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Guest Researchers / Special Volunteers

Please note that the primary policy source for the Guest Research / Special Volunteer program is located within NIH Policy Manual 2300-308-1.

A Guest Researcher is a scientist, engineer, and/or student who are permitted to engage in scientific studies and investigations using NIH Facilities. Under this appointment, these individuals further their own research by using equipment and resources that are otherwise unavailable to them. They provide no direct services to NIH. They may not have any patient contact. The authority may apply to non-NIH employees or non-NIH trainees who are sponsored and paid by an outside organization or are self-supported. For specific eligibility requirements, please review the NIH Policy Manual 2300-308-1.

A Special Volunteer is an individual who provides research services, direct patient care, clerical support, technical assistance, or any other necessary services for NIH but is not financially compensated for their activities or actions. However, training for Special Volunteers may be paid by using Institute or Center (IC) funds. For specific eligibility requirements, please review the NIH Policy Manual 2300-308-1.

For queries regarding interpretations of the Manual Chapter, please consult with your IC’s Administrative Officer (AO) and/or the NIH Office of Intramural Research (OIR).

Both the Guest Researcher and Special Volunteer appointments are non-Full-Time Equivalent Employment (FTE) positions.

Approvals (Process)

Both Guest Researcher and Special Volunteer appointments are reviewed and approved by the IC Scientific Director (SD), or other designee. Please note that Intramural Scientist Emeriti may be approved as a Special Volunteer, upon approval by the Board of Scientific Directors (BSD) and the DDIR, provided that they meet the provisions of the policy (NIH Policy Manual Chapter 2300-308-1).

For Special Volunteers that require clinical credentialing, an additional approval must be received from the Director, CC (or delegate) after recommendation by the Clinical Center (CC) Credentials Committee and the Medical Executive Committee (MEC). For further information, please contact the Office of Credentialing Services, Clinical Center (OCS/CC) at or 301-496-5937.

Check Sheets / Checklists

There are currently no DDIR-approved check sheets or checklists for the Guest Researcher or Special Volunteer designation. Individual ICs may have additional requirements and check sheets. Please contact your Administrative Officer (AO) or HR Specialist for additional guidance. For examples of IC-specific check sheets and checklists, please visit:


Intramural scientists at the NIH, as is true for all scientists, should be committed to the responsible use of scientific tools and methods to seek new knowledge. While the general principles of scientific methodologies are universal, their detailed application may differ in various scientific disciplines and circumstances. All research staff in the Intramural Research Program should maintain exemplary standards of intellectual honesty in formulating, conducting, presenting, and reviewing research, as befits the leadership role of the NIH.

Within the NIH IRP, the ethical conduct of researchers is governed by the following three disciplines:

Ethics information may also be available through your specific IC. Please contact your Ethics Counselor for additional guidance.

Pay / Compensation

NIH does not financially compensate Guest Researchers or Special Volunteers for their activities or services.

Training for Guest Researchers may not be paid for by using NIH funds. Guest Researchers may attend certain NIH-sponsored training activities provided that space is available and that their attendance does not deny a Government employee the training opportunity. A Guest Researcher must demonstrate the job relatedness of such training.

Training for Special Volunteers may be paid for using IC funds.

Recruitment Process / Appointment Mechanisms

Please refer to your IC’s recruitment process for both Guest Researcher and Special Volunteer appointments. For additional information, please review NIH Policy Manual Chapter 2300-308-1.


Please refer to your IC’s policy on length and renewal of both Guest Researcher and Special Volunteer appointments. For postdoctoral trainees, time spent as a Special Volunteer counts toward the 5/8-year rule. Please refer to the 5/8 Year Duration Policy for additional information.


Guest Researchers may use Occupational Medical Service facilities for emergency or other authorized treatment and NIH supplies and research services. Travel at Government expense is permitted when it is of direct benefit to NIH and is fully justified as such. However, because Guest Researchers are not Government employees, they may not use Government-owned vehicles. Training for Guest Researchers may not be paid for using IC funds.

Special Volunteers may, at the discretion of their IC and subject to the availability of funds, be granted space, equipment, clerical support, clothing or uniforms, or any other resources deemed necessary to carry out their assignments (including travel and training).


Notwithstanding individual IC policies on the length of assignments, both the Guest Researcher and the Special Volunteer assignments may be terminated at any time by either party to the agreement. ICs must notify the Division of International Services (DIS), Office of Research Services (ORS), of non-immigrant foreign national Guest Researcher or Special Volunteer assignment termination at least 30 days prior to the end date.

The page was last updated on Monday, April 29, 2019 - 12:38pm