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Additional Guidance Available on NRSA Stipends for Postdocs

We’d like to call your attention to a recently released NIH Guide notice that provides awardees with additional guidance related to the increases in postdoctoral NRSA stipends for postdoctoral researchers with 0,1 and 2 years of experience that go into effect December 1, 2016.

As you may recall from earlier blog posts, under the Department of Labor’s revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as of December 1, 2016, US salaried, full-time professional workers will be entitled to overtime pay if they are paid below the new FLSA defined threshold. As described in an op-ed by NIH Director Francis Collins and Department of Labor Director Thomas Perez, “Fair Pay for Postdocs: Why We Support New Federal Overtime Rules,” NIH will increase postdoctoral NRSA stipends to start at levels above the new FLSA threshold, recognizing the contributions that postdoctoral researchers make to the NIH mission and that postdoctoral research activities – like most biomedical research careers – often exceed forty hours a week and do not neatly fall into hourly shifts.

As described in the Nov. 4 notice, NRSA institutional training grant awardees and NRSA individual postdoctoral fellowship recipients are able to apply to the parent announcement for administrative supplements to existing NIH grants, PA-16-287 to support the stipend increases for fellows in years 0, 1, and 2 of their fellowship, for the period beginning December 1, 2016, through the end of the FY2016 award’s budget period. FY2017 awards will include year 0, 1 and 2 stipends described in NIH Guide notice NOT-OD-16-134. For projected year 3-7 stipends described in NOT-OD-16-134, FY2017 awards may be automatically adjusted in a subsequent Notice of Award, subject to availability of FY2017 appropriations.

Institutions that employ postdocs through non-NRSA support can choose how to follow the new rule. They may choose to carefully track their postdocs’ hours and pay overtime, or, they may choose to provide postdoctoral stipends at or above the new FLSA threshold. Research project grant awardees can rebudget their awards without prior approval from NIH to increase stipend costs if needed.

We recommend NRSA awardees read the notice carefully for more details related to NRSA institutional training grants and NRSA postdoctoral fellowships. We will be posting answers to other frequently asked questions related to postdoc stipends on the NIH Research Training website, and will continue to update these FAQs as we receive additional questions.

Interpretation and implementation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Department of Labor overtime regulations are under the authority of the Department of Labor and the courts. NIH takes no position on the applicability of the overtime regulations to a particular worker supported by NIH grants. Institutions should consult their own counsel and/or local Department of Labor office about the applicability of the overtime regulations, and for information on overtime obligations.

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4 thoughts on “Additional Guidance Available on NRSA Stipends for Postdocs

  1. Does the decision of federal judge, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant, who issued a nationwide junction blocking the Department of Labor’s rule requiring overtime pay for more than 4 million new workers, put a hold on the increase for the NRSA stipends for post docs?

    • NIH plans to proceed with the NRSA stipend increases as we described in the NIH Guide on November 7 and in this blog post. If there are any changes, we will alert the community. As described in the NIH Guide notice, note that the interpretation and implementation of the FLSA and the DOL overtime regulations are under the authority of the DOL and the courts. While NIH plans to raise its NRSA stipends for consistency with the spirit of the DOL’s support for increased pay, as reflected in its recent revisions to the overtime regulations, the NIH takes no position on the applicability of the overtime regulations to a particular worker supported by NIH grants. Institutions should consult their own counsel and/or local Department of Labor office about the applicability of the overtime regulations and for information on overtime obligations. NIH defers to DOJ and DOL for comment on the recent federal court order.

      • Dear Mike,
        I support NIH going forward with increasing NRSA stipends in the spirit of the DOL’s evaluation. I think it is right that NIH lead the way in support of junior postdocs, who work so hard for science, who are brilliant people, and who sacrifice their own personal gain (they could have been engineers, doctors, lawyers or businesspeople) to advance scientific knowledge.

        I urge you to do an analysis of both the cost of post-docs, and the impact of increases overall, if they were to applied to competing or non-competing NIH grant renewals. I believe we also need to keep in mind the extraordinary value that energetic, brilliant and creative post-docs bring to our important shared work.

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