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Policy for Reassignment or Early Termination of Awards to Postbaccalaureate Fellows

When difficulties arise, a postbaccalaureate fellow may be transferred to a new research group or coached through a period of unsatisfactory performance (situation a, below) or terminated early (situation b) prior to the end of the formal award period. The two possible situations are:

  1. "incompatibility" between the postbaccalaureate fellow and the preceptor or documented unsatisfactory performance by the postbaccalaureate fellow
  2. serious misbehavior on the part of the fellow

Fiscal consideration should not be the basis for early termination within the NIH Intramural Research Program.


NIH postbacs are appointed for one-year terms. However, some NIH investigators will accept only postbacs who commit to a two-year postbac experience and others promise their postbacs a two-year experience. Thus, in terms of expectations regarding renewal for a second year, postbacs fall into two groups, those who anticipate a renewal and those who do not.


In situation (a) above, when the postbac and PI are “incompatible”, a transfer is generally appropriate and is the responsibility of the Laboratory/Branch Chief or, if necessary, the Scientific Director (SD). In appointing a fellow, the Institute or Center (IC) assumes the responsibility of providing a suitable training experience for a specific time period. The minimum one-year contract should always be honored. The IC administration must find a more suitable situation for the fellow and be ready to support the fellow, even in the intramural program of another IC, should there be no mutually satisfactory place within the original IC. The OITE and the IC (generally the Training Office) are available for advice on these transfers and often can help facilitate the transfer of the fellow.

When the PI considers the postbac’s performance unsatisfactory, two options are available (1) a transfer (see above) or (2) an attempt to remedy the situation. If the PI and fellow choose the latter course of action, the fellow must be notified in writing that the performance is unsatisfactory. Such notification must be specific and must outline suggestions for achieving a satisfactory level of performance. Three months or more should be allowed for improvement. If the improvements are insufficient, the PI and postbac should proceed with a transfer. Again, the minimum one-year contract should always be honored.

Every fellow should be notified in writing at least 6 months in advance if the appointment will not be renewed, particularly if the original agreement between the PI and the postbac was for a two-year experience. Again, the fellow should be directed to OITE career resources to assist the fellow in the transition from NIH.

Decisions not to renew a postbac appointment after the first year do not constitute early termination in the context of these guidelines and do not require formal justification to the fellow.

In situation (b) above, swift disciplinary action or even termination may be appropriate, and standard NIH procedures should be applied. The IC should communicate with the appropriate NIH offices including IC leadership, OITE, Office of Intramural Research, DIS, and/or NIH Civil.

The page was last updated on Thursday, April 16, 2020 - 11:24am