A Research Fellow is a NIH employee who possesses a doctoral degree and is on a time-limited, renewable appointment. The purpose of the Research Fellowship is to provide junior-level scientists experience in biomedical research while they provide a service relevant to the Institute or Center’s (IC) program needs. The Research Fellow will spend the entire fellowship in laboratory research, while supporting the performance of NIH intramural research. Scientists with considerable experience beyond postdoctoral training may be designated Senior Research Fellows.
To be eligible for a Research Fellowship, a candidate must have demonstrated outstanding scholastic achievement and the ability to conduct successfully, with minimal supervision, a pre-established program in laboratory research.
Because Research Fellows perform services for NIH in addition to the training experience, these positions apply against the IC’s Full-Time Equivalent Employment (FTE) ceiling.
A Research Fellow is a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident (green card, resident alien), or non-resident alien with a valid employment-authorized visa foreign national, who has been appointed to conduct health-related research at a NIH facility. Research Fellow (Visiting Program [VP]) appointments may be renewed; however, the total length of an appointment may not exceed the 5/8 Year Duration Policy. For foreign nationals on a visa, all renewals are subject to applicable visa restrictions.
As part of an effort to attract and retain top-level Research Fellow and Research Fellow (VP) candidates for a variety of different scientific disciplines, the NIH established the following programs:
- Early Independent Scientist: an intramural component of the national NIH Director’s Early Independent Scientist (EIS) Program designed to support recent doctoral graduates in independent positions without the need to train further in a post-doctoral fellowship.
- Independent Research Scholar (IRS): a new program launched in 2019 focused to build the workforce diversity of independent research scientists.
Both Research Fellows and Research Fellows (VP) are Full-Time Equivalent Employment (FTE) positions.
Research Fellows are appointed using Title 42(g) and approved by the delegated authority in each IC. Research Fellow appointments are traditionally approved by the Scientific Director (SD) for an initial 2-3 year period, but may be made for a shorter period (no less than 3 months). Depending on salary level and other pay components proposed, review and approval may be required from both the IC Title 42 Standing Committee and the NIH Compensation Committee (NCC). Please consult the Title 42 Pay Model for additional information.
For Research Fellows 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 email@example.com or 301-496-5937.
Additional approvals and requirements for Visiting Program fellows can be found at the Division of International Services.
Check Sheets / Checklists
There is currently no Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR) -approved check sheet or checklist for the Research Fellow designation. Individual ICs may have additional requirements and check sheets. Please contact your Administrative Officer (AO) or HR Specialist for additional guidance.
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
Pay and compensation for Title 42(g) appointed Research Fellows is based on the Title 42 Pay Model. Research Fellow salary ranges are in Band I. Depending on salary level and other pay components proposed, review and approval may be required from both the IC Title 42 Standing Committee and the NIH Compensation Committee (NCC).
For additional pay and compensation information for Research Fellow (VP) appointments, according to their specific visa requirements, please contact the Division of International Services (DIS).
Recruitment Process / Appointment Mechanisms
Recruitment of a Research Fellow is made via Title 42(g).
Sufficient outreach efforts must be taken to assure that a diverse pool of potential candidates (e.g. minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities) is made aware of fellowship opportunities. At a minimum, the candidate must possess a doctoral-level degree from an accredited institution of higher learning, including: Ph.D., M.D., D.V.M., D.D.S., D.M.D., Sc.D., or other research doctoral-degree widely recognized in U.S. academe as equivalent to a Ph.D.
Official position descriptions are not required. However, the supervisor must prepare a narrative statement fully describing the duties and responsibilities required.
Qualifications for a Research Fellow appointment include the following:
- Appointees must be U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent resident (green card, resident alien), or non-resident aliens with a valid employment-authorized visa.
- Candidates must possess a Ph.D., M.D., D.D.S., D.M.D., D.V.M. or equivalent degree in a biomedical, behavioral, or related science, or have been certified by a university as meeting all the requirements leading to such a doctorate.
- Candidates must furnish proof that they meet educational requirements. For most scientists, official transcripts are required. For very senior scientists with established professional reputations who are well known in their fields, a copy of the doctoral degree, and professional license if any, may be sufficient. However, if the diploma does not indicate the field in which the doctorate is awarded (e.g., indicates only Doctor of Philosophy), then copies of transcripts or listings of courses are required.
- Foreign Education:
- Foreign educated scientists from certain countries (e.g., China) may be unable to provide official transcripts. In those rare cases, a copy of the diploma, with official English translation, if necessary, may be accepted. However, if the diploma does not indicate the field in which the doctorate is awarded (e.g., indicates only Doctor of Philosophy), then copies of transcripts or listings of courses, with official translation, are required.
- Foreign education must be evaluated by an accredited organization to ensure that it is comparable to education received in the United States. ICs may wish to consult with the Division of International Services, ORS, and with OIR for preliminary advice on the equivalency of foreign degrees with U.S. doctorates. Simply because a degree is identified as a doctorate does not mean it is equivalent.
- A minimum of two references is required from professionals in the field, attesting to the candidate’s scientific qualifications, credentials, and accomplishments. Additional references may be required depending upon Office of Intramural Research (OIR) policies and the Intramural Professional Designation (IPD) proposed.
In addition to the aforementioned process, the NIH has established two additional recruitment methods as part of an effort to attract and retain top-level candidates for a variety of different scientific disciplines:
- Early Independent Scientist: an intramural component of the national NIH Director’s Early Independent Scientist (EIS) Program designed to support recent doctoral graduates in independent positions without the need to train further in a post-doctoral fellowship. Successful candidates are provided the resources to establish an independent research program, including salary and benefits, support for lab personnel, lab space, supplies, and start-up equipment. For additional information, please visit the Early Independent Scientists page as part of the IRP Web site.
- Independent Research Scholar (IRS): a new program launching in 2019 focused to build the workforce diversity of independent research scientists.
Research Fellow appointments are made via Title 42(g) and renewed in 1-year increments, according to the 5/8 Year Duration Policy. The maximum length of this fellowship is eight years, and the duration is determined by the length of time spent at NIH in all fellowship capacities, unless the scientist is approved for tenure-track or another staff NIH appointment. For foreign nationals on a visa, all renewals are subject to applicable visa restrictions.
A Research Fellow is not granted independent resources by their Institute, except for Early Independent Scientists.
Research Fellow appointments may be terminated before their expiration date for cause (e.g., personal or scientific misconduct), unsatisfactory performance, or administrative reasons, including but not limited to, programmatic changes and/or budgetary considerations. Terminations of a Research Fellow must follow the policies and processes appropriate to the Title 42(g) appointment mechanism.
This page was last updated on Thursday, July 13, 2023