How do I renew my NPP Fellowship?
The renewal process must be initiated by the Fellow and the Advisor at least two months prior to the Fellow's appointment termination date. The Fellow completes the on-line Application for Renewal form through their Fellow Portal web account. Once this form is submitted, the Advisor is notified of the pending renewal, reviews the Fellow’s renewal form and enters their evaluation in their on-line Advisor Portal account. After their evaluation is submitted, the NPP Center Representative is notified of the pending renewal, and accesses both the Fellow’s renewal form as well as the advisor’s evaluation form through their Center Representative portal account. The Center Representative is responsible for approving the renewal request. USRA will be notified automatically of the renewal decision, and the Fellow will be notified of the decision by e-mail. The first and second years of the appointment are most commonly supported by NPP program funds. Support for a third year, however, must be provided by the NPP Advisor’s project funds or by funding provided by the Center.
Can I apply for a second NPP Fellowship appointment?
NPP Fellows may not be selected for two consecutive awards at either one Center or two different Centers, but they are eligible for another award five years after the end of a previous appointment.
What are the citizenship requirements for the program?
U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and foreign nationals eligible for J-1 Research Scholar status may apply for an NPP Fellowship. Citizenship requirements are provided with each NPP research opportunity. Even those opportunities that are open to most foreign nationals may not be available to all foreign nationals, (for example persons who are citizens of designated countries may be excluded). Researchers who have been affiliated with an institution in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or who intend to collaborate with researchers in the PRC are not eligible for an NPP award. Applicants who think they will fall into one of these categories should contact USRA.
Is any special documentation required from non-U.S. citizens who are selected for an appointment?
Non-U.S. citizens with J-1 visa status as a Research Scholar, Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status, or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with pending LPR status are eligible to receive an NPP Fellowship. Non-U.S. citizens selected for an appointment must contact USRA concerning their visa status and provide evidence that they have the required visa status before they can begin an NPP appointment. An H-1 B status is not acceptable because the NPP is not an employment program. Non-U.S. citizens selected for an appointment must contact USRA concerning their immigration status and provide evidence that they have the required status that will allow them to participate for at least two years.
Is a security clearance required before beginning an NPP Fellowship?
NASA Centers require a background investigation before you start your appointment. You will be notified in advance by the Center regarding background investigation requirements and need for security clearances.
What determines the start and end dates for the Fellowship, and can they be changed?
Your appointment start date (the first day you report to the appointment facility to officially begin the appointment) should normally be no later than six months from the date of the USRA Offer Letter. The Offer Letter will include the approximate start date for the appointment. If there are special circumstances, such as visa requirements, that require you to change the start date or delay the start date beyond six months, you must notify the NPP Advisor, the NPP Center Representative, and USRA to confirm whether the start date can be amended. The Center may rescind the offer of appointment if you and your advisor cannot agree on a start date. The termination or end date is the last day you will be at your appointment facility. It may be amended for early departure, for non-paid leave time, or for appointment renewals.
Does USRA assist with relocation to the appointment site for the NPP Fellowship?
If the Fellow resides more than 50 miles from the assigned NASA facility, relocation assistance may be provided by USRA. Before you make any arrangements to relocate, you should contact USRA NPP staff. Relocation travel arrangements must be approved by USRA and must adhere to Federal Travel Regulations and USRA Travel Guidelines. USRA staff can provide information, assistance, and approvals for your relocation travel arrangements.
To whom do I report on the first day of my assignment?
Coordinate your arrival with your Center Representative. Normally you will report to your Advisor and your Center Representative.
What is the role of the NPP Advisor?
The NPP Advisor serves as a mentor and professional colleague but does not act as a supervisor. The Advisor guides the Postdoctoral Fellow in all aspects of the research or management activity and provides office space, equipment, office supplies, publication costs, and expendables required to accomplish the proposed research; information on security and safety; expected attendance schedules; and other requirements relevant to the location of your appointment.
Can NPP Fellows submit grant proposals and serve as Principal Investigators during an NPP appointment?
NPP Fellows are not allowed to supplement their stipends through simultaneous employment, grants, or other sources of income that compete with the Fellowship activities. During their appointments, NPP Fellows perform the research activities stated in the proposal submitted with the NPP application.
NASA discourages NPP Fellows from generating and submitting proposals in the first year of the appointment because Fellows are expected to focus on the research proposed in the NPP applications and publish the results in peer-reviewed journals. The NPP Fellow's Advisors and host NASA Center or facilities provides the required office, laboratory space, instruments, computers and access, data, supplies, books, publication charges, poster printing, etc., for the Fellow to promptly initiate their research upon arrival. Therefore, the Fellow need not secure funds to facilitate the research proposed on the application.
NASA understands that proposal writing is part of a science career, and, therefore, Fellows may desire to generate proposals during the second year of the appointment. The general guidelines regarding proposals can be found in the Policies and Procedures Handbook, Section 15, "Proposals". For additional details or questions, please contact your Center Representative or Dr. Max Bernstein at NASA HQ.
What is the process for an NPP Fellow to be named Science PI on a proposal submitted to the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES)?
If submitting to a NASA solicitation through Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES), the NPP Fellow can be named as the Science Principal Investigator (Science PI) or Co-Investigator (Co-I) in the “Add a Team Member” and be provided the requisite privileges. This should ensure credit for the proposal. In other venues the Fellow may be named as Co-I. During proposal submission in NSPIRES, the PI can go to the “Add Team Member” page, choose “Co-I/Science PI” on the “Role” drop list, and assign the team member with necessary privileges (Proposal Summary, Business Data, Budget, Program Specific Data, Team Members, and Proposal Attachments).
The NPP Fellow should be referred to in the proposal as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow with a guest researcher appointment at the appropriate host NASA Center or facility. Unless the Fellow is ending their Fellowship and is submitting the proposal as PI as a contingent USRA employee, USRA should not be referred to in the proposal, except (if needed) as the organization that administers the NASA Postdoctoral Program. For detailed information please see the Policies and Procedures Handbook.
Can an NPP Fellow serve as a ‘peer reviewer’ on a proposal in NSPIRES?
NASA has invited NPP Fellows to volunteer to serve as peer reviewers through the NSPIRES process. When registering on NSPIRES, the Fellows should “affiliate” themselves with the NASA Center at which they reside, not with USRA. Also, the Fellows should identify themselves in NSPIRES as peer reviewers, rather than principal investigators.
Can NPP Fellows receive compensation from other sources during a Fellowship appointment?
No. NPP Fellows must devote their efforts entirely to the NASA-sponsored research program for which the award was made. An NPP Fellow may not receive funding to augment their income from another appointment, Fellowship, scholarship, or similar grant during the term of the appointment. NPP Fellows may contribute to proposals as long as the proposed research directly supports the NPP Fellowship appointment, but may not receive compensation for the contributions.
Can an NPP Fellow receive a monetary award or some other type of award for professional recognition?
NPP Fellows can receive a plaque or certificate of appreciation or recognition, but are not allowed to receive monetary awards in any form for research being supported by the NPP Fellowship. NPP Fellows are not allowed to supplement their stipends through simultaneous employment, grants, or other sources of income that compete with the Fellowship activities. NASA requires that the Fellow be fully involved in the research and educational opportunities available in the NPP appointment. During the appointment, the Fellow may not provide services for compensation to a third party. But awards, prizes, review panel honoraria, scholarships, Veterans Administration benefits, sabbatical leave compensation, and similar payments may be accepted by an NPP Fellow, provided these payments do not represent dual payment for the research being supported by the NPP Fellowship. Monetary awards given by the Center for ‘research activities’ may not be accepted.
What are the requirements for publications?
Fellows are encouraged to publish their research findings in the peer-reviewed open literature. They are required to adhere to the host facility’s requirements for prior review and approval of all material, whether written or prepared for oral presentation. All publications should include appropriate acknowledgment of the NASA Postdoctoral Program appointment, the host facility, and USRA. See Section 14, Reports and Publications Acknowledgement, in the NPP Policies and Procedures for more information
Are there guidelines regarding copyrights and patents?
Guidelines and procedures for publications, copyrights, and patents should be discussed with the NASA Advisor and NPP Center Representative at the start of the appointment. See Section 2, Publications, Copyrights, Patents, in the NPP Policies and Procedures for more information.
Are publication charges covered by my award?
Publication charges are not a part of the NPP award budget. Such costs should be provided by the NPP Advisor’s project funds or by the host facility. Fellows should discuss their host facility’s publication policy with their NASA Advisor and their NPP Center Representative.
Is there any required reporting by NPP Fellows?
Yes. Each NPP Fellow must submit a Final Report immediately prior to the end of the appointment. The Final Report should summarize the research accomplishments during the Fellowship appointment. The Final Report is submitted by completing a brief web-based form that includes sections for listing all publications, papers presented, conference participation, and other aspects of the appointment. The release of the final stipend payment is contingent upon receipt of the Final Report by USRA. In addition, each Center may also have annual and end-of-appointment reporting requirements. Ask your Center Representative for details.
Can the NPP logo be used on posters? If not, can the round NPP logo be placed in at the bottom, adjacent to other round logos from partnering agencies?
Because the NASA style guide prohibits the use of any logo other than the NASA logo for branding purposes, the round NPP logo cannot be used alone at the top of a poster. The “stacked” NPP logo can be used as a graphic element in the heading of the body of the poster. The NPP Poster Style Guide demonstrates the correct placement of logos. The NASA identification--combination of the spelled out agency name on the left and the NASA logo (meatball) on the right--must always have more prominence than the NPP "graphic header." It must also always have the same spacing between it and the NPP graphic header.
What if I need to terminate my appointment before the official end date?
Fellows must immediately inform their Advisor, the NPP Center Representative, and USRA. This written notification should be submitted at least 30 days before the early termination date. If fellows terminate their initial appointment with fewer than twelve months of participation, the fellow must repay in full any reimbursed relocation expenses and/or stipend advance they may have received. The fellow must also submit a Final Report and settle any outstanding travel expense statements.
Does the program provide funds for purchasing equipment, software, books, etc., needed for the proposed research?
Anticipated research needs and special requirements necessary to conduct the proposed research should be identified in the NPP application (see the Research Proposal section of the application). The NPP Advisor or NASA Center must provide all hardware, software, books, publication charges, printing/laminating of posters and/or handouts for presentations at conferences or meetings and other equipment needed for the proposed research. Programmatic funds (e.g., travel budget) cannot be used to pay for these and other items needed for the proposed research.
Can there be a break between the second and third years?
No, the appointment must be continuous; a break between appointment years is not allowed.
How is my stipend determined?
The stipend amount for Postdoctoral Fellows is based on the location of appointment and degree specialty. The stipend amount for Senior Fellows is based on the location of the appointment, experience (number of years beyond the doctoral degree), and career achievement (academic rank and professional title).
When and how will Fellows be paid?
Stipends are paid on the last business day of each month. USRA encourages electronic deposit to an account of the Fellow’s choice, which ensures regular and timely deposits and documentation. If you begin your fellowship on or after the 24th of the month, your stipend payment for this first month will be paid in the next month’s stipend. Stipend payments will be pro-rated if the Fellow is participates for only part of a month.
I received my stipend deposit statement and I don’t understand the amounts. It appears that the entire insurance premium was deducted from my stipend.
If you are enrolled in the USRA Aetna health insurance program, then NASA will pay approximately 85% of your insurance premium, and you will pay the remainder. The NASA portion of the monthly insurance premium is considered part of the stipend award. This NASA health insurance contribution is shown as part of the stipend on the “Statement of Earnings” each month. For example, if your monthly stipend is $4,200 and you have elected to purchase insurance coverage through USRA, your pay stub would reflect the following information:
Amount of check or deposit = $4,200 + NASA’s portion of insurance - full cost of insurance. (In addition, a foreign national may have taxes withheld at a rate of 14% from the stipend, unless there is an exemption from withholding based on the tax treaty between the US and the country of origin.) If a Fellow only participates in the Postdoctoral Program for a part of a month, the Fellow’s stipend amount and insurance contribution will be pro-rated.
When are Insurance Premiums Paid?
Monthly insurance premiums are paid at the end of the month.
What if I work only part of a month?
If your appointment begins after the first day of the month or terminates before the final day of the month, your stipend for that month will be prorated based on the number of days of participation in that month.
Are stipend advances available?
You may request from USRA an advance of up to 50 percent of your first month’s stipend. You must request the advance in writing at least 30 days prior to the starting date specified in your signed Offer Letter. A check for the advance stipend payment will be given to you by the NPP Center Representative on the day your appointment officially begins and you are in residence at the facility. The amount of the advance is recovered by reducing your stipend pay by a fixed amount each month for the number of months you specify (up to ten months). If you terminate your appointment before the advance has been repaid, you must repay the advance in full before your final check will be released.
Is health insurance required during my appointment?
Yes. If you already have health insurance, all pertinent information must be included on the signed Terms of Appointment. Before the appointment can begin, you must also provide a copy of your insurance card. If you do not already have health insurance, you may purchase coverage through the Aetna group plan offered by USRA.
What are the options for health benefits under the NASA Postdoctoral Program?
USRA offers Fellows the opportunity to participate in an NPP group health insurance plan from Aetna. USRA also offers optional dental and vision insurance coverage for NASA Fellows at the fellow’s expense.
Am I responsible for paying taxes on NASA’s portion of my health insurance premium?
Yes, NASA supplements your stipend to offset the cost of your health insurance through USRA. Since that supplement is considered part of your stipend, it is taxable.
What if I have an accident while engaged in activities related to my appointment?
Fellows are covered by accident and death/dismemberment insurance (worker’s compensation-type insurance), which covers you while engaged in official research/research management activities related to your appointment. This insurance covers allowable expenses that are not covered by a personal health insurance policy. Fellows must immediately report any injury received while engaged in appointment-related research/research management activities to your Advisor, the NPP Center Representative, and the USRA NPP Director.
Are Fellows considered employees of USRA or NASA?
No. An NPP Fellow is not an employee of NASA, USRA, the host facility, or any other office or agency. The Fellow is affiliated with USRA for the administration of the appointment through the USRA Offer Letter and Terms of Appointment and has a guest appointment at the NASA-designated facility.
Does a Fellow earn vacation or sick leave during the appointment?
Fellows are not employees; therefore, there are no employment-related benefits such as paid vacations, sick leave, or unemployment compensation. With the approval of the NPP Advisor and the NPP Center Representative, however, a Fellow may be excused from participation for brief periods due to illness, personal emergencies, or other unforeseen circumstances. To mimic NASA policy for new employees, the NPP allows Fellows to be absent from the Center for 13 days during each twelve month period of appointment. This “13-day principle” is monitored locally by the Center Representative and Advisor. Federal holidays and special circumstances (i.e. Center is closed due to inclement weather) do not count towards this total. For absences that exceed the limits of the “13-day principle,” the NPP Center Representative will notify USRA of the absence and may request a temporary suspension of the Fellow’s stipend. This notification should occur at least two weeks prior to the absence.
Is paid parental leave available?
Paid parental leave is not available. The principles of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guide absences from the Center by Fellows who become new parents by virtue of birth, adoption, or the new placement of a foster child. Applying those principles, up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave may be granted to a Fellow with approval from the Advisor and NPP Center Representative. The Fellow must discuss the anticipated leave dates with the Advisor and NPP Center Representative well in advance. The NPP Center Representative will notify USRA of the approved dates for the leave. The appointment completion date will be extended by the number of days the Fellow is on leave, so long as funding is available. During a leave authorized for the birth or adoption of a child or the placement of a foster child, NASA will continue to pay its share of the Fellow’s health insurance if the Fellow is already enrolled in the Aetna NPP group insurance plan through USRA. The Fellow, however, must continue to pay the out-of-pocket portion of the premium during the unpaid leave. Since insurance premiums are paid one month in advance, USRA must receive the Fellow’s personal check(s) two weeks before the first day of the month that the premium is due.
Does USRA withhold federal and state income taxes for Fellows who are U.S. citizens?
Since NPP Fellows are not employees, and since they receive awards (not wages), USRA does not withhold state or federal income taxes from award payments for U.S. citizens. Participants, therefore, should consider filing Form 1040-ES on a quarterly basis and paying estimated federal income taxes to avoid late payment penalties. Travel expense reimbursements (including relocation costs) are not taxable.
Fellows should consult a tax accountant or other tax professional regarding state and federal income tax requirements. NPP Fellows receive award payments from USRA, which are reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by USRA as “Miscellaneous Income — prizes and awards” as defined in IRS Code Section 74. All payments by USRA should be reported on the Fellow's federal income tax return Form 1040 as "Other Income" and be identified as a "Fellowship Award."
Does USRA withhold federal and state income taxes for Fellows who are foreign nationals?
USRA will review existing treaties between the Fellow's country of citizenship and the U.S. to determine federal income tax withholdings. In general, USRA is required to withhold 14% of the monthly stipend from non-US citizens on a J-1 Visa for federal income tax purposes unless an exemption from withholding is provided by tax treaty between the US and the country of origin. USRA does not withhold state income taxes. Travel expense reimbursements (including relocation costs) reported to USRA are not taxable. Fellows should consult a tax accountant or other tax professional regarding state and federal income tax requirements. NPP Fellows receive award payments from USRA, which are reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by USRA as “Miscellaneous Income — prizes and awards” as defined in IRS Code Section 74. All payments by USRA should be reported on the Fellow’s federal income tax return Form 1040 as “Other Income” and be identified as a “Fellowship Award.”
Are NPP Fellows exempt from paying self-employment taxes?
Yes. Since NPP Fellows are not employees and since they receive awards (not wages), they are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Am I responsible for paying taxes on NASA’s portion of my health insurance premium?
Yes, NASA supplements your stipend to offset the cost of your health insurance through USRA. Since that supplement is part of your stipend, it is taxable.
When is reimbursement allowed for relocation?
If a Fellow resides more than 50 miles from the assigned NASA facility, limited reimbursement of expenses for relocating from the Fellow’s current residence address to the area of the assigned NASA facility will be provided. Reimbursement of any allowable expenses must adhere to the Federal Travel Regulations and USRA/NPP Travel Guidelines. Fellows should contact USRA before any relocation plans are made. See Relocation, in Section 8 of the NPP Policies and Procedures for more information.
When I terminate my NPP appointment, will I be reimbursed for outbound relocation?
U.S. citizen Postdoctoral Fellows will not be reimbursed for outbound moving expenses when their appointments end. Senior Fellows on sabbatical may qualify for limited reimbursement, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Non-U.S. citizen Fellows who relocate from outside the United States may be provided a limited allowance for outbound relocation to return to their home countries when their appointments terminate. Non-U.S. citizen Fellows who relocate from outside the United States and will remain in the U.S. after the termination of the NPP appointment, and non-U.S. citizen Fellows who are already residing in the United States when the appointment offer is made, will not be reimbursed for outbound relocation expenses.
Is professional and programmatic travel paid for during the Fellowship appointment?
Yes. Your NPP Fellowship appointment provides $8,000 per appointment year for travel to professional meetings and conferences; to gather research-related data at field sites or observatories; and for required training (including registration fees) related to the research. Any books, workbooks, software, equipment, or other materials required for training, which are not included in the registration fee, must be provided by the NPP Advisor or host facility. Also, travel funds cannot be used to purchase equipment, software, books; pay membership fees in professional societies, publication charges, abstract fees, printing/laminating of posters and/or handouts for presentations at conferences and meetings; or purchase other materials and supplies.
Are the unused travel funds from a previous year carried over when the appointment is renewed?
Does USRA have a travel agent to assist with travel arrangements, or will we make our own travel plans?
USRA uses Travel and Transport (www.tandt.com) to assist with NPP travel. Travel requests must be approved by the Advisor and Center Representative and submitted at least three weeks prior to the departure date for domestic travel and at least four weeks in advance for foreign travel. Once travel is completed, Fellows will request re-imbursements from USRA.
Can a Fellow make his/her own travel arrangements, pay for it or any part of it up front, and still be reimbursed by USRA?
It is recommended that Fellows purchase airfare through the USRA travel agent, Travel and Transport (but are not required to do so). If the travel was authorized by NASA and approved by USRA, travel reimbursement will be in accordance with the USRA travel policy. If the USRA travel agent is not used, we advise that the Fellow consult with USRA prior to purchasing airfare to ensure that the travel complies with the Fly America Act so that the airfare will be reimbursable. See USRA Travel Policy - Fly America Act. If you are a non-U.S. citizen Fellow and plan to travel outside the United States, you must have the proper documents you will need to re-enter the United States. See Section 10, Travel During Appointment, in the NPP Policies and Procedures for more information.
Can a Fellow have personal travel during the appointment?
In general, you may travel for personal reasons during the appointment. The NPP Center Representative must notify USRA of any personal travel that will result in an unpaid absence from the Center at least two weeks in advance of the Fellow’s departure date. All personal travel by non-U.S. Citizen Fellows and their legal dependents must be coordinated through USRA prior to travel. For travel outside the United States, you must have the proper documents you will need to re-enter the United States. See Section 10, Travel During Appointment, of the NPP Policies and Procedures for more information.
Can a Fellow have personal travel along with programmatic travel?
Personal travel may be taken as part of programmatic travel, but the number of days of personal travel should be less than the number of days of programmatic travel. Expenses associated with personal travel cannot be re-imbursed from the Fellow’s programmatic funds. All personal travel must be coordinated through USRA and pre-approved by your NPP Advisor and NPP Center Representative at your facility.
How far in advance should the Fellow submit an approved Travel Approval to USRA?
For domestic travel within the U.S., submit the approved travel request at least 3 weeks in advance. For foreign travel, submit the approved travel request at least 4 weeks prior to the departure date.
Can I be reimbursed for lodging and per diem if I will be attending a local conference?
If conference participation and commute time to a local conference is 12 hours or more, then yes this is considered Business travel and you would be eligible for a travel reimbursement per the NPP travel manual. If conference participation and commute time to the local conference is less than 12 hours, then this is considered local travel and your reimbursement is limited to items such as mileage, tolls, parking and conference fees.
Who do I contact for more information?
Potential applicants should send questions to the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) helpdesk: firstname.lastname@example.org. A full list of USRA contacts is at