F32 - NINDS Postdoctoral NRSA Fellowship

F32

F32 - NINDS Postdoctoral NRSA Fellowship

Purpose
Fellowship designed specifically to support outstanding scientific training for individuals who will begin or are just beginning a new postdoctoral training period in a given laboratory or research environment.

The NINDS F32 is different from the parent NIH F32
The NINDS F32 has different requirements, instructions for both candidates and mentors, and review criteria than the parent NIH F32. Applicants are strongly encouraged to read the program announcement carefully and completely.

Program Announcement
PAR-21-032

Due Dates for New Applications
2021: February 11, June 9, and October 14th
2022: February 9, June 8, and October 11th
2023: February 9, June 8, and October 10th

Eligibility
Applicants are eligible to apply within approximately 12 months prior to joining a postdoctoral laboratory to within the first 12 months of starting in that laboratory. Support may be requested for a first or subsequent mentored postdoctoral position. The eligibility window applies for both new and resubmission applications. Applications are open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents; research doctoral programs; members of underrepresented groups.

NINDS will not support fellowship applications if the specific aims, questions being asked or approach to answering a specific question are fundamentally identical to those already proposed in the mentor’s grants.
Whereas it is expected that the applicant will work with the mentor to develop the application, the applicant should write an original research plan consistent with the mentor’s funded research. Applicants should not simply be working towards fulfillment of specific aims already devised by the mentor. Please see NINDS policy on project overlap and fellowship applications (pdf, 129 kb) for more information.

The importance of writing in the first-person singular voice
Applicants are strongly advised to write in the first person singular voice when talking about their ideas, their hypotheses, their approach, the analyses they will do. Other individuals, or the lab in general, should be cited where appropriate, as when discussing ideas or work done by others, work done by the applicant together with others, or when discussing general lab context. It is critical that reviewers in the study section, and NINDS staff, understand what the applicant is doing. What ideas and hypotheses make the applicant’s project unique, what is the intellectual contribution of the applicant, what has the applicant written and what have others written (e.g. when one writes in the third person, that implies that somebody else wrote it), what assays and experiments the applicant will do, etc. Conversely, the application should make clear what ideas are general to the lab and what has or will be done by others in the research environment.

Duration of Support
The NINDS F32 is designed to only support postdoctoral fellows during the first 3 years in a given postdoctoral laboratory or research environment. Therefore applicants are encouraged to apply early in their eligibility window. For example, if applicants wait until late in their eligibility window to apply, and receive the award 6 months into their 2nd postdoctoral year of being in their laboratory, they will only be eligible for up to 18 months of support. To facilitate early applications preliminary data are not required.

Extension of Award for F32 Awardees Giving Birth or Adopting Children
In addition to standard, automatic NIH leave policies, fellows who have children while supported by this FOA, either through childbirth or adoption, are encouraged to consider requesting a six-month extension of their fellowship. NINDS may provide one six-month extension per candidate to ensure that fellowship research and training can be completed. Requests must be submitted in writing, following the procedures described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, Section 11.2.6.

Additional Information

The proposed F32 research must fall within the NINDS mission.  NINDS will not accept applications that fall within the mission of other NIH institutes and will not accept applications that are submitted under the parent NIH F32 program announcement number. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the NINDS office for training and workforce development prior to applying to confirm the mission relevance of the proposed F32 project. Mission-relevance is determined by the specific aims and significance of the research according to specific NIH referral guidelines (not simply by the source of mentor funding). NINDS F32 applications will be reviewed by the NINDS Scientific Review Branch (NST 2).

Don’t wait to apply! Waiting to apply will not give you a better chance of success. In fact after the first 6 rounds of reviews, applicants who applied within the first 1-3 months of joining their new postdoctoral laboratory had the highest success rate (Fig. 1). Clearly, these applicants started planning with their mentor very early (probably prior to joining the lab) and applied before having done any significant amount of research towards the proposed project.

Figure 1. Graph showing the success rate of applications relative to time in postdoc lab. Applicants who apply within the first 3 months of joining their new lab have the highest success rate.

 

Reviewers are instructed to evaluate applications appropriately relative to the experience of the applicant. Clearly, a candidate who hasn’t yet started research in a laboratory will have a different level of understanding of the project compared with a candidate who has been in the lab for nearly a year.

Fig. 2 shows that reviewers follow these instructions. Specifically the numbers of awards made to applicants who apply either early or late in the eligibility window is proportional to the numbers of applications received in those time periods. Both % of total funded apps and % funded of total funded for both less than/equal to 6 months and greater than/equal to 7 months is around 50%

Graph showing the percentage of applications and awards as a function of time in the postdoc lab

As stated in the FOA, preliminary data are strongly discouraged. Our goal is for applicants to plan early and submit early. Moreover, our goal is for applicants to submit a research plan for an exciting, bold, and innovative project. NINDS is willing to tolerate substantial risk in F32 applications, as long as the planned research is theoretically feasible and logically-based. Reviewers are instructed that applicants should neither benefit from the inclusion of nor be penalized for the absence of preliminary data (see Applying for the NINDS F32 for important details and exceptions to this instruction). As evidence of this point, 53% of awarded applications from applicants applying within the first 6 months of joining their new lab contained no preliminary data whatsoever.

Candidates should carefully read all descriptions, instructions and review criteria in the FOA for an understanding of how the applications will be evaluated.

For additional FAQs see Applying for the NINDS F32.

Contact

Stephen Korn, Ph.D.
Director of Training & Workforce Development
korns@ninds.nih.gov