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Policy for Reassignment or Early Termination of Awards to Predoctoral Fellows

A predoctoral fellow's assignment to a specific research group may be appropriately changed (situations a and b, below) or terminated early (situations c and d) prior to the end of the formal award period for several reasons:

  1. "incompatibility" between the predoctoral fellow and the preceptor
  2. documented unsatisfactory performance by the predoctoral fellow
  3. serious misbehavior on the part of the fellow
  4. failure to maintain enrollment at the home graduate program/doctoral degree granting institution

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

For Ph.D. students in the GPP, regardless of whether they are in an institutional or individual partnership, the Director of the GPP and/or Director of the OITE should be consulted in all cases. It is the responsibility of the student, GPP Mentor, Partnership Director(s), and/or IC leadership to inform the OITE/GPP as early as possible to address potential issues.


In situation (a) above, a transfer is generally appropriate and is the responsibility of the Laboratory/Branch Chief or, if necessary, the Scientific Director (SD), to negotiate. In appointing a fellow, the Institute or Center (IC) assumes the responsibility of providing a suitable training experience for a specific time period. Therefore, the IC 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. The Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP) must be notified.

For situation (b) above, termination prior to the completion of the appointment period in a specific research group, or anticipated training period in the Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP), must be based on rigorous documentation of unsatisfactory performance. Twelve months’ written notice of the intention to terminate the appointment is standard practice. 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, a final written notice of termination is required at least six months prior to the termination date. The Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP) must be notified in all cases of proposed termination to ensure communication with the host university and referral to career resources.

In the case of a Predoc-Visiting Fellow in the third year of a J-1 visa, when a full year notification is not possible, the fellow should be granted the terminal six-month extension that the NIH can provide.

The decision to terminate the appointment early rests with the SD of the IC in which the fellow is appointed but can be delegated to the fellow's Laboratory/Branch Chief. The fellow may appeal the contemplated action to the SD, who is encouraged to consult with the OITE. With careful selection procedures, early termination of appointments for unsatisfactory performance should rarely be necessary. In all cases of early termination, the fellow should be directed to OITE career resources to assist the fellow in the transition from NIH.

In situation (c) 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. For GPP students, a violation of the student’s GPP Memorandum of Understanding may be grounds for immediate termination or program shortening.

In situation (d) above, the fellow must be terminated as enrollment in a doctoral degree graduate program is a requirement for Predoctoral fellows. In all cases of early termination, the fellow should be directed to OITE career resources to assist the fellow in the transition from NIH.

The page was last updated on Thursday, April 16, 2020 - 11:25am