look for Research & Training.It is not on the Grants & Funding page, even though that page has a link to types of funding. Under R & T there is a link to Extramural Training Supported by NIH. These are the mechanisms I talked about in the previous post about training mechanisms.

From this page you find the links to the various training mechanisms, including the kiosks

The kiosks are lists of the various flavors, which are numbered in an order that at one point might have made sense. In general the higher the number, the more senior/ advanced the training level in the mechanism.


F-awards are fellowship awards. They tend to be for earlier career trainees – F30 (MD/PhD) & F31 (various folks) for predoctoral students (but not all institutes) and F32  for postdoctoral trainees and F33 for “senior fellows”.

One of the first links on the F-award page are links to visual guides, one for researchers (ie phd in sciences). These have more info about timing.


and one for clinicians (health professional doctorate):

FTAwardshp 2

These include T awards – which I talked about before. On the main page, there are also links to funded awards and statistics on funding.

Some of what follows is for F31 (predoc). BUT! it also applies to F32’s. With more F32 info at the bottom. There is info about the proposal structure in the F32 section that applies to F31. Confusing, yes, but there is so much overlap that its not a problem.


There are some specialized F31s for nursing students, pharm students, and one program to promote diversity (link is general to all these programs). The PA (program announcement) for F31, also called the Parent PA has lots of good info: announcements about which IC’s have added F31s, links to eligibility criteria, due dates, review dates, etc.

Here is their blurb about what this supports:

The purpose of this individual predoctoral research training fellowship is to provide support for promising doctoral candidates who will be performing dissertation research and training in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) during the tenure of the award.

This means that one needs to be in training, one needs to be working towards a doctoral degree, and that it needs to be relevant to the NIH mission. You MUST have some kind of health-related spin to your work. They are not going to fund human evolution unless it is related to health. These are grants for up to five years, and there are a number of subtle points in the PA worth noting (my highlights in color and bold)

The overall goal of the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) program is to help ensure that a diverse pool of highly trained scientists is available in appropriate scientific disciplines to address the Nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs.  More information about NRSA programs may be found at the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) website.

The purpose of the predoctoral fellowship (F31) award is to provide support for promising doctoral candidates who will be performing dissertation research and training in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes during the tenure of the award. [this means they get to chose what topics are important- figure this out by talking to NIH staff].

The Kirschstein-NRSA for Individual Predoctoral Fellows will provide up to five years of support for research training which leads to the PhD or equivalent research degree, the combined MD/PhD degree, or another formally combined professional degree and research doctoral degree in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences.

Applicants for the Kirschstein-NRSA F31 award must propose a dissertation research project and training program that fall in a research area within the scientific mission of the participating Institutes. [you need to have a proposal, preferably one you have defended and gotten some feedback on. You also need to have a training program. It needs to include more than “I will be trained”. Do not send anything to NIH with your adviser’s input.].

The proposed predoctoral research training must offer an opportunity to enhance the fellow’s understanding of the health-related sciences and extend his/her potential for a productive, independent research career. The training should provide the applicant with the opportunity to interact with members of the scientific community at appropriate scientific meetings and workshops (including NIH-sponsored meetings, where available). [part of your training program should include more than classes. Try and hit all of the things in this list. Its not just a checklist. These are things that are good for you].

The application should document the need for the proposed research training [this is documenting the NEED for training – you have to be good, but in not finished] the expected value of the proposed fellowship experience as it relates to the individual’s goals for a career as an independent researcher. [you need to have articulated goals that are not just “I want to grow up and be a BSD”. Specific and individual to you are important here]. 

Special Note: Applicants are cautioned that not all NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) participate in this program, and that consultation with relevant IC staff prior to submission of an application is strongly encouraged. The participating ICs have different emphases and program requirements for this program. Therefore, a prospective applicant is urged to consult the Table of IC-Specific Information, Requirements and Staff Contacts to determine whether the planned research and training falls within the mission of one of the participating NIH ICs. 

[I could make this whole para pink. Heck, I just did. TALK TO STAFF. They are nice. They will not bite. They are your friends. ]

Where to find staff? NIH did put this info in one nice place: here! That link also has some info on what specific IC’s are looking for.


F32′s are postdoctoral fellowships.

NIH blurb: To provide postdoctoral research training to individuals to broaden their scientific background and extend their potential for research in specified health-related areas.

Lots of the considerations listed above for F31′s apply to F32′s – fitting in the mission of the NIH as well as the institute. Fitting in with the IC’s interests, and having training goals and objectives as part of the proposal. Its not just “I’m gonna do this project” its also all the other developmental activities that count.

Each of the the F awards, as well as the K-awards has some general, and some specific components necessary in the submission. The ever delightful SF424 (R&R) Individual Fellowship Application Guide (do not be scared by this page, it has guides for many more things that what you need, which is #4 in the table of links) has the general instructions. The specific ones are listed in the Parent Program Announcements (PA) (here for F31 and here for F32).

Remember that the special flavors of F31s and F32s (minorities, specific ICs) will have different PAs. You can find these from the Kiosk pages.

Big Take Home Messages:

  • There are lots of mechanisms, with lots of pages
  • NIH staff are your friends – first email them to make an appointment to call them
  • Once you find what you need to do for a specific mechanism, the instructions are laid out in glorious detail.


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