IOS Virtual Office Hours – August: NSF Research Traineeships Questions and Tips

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) held a Virtual Office Hour on August 15th, 2019 focused on proposals for NSF Research Traineeships (NRT; NSF 19-522)Dr. Regassa discussed NRT proposals and explained how they should encourage the development and implementation of an interdisciplinary graduate training program that is innovative, evidence-based, and aligns with the needs of the changing workforce.  

Below are some questions from the office hour followed by Dr. Regassa’s responses:

  • What stage should a graduate program be at before applying for an NRT?
    • NRT projects should focus on education and training of graduate students within an interdisciplinary or convergent research area of high national need. A project may attract students from a single graduate program or across multiple programs, but students must be available to participate in the NRT project once awarded.
  • How many students can be supported on an NRT grant and to what level (full or partial research support)? Should all students in an NRT-funded training program be US citizens?
    • NRT projects engage STEM graduate trainees. These trainees may be NRT-funded or non-NRT-funded. NRT-funded trainees must be full-time students and hold U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status. Generally, NRT-funded trainees receive 12 continuous months of stipend support (minimum $34,000/year) and a cost of education allowance. There is no set limit on the number of trainees per NRT project, but the project should engage reasonable student cohorts.
  • How much of the budget should go to trainees versus other things like program infrastructure or development? Are there any categories for which one cannot ask for funding (e.g., travel, computers)?
    • The scope of NRT projects is not limited by budget restrictions that prescribe budgetary percentages by spending categories. Instead, the budget should reflect the needs of the project scope and goals. Aside from the solicitation-specific criteria (e.g., stipend minimum), all other categories follow NSF budgetary guidelines (see the PAPPG 19-1).
  • What sort of baseline information on the university or graduate program might be needed in an NRT grant proposal?
    • Projects should align with the mission of the institution because sustainability of the training program is an expected project outcome. There are two ways that institutional information is provided in the application: (1) a required institutional letter and (2) student demographic information. (1) A letter from an appropriate senior administrator allows the team to clarify alignment with the institutional mission that will foster institutional support and sustainability of the project beyond the duration of NSF support. (2) In addition, projects should address plans to broaden participation as part of their recruitment, mentoring and retention strategies. A table is required within the proposal project description showing quantitative demographic data on recruitment/retention for participating graduate programs over the past 5 years. Those data will serve as a baseline as the project discusses strategies to engage inclusive cohorts of students.
  • How should NSF’s 10 Big Ideas be incorporated into an NRT application?
    • For Fiscal Year 2020, the NRT Program requests proposals in any interdisciplinary or convergent research theme of national priority, with special emphasis on (but not limited to) the six research areas within  . In addition, collaborations are encouraged between NRT proposals and existing NSF INCLUDES projects, provided the collaboration strengthens both projects.

NRT Program Directors hold monthly Q&A forums (Please click here for directions and dates). You can also email questions concerning an NRT proposal to

Interested submitters should note the deadlines:

  1. December 6th, 2019: Letters of Intent (required)
  2. February 6th, 2020: Full proposals

Our next IOS Virtual Office Hour will be on Thursday, September 19th, 2019, at 1 pm EDT, when we will be discussing the following:

  1. Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs)
  2. Research Opportunity Awards (ROAs)
  3. Research Experiences for Teachers (RETs)
  4. Meetings and Workshops
  5. EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGERs)
  6. Grants for Rapid Response Research (RAPIDs)

Refer to the blog and be on the lookout for emails with registration information for our September Virtual Office Hour.