Appointments – Set Up and Manage
Trainee Recruitment and Selection
Each PI and managing department may handle the process of trainee recruitment and selection differently. Generally, candidate recruitment occurs through a selection process by respective departments or programs using criteria such as GRE scores, grade transcripts, recommendation letters, publications, and personal interviews. Because the trainee positions are competitive, an appointed committee is a common way to review applications. This committee can be comprised of mentors not involved with the trainee or the potential mentor.
All current employees applying for a trainee position should be informed that their status will change to a full-time trainee and they will not receive the same benefits as an employee (no retirement or FICA, etc.).
All trainees should be informed that their training stipend may be taxable and that the university does not withhold taxes on stipends. See more information at the UW finance site.
What do I need to know about setting up and managing appointments on a NRSA Institutional Training Grant?
- A Statement Of Appointment (SOA) is required for every trainee set up through xTrain.
- NIH stipend amounts, are strictly set and often trainees may need a second appointment to supplement.
- NIH has strict guidelines for stipend supplementation for trainees.
- NIH guidelines prohibit trainees from being treated as UW employees (see NIH FAQs). The sponsoring institution may choose to report trainee income on an IRS 1099 form.
- There are different leave policies for UW employees versus NIH trainees. Predocs and Postdocs at the UW are governed by different union contracts, as well.
Remember to check the guidelines for your school or college as guidelines can vary by department (e.g., School of Medicine has very specific guidelines on appointment types/job classes.)
How do I Communicate the Terms and Conditions of the Traineeship?
The terms and conditions of a traineeship should be communicated to selected applicants in writing. This document should come from the PI or department managing the training grant, with sufficient time for the applicant to respond prior to appointing them in xTrain and Workday. This document should contain:
- Information about the stipend and other funding support being offered.
- The dates of the traineeship.
- Information about the possibility of renewing the traineeship and relevant details.
- NIH requirements for trainees, such as an individual development plan, education in the responsible conduct of research, education in rigor, reproducibility, and transparency, and (for postdocs) the payback agreement. NIH requirements change and may vary by institute/center, so be sure to include the requirements that pertain to your award. Useful links for this section may include:
- Graduate School guidance on individual development plans
- NIGMS information on individual development plans
- The Biomedical Research Integrity if this is the means by which you have trainees fulfill their responsible conduct of research training.
- UW Medicine Training, which has information on a rigor, reproducibility, and transparency series.
- NIH payback requirements for postdoctoral trainees
- Training program requirements for trainees, such as participation in certain activities, meetings, and events, submission of progress reports, enrollment in certain courses, and/or registration for a certain number of credits.
- Training program requirements for trainee mentors, such as participation in events and activities, submission of progress reports, and/or provision of additional funding for the trainee.
- Instructions for the trainee and mentor to respond, such as by signing and returning the document.
Note that if the same department that is managing the training grant is also managing the traineeship appointment in Workday, these terms and conditions can be included as part of the formal offer/appointment letter described below.
What are the steps in setting up an appointment in xTrain within eRA Commons?
Steps for setting up an appointment include:
- Verify all participants have an eRA Commons account. Review eRA Commons Roles at the UW.
- Complete a Statement of Appointment (SOA) for each trainee using xTrain in eRA Commons. This function can be performed by the PI, or delegated by the PI to the role of Administrative Assistant (ASST).
- Trainee must approve the Statement of Appointment in xTrain.
- PI approves the appointment after the trainee has approved. Make sure the PI waits to approve the appointment until after the trainee has approved. (If a PI approves before the trainee, problems result.).
BEST PRACTICES/TIP: Communicating with Trainees about their required actions in xTrain can be complex. Use these email templates for all activities the trainees have to undertake.
Training Resources for xTrain
There are numerous xTrain training resources at the NIH website.
How do I create a formal Offer/Appointment Letter?
A formal Offer / Appointment Letter should come from the department managing the trainee’s stipend appointment in Workday, providing a job description, funding and benefits information, and union-related information. The exact contents and format of the Appointment Letter will depend on whether the trainee is a graduate student or a postdoc.
Predoctoral trainees on NRSA training grants in the School of Medicine are appointed under the title Graduate Trainee Stipend (NE UAW ASE), and are governed by the UAW Academic Student Employees union contract. Article 4 – Appointment and Reappointment Notification and Job Description (and particularly sections 5 and 6) outlines the information that must be communicated to ASE employees as part of the offer process, and can be used as a checklist for the content of the letter, or your department or program may have its own template for this purpose.
In addition, you may want to include the following:
- A statement that no taxes will be withheld from their stipend, with links to NIH Grants Policy Statement 11.3.10 regarding taxability. You may also wish to include information about the IRS withholding estimator and how to change withholdings in Workday, which can be found in this Trainee Stipend Tax Email Sample, or send a version of that email separately, to highlight it for your trainees.
- A link to NIH vacation, sick, and parental leave policy for NRSA trainees, which may be different than the policies for other graduate student employees.
- Signature lines for the trainee and their mentor, as well as any other parties you typically include on graduate student employment offer letters.
Notes about Postdoctoral trainees appointments:
- Most Postdoctoral trainees will be appointed using the Postdoctoral Scholar-Fellow title.
- If a trainee is also privileged as an attending physician as part of their University responsibilities, they are appointed to the training grant with the job title Clinician Researcher – Stipend.
- If the trainee is enrolled in a clinical fellowship program or engaged in research related to their clinical training program, they are appointed as Fellow Non-ACGME – Stipend. See School of Medicine guidance on appointments for Clinician Researchers and Fellow Non-ACGME – Stipend.
For postdoctoral scholar-fellows new to your training grant, use the UW Office of Academic Personnel’s Postdoctoral Scholar New Hire Offer Letter Template, and for those continuing for a second or third year on your training grant, use the Postdoctoral Scholar/Postdoctoral Scholar-Fellow Reappointment Letter Template.
A few things to note about the letter templates:
- In the Responsibilities/Duties section, you may want to include information about the training program requirements, or refer to a separate document (such as the terms and conditions document described above) that outlines these requirements.
- In the Compensation section, include information about the source of the traineeship funding, including the grant number and name of the training grant, the training grant stipend amount, as well as information about the amount and source of any supplement the trainee will receive. This may also be a good place to mention that no taxes will be withheld from their stipend, and provide links to NIH Grants Policy Statement 22.214.171.124 and NIH Grants Policy Statement 126.96.36.199 regarding taxability. You can also include information about the IRS withholding estimator and how to change withholdings in Workday, which can be found in this Trainee Stipend Tax Email Sample, and/or send a version of that email separately, to highlight it for your trainees.
- Include the Time Off and Leave section, with a link to the NIH Grants Policy Statement information on leave for trainees.
The Offer Letter should include:
- Job description.
- Academic Student Employee (ASE) Union requirements (if the trainee is a pre-doctoral student)
- A requirement for an Individual Development Plan, if appropriate. Guidance on developing an IDP is on the NIGMS webpage
- Payback requirements for Postdoctoral trainees. This is significant since they may have to fulfill the payback requirement even when they are no longer a trainee. Trainees must complete the Payback Form in order to start receiving pay.
- Tax status of trainee stipends (no taxes are deducted).
- Signature lines for the chair, the supervising faculty member, and the student.
- NIH has strict policies on overlapping work projects for trainees. See the NIH policy on stipend supplementation or compensation from part-time employment or outside activities, NIH Grants Policy and Guidance Statement section 11.3.10. NIH limits the number of hours trainees may work outside their training grant appointment to no more than 10, see the NIH announcement.
- School of Medicine has very specific policies and guidelines on extra compensation, see their training grant information website.
- Note that in some cases stipend supplementation is required in order to get Postdocs up to the UAW-mandated minimum salaries.
Tuition (in full or in part) and some fees are covered per NIH policy, and other fees are waived by UW; see the Tuition Dashboard from the Office of Planning and Budgeting for information on fee types. The Operating Fee is charged to grants; the Tech Fee is paid by a central UW budget. Graduate students are responsible for the S&A Fee, IMA Bond Fee and Facilities Renovation (FR) Fee. Institutional training grant trainees are generally required to pay for their own UPass. See Post Award Fiscal Compliance guidelines about allowability of tuition and other fee waivers.
If trainees are in a job class code covered by union policies (08-59), they are part of the union and must pay union dues; they have the same leave policy as a Research Assistant (RA). Access the UAW Academic Student Employees (ASEs) Contract that includes leave policies, job class codes, etc.
The University of Washington does not withhold federal income taxes on fellowships and traineeships. Fellows and trainees will receive an income statement in January on a 1099 from the Payroll Office. Information on “taxability” can be found in the NIH Grants Policy in section 188.8.131.52.
You may want to mention this in the appointment letter or in an informal email. This Trainee Stipend Tax Email Sample highlights information you may want to include. Review all student tax information on the Student Fiscal Services webpage and share with trainees.
How do I terminate an appointment?
A PI initiates the termination within eRA Commons using XTrain and electronically files Form PHS 416-7 which can be found in the Manage Fellows and Trainees section of the NIH Forms Library. This must be done within 30 days of the effective date of termination of the final appointment or upon taking a leave of absence.
- The trainee and the PI electronically sign (certify) the Termination Notice, and route it to the Business Official.
- eRA Commons sends an auto-generated e-mail to Grant and Contract Accounting (GCA) as the Business Official (BO).
- GCA will review, check the budget to ensure that the trainee has been paid the correct stipend amount, and either route the Termination Notice to NIH for approval or contact the department to request additional information and possible corrections. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If an early termination occurs when a trainee is leaving the institution, make sure the trainee certifies prior to leaving. Once they are gone it can be very challenging to get in touch with them or they may have issues logging into eRA Commons without access to their UW email.
- Beware of the quirks around recalculating stipend! Early terminations that occur off the payroll-cycle (not ending on the 15th or end-of-month) cause problems, and it is very difficult to get the amounts to match what was on the SOA with the termination notice. (Fortunately, PI’s can enter the final amount manually so it will be matched and GCA can reconcile.)
Appointment Records Retention
There is no need to keep paper copies of termination and appointment documents for active grants if appointments have been terminated with no adjustments necessary and are recorded in XTrain.
Each year you have to reappoint your Trainees in xTrain, and that includes submission of a Statement Of Appointment (SOA).
The SOA form doesn’t reset the stipend amount when you are reappointing a trainee. You have to save the form, back out to the trainee roster, and then set the stipend amount.
Forms, Tools, and Resources
- Individual Development Plan Template
- Student Fiscal Services Departmental Scholarships and Fellowships Page
- xTrain for Trainees Email Template
- NIH Manage Trainees and Fellows Page
- Training Grant Trainee Stipend Tax Information Email
- UW Office of Planning and Budgeting Graduate Appointment Waivers
- UW Grants and Contract Accounting (GCA) Training Grant FAQs