Being able to balance work and family life is important for everyone, including biomedical and behavioral researchers. Here are some of the ways in which NIH helps our grantee institutions foster family-friendly environments for the NIH-supported workforce.
Funding Time Off for Family Needs
NIH supports researchers taking time off to care for a family member or in the event of a personal disability. NIH grant awards (with the exception of Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards - see below) allow for reimbursement of actual, allowable costs incurred for child care, parental leave, or additional technical support provided such costs are incurred under formally-established institutional policies that are consistently applied regardless of the source of support. For more information on using grant funds, see the frequently asked questions below.
If necessary, the grantee institution can request an administrative supplement to cover these types of costs. The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has highlighted this opportunity by issuing a special supplement for NIAID grantees to hire a mid- to senior-level technician to fill in when postdoctoral research scientists who are taking care of a child or sick family member need to be away from the lab.
National Research Service Awards (NRSA)
Trainees and fellows may receive stipends for up to 60 calendar days (equivalent to 8 work weeks) of parental leave per year for the adoption or the birth of a child when those in comparable training positions at the grantee organization have access to this level of paid leave for this purpose. Either parent is eligible for parental leave. The use of parental leave must be approved by the training program director. For more information, see policy notice NOT-OD-08-064 and the NRSA leave section of the Grants Policy Statement.
Career Development Awards
Awardees may request adjustments to their appointment status or percent effort for personal or family situations such as parental leave, child care, elder care, medical conditions, or a disability. For example, awardees may request to reduce their appointment to less than full-time (but not less than three-quarter time) for a period not to exceed 12 continuous months during the award project period. For more information, see policy notice NOT-OD-09-036 and the applicable leave policies in the Grants Policy Statement.
Providing Opportunities to Describe Delays in Scientific Productivity
In 2011, NIH modified the biosketch guidelines for NIH grant applications to allow explanations of how personal circumstances may have delayed an individual’s transition to an independent career or reduced their scientific productivity. See policy notices NOT-OD-11-045 and NOT-OD-11-050 for more details.
Extending Early Stage Investigator Eligibility
Early stage investigators (ESI) who have experienced a lapse in their research or research training during the 10-year ESI period can request an extension of their ESI eligibility. Generally, the period of extension is equivalent to the time away. See policy notice NOT-OD-09-034 for more details.
Supporting Re-entry through Supplements
Postdocs or faculty members who have taken time off to care for children or attend to other responsibilities and who want to bring their research skills and knowledge up-to-date are eligible to apply for these supplements. The commitment can be full or part-time, and at completion, it is anticipated that the individual would be competitive for a career development award, a research award, or some other form of independent research support. For more information, see the funding opportunity announcement PA-08-191 and the program factsheet (PDF - 760 KB).
Requiring Child Care at NIH-supported Conferences
For applicants writing a conference grant, they must include in their application plans to identify resources for child care and other types of family care at the conference site to allow individuals with family care responsibilities to attend (see section IV of the funding opportunity announcement PA-10-071).
Can Institutions use grant funds for dependent care expenses?
Yes, NIH grant awards provide for reimbursement of actual, allowable costs incurred and are subject to OMB Cost Principles. Generally, institutions treat child care expenses as an employee or fringe benefit. Fringe benefits are allowable as part of overall compensation to employees in proportion to the amount of time or effort employees devote to the grant-supported project, provided such costs are incurred under formally established institutional policies that are consistently applied regardless of the source of support. Alternatively, child care expenses may be incorporated into facilities and administrative (F&A) costs (also known as indirect costs).
Can grant funds be used for child care when employees of grantee institutions attend project-related conferences and meetings?
Yes. As noted in the answer to the previous question, NIH grant awards provide for reimbursement of actual, allowable costs incurred and are subject to OMB Cost Principles. Generally, travel costs associated with project-relevant conferences are allowable if reasonable and consistent with the institution's established travel policy.
Can institutions use grant funds to provide interim administrative support to researchers to accommodate family care needs?
Yes, but with rare exception such charges will be recovered as indirect costs rather than a direct charge to a NIH-supported project. Costs associated with administrative support generally must be charged to indirect (F&A) costs. For exceptions, see the applicable OMB Cost Circular at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars/index.html.
Can institutions use grant funds to provide interim technical support to researchers to accommodate family care needs?
Technical, project-related support usually can be charged to direct costs. In general, unless the changes indicate a potential change in project scope, NIH grantees are allowed to rebudget within and between budget categories to meet unanticipated needs and to make other types of post-award changes.
How do NIH-supported institutions cover costs for child care or interim administrative support in their fringe benefit or indirect cost rates?
The HHS Division of Cost Allocation found that many grantees offer subsidized child care centers and have negotiated costs associated with such centers into their employee benefit rates. No grantee was identified that covers such costs through indirect costs. To clarify, child care support is generally covered as a fringe benefit cost and administrative support is recovered as an indirect cost. Administrative support normally cannot be covered by direct costs for this purpose. Direct charges for administrative costs are allowable only for ‘major projects' as defined in OMB Circular A-21 and the provision of temporary support for this purpose is not included.
Can the final budget period of a federal grant be extended for researchers who take a leave of absence due to care-giving responsibilities?
If a PD/PI is going to be absent for an extended period, can the institution request appointment of an interim PD/PI?
Yes. Provisions associated with the extended absence of the PD/PI or other senior/key personnel are described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
Can NIH extend parental leave available for the birth or adoption of a child?
Yes, such costs may be charged to NIH research grants, but only if parental leave is available to all employees with comparable appointments at an institution and the charges are appropriately allocated to the project. A separate policy applies to Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) recipients because they are not considered employees of the grantee or sponsoring institution. Parental leave policies under Kirschstein-NRSA Individual Fellowships and Institutional Research Training Grants permit 60 calendar days of parental leave per year and 15 calendar days of sick leave per year, provided such leave benefits are available to all comparable students and/or postdocs.