Participant Information

The information below should help current research participants with questions about their appointments. Each topic provides a broad overview for that process or area. Questions about this information or something not covered within this section may be directed to the ORISE Program Contact.

  • Nature of Appointment

    Research participants (Postdocs) perform research in collaboration with a Research Advisor at the host institution and with an IC Advisor. The appointment focuses on the educational opportunities for the Postdoc and the advancement of science.

    A Postdoc is not an employee of ORISE, ORAU, the ODNI, the host facility, or any other office or agency. Instead, the individual has a “guest appointment” at the designated host facility and is affiliated with ORISE for the administration of the appointment through the ORISE Offer Letter and Terms of Appointment.

    By accepting the Terms of Appointment, the individual agrees that the receipt of stipend payments shall not be construed as an employment relationship and acknowledges there are no employment-related benefits (such as paid vacations, sick pay, FMLA family leave, unemployment compensation, or worker's compensation) associated with this appointment.

    The Postdoc must submit an annual research report prior to the end of each year. These reports summarize the research accomplishments during the appointment including publications, papers presented, conference participation, and other aspects of the appointment. If a Postdoc begins work after October in the year they receive the award, then a final report update will be required at the conclusion of the appointment as well. The release of the final stipend payment is contingent upon receipt of the final annual research report update by ORISE.

    Responsibilities of the Postdoc:

    • Conduct two years of research on awarded topic
    • Coordinate with the Research Advisor and IC Advisor
    • Publish research results, as appropriate
    • Attend and present research results at the annual IC Academic Research Symposium
    • Acknowledge that the Program is an educational experience, not a condition of employment
    • Participate at the host facility during its normal operating hours
    • Observe and conform to all applicable rules, regulations, and requirements of the host facility including, but not limited to, those respecting environment, safety, security, operating and health physics procedures, drug-free workplace notification requirements and conduct
    • Recognize that participants do not “earn” medical leave or personal leave, although the host facility may permit occasional absences (e.g., sick days and days for personal business) without reduction of the stipend payment or termination of the appointment. All absences must be approved in advance by the Research Advisor.
    • Notify ORISE if there is a change in their current address, permanent address, phone number, or e-mail address

    Postdocs should NOT:

    • Undertake activities that are reserved for federal employees
    • Supervise, appoint, mentor, evaluate, or assume any position of authority
    • Accept budget or program management authority, signature authority, official job titles, or function in any way as a representative of the federal government or their respective research facility, even if directed to by a responsible official

    Responsibilities of the Research Advisor:

    • Arrange for the Postdoc to gain access to the facility, including an orientation to the facility and its procedures
    • Be on site the first day of the Postdoc’s appointment or designate a substitute to welcome the Postdoc
    • Develop a training plan for the participant, including the attendance in meetings, conferences, special courses, etc.
    • Provide appropriate materials, equipment, safety training, technical and clerical support, and office space for the Postdoc to conduct the research
    • Provide a nurturing and stimulating intellectual atmosphere for the Postdoc
    • Provide ongoing technical guidance and advice
    • Be accessible
    • Encourage the Postdoc to publish research findings
    • Approve appropriate absences by the Postdoc

    Notify ORISE immediately if stipend payment needs to be adjusted due to an adjusted schedule, an unpaid absence, or an early termination

  • Start of Appointment

    Before a Postdoc can begin their appointment, there are several steps that need to be completed.

    • Postdocs must complete all requirements for a Ph.D. or an equivalent doctorate degree and provide proof of that qualification before beginning the appointment
    • Postdocs must return signed Appointment Letter and Terms of Appointment and all other forms and documents included in the appointment packet
    • Postdocs are required to have health insurance in place no later than the first day of the appointment
    • The Research Advisor must certify via email to ORISE the date upon which the candidate began participation
  • End of Appointment

    The duration of the research appointment is specified in the appointment letter that a Postdoc receives from ORISE. Appointment end dates should be strictly observed and may not be changed without the appropriate communication to ORISE.

    As a Postdoc’s scheduled end date approaches, ORISE will send a letter confirming the end date and outlining the procedures necessary to complete the appointment. The Postdoc will need to submit an annual research report and complete any outstanding travel reimbursement forms before the final stipend can be issued.

    Leaving an Appointment Early

    If the Postdoc decides to terminate the appointment before the official end date, he or she must immediately inform their Research Advisor, the IC Advisor, and ORISE. This notification must be submitted in writing, preferably at least 30 days before the early termination date. The Postdoc’s final stipend payment will be calculated through the last day he or she will physically be at the appointment facility.

    If the Postdoc chooses to terminate the initial appointment with less than twelve (12) months of participation, they must repay in full any relocation expenses for which he or she was reimbursed or that were paid on his or her behalf.

    The Postdoc will need to have completed the annual research report and any outstanding travel reimbursement forms before the final stipend can be issued.

    When the appointment of the Postdoc terminates, the agreement with the Research Advisor and host facility terminates, as well.

  • Stipend Information

    Postdocs receive an annual stipend of $70,000, plus a $5,000 stipend supplement to off-set the cost of health insurance. Depending on location of the research facility, the Postdoc may receive a locality supplement of up to $4,000 based on the most recent OPM Locality Pay Tables.   

    Stipend Schedule

    Stipend payments are issued on the last business day of each month.

    If the Postdoc’s appointment begins after the first day of the month or terminates before the final day of the month, the stipend award and insurance supplement for that month will be prorated based on the number of days of participation in that month.

    Direct Deposit

    Postdocs must sign up for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), i.e., direct deposit, for payments. The EFT Application form is included in the appointment packet. Payments will be electronically deposited to one account only. EFT requires the participant to have a U.S. bank account; we cannot transfer funds to foreign institutions. 

    Health Insurance Deduction

    If the participant enrolls in the ORAU health insurance plan, he/she can expect to have the premium deducted from the stipend each month. 

    Other Sources of Income

    Because the educational benefits of the appointment are the primary focus of the program, Postdocs are not allowed to supplement their stipends through simultaneous employment, grants, or other sources of income that compete with the Fellowship activities. The Program requires that the Postdoc to be fully involved in the research opportunity addressed in the original proposal. During the appointment, the Postdoc may not provide services for compensation to a third party. 

    Taxability of Stipends

    This section is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal or tax advice, or a definitive interpretation of the law.

    All stipend payments are paid by ORAU directly to the Postdoc and are considered taxable by the U.S. federal government and should be reported annually.

    Awards paid to Postdocs will be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by ORAU as Miscellaneous Income-Prizes and Awards, as defined in IRS Code Section 74. To be consistent with ORAU reporting, all payments by ORAU should be reported on the Federal income tax return, Form 1040, as “Other Income” and be identified as a “Fellowship Award.” For further instructions on how to report this amount on the federal tax return, refer to IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, which can be downloaded from www.irs.gov/formspubs or request at 1-800-829-3676.

    Since Postdocs are not employees and they receive awards (not wages), ORAU does not withhold state or Federal taxes, Social Security, worker’s compensation, or Medicare taxes from award payments. Postdocs are not self-employed, and therefore do not pay self-employment taxes. ORAU also does not withhold state income tax for any Postdoc.

    Postdocs should consider filing Form 1040-ES on a quarterly basis and paying estimated Federal income taxes; this action will help avoid being out of compliance with Federal regulations about the timeliness of tax payments.

    To assist with tax preparation, Postdocs will receive an annual Statement of Payments letter from ORAU. The Statement of Payments will specify the total amount of payments made to the Postdoc by ORAU during the previous calendar year.

    Please Note: The insurance supplement is part of the Fellowship award and, therefore, is taxable. Travel and relocation expense reimbursements, however, are not taxable and therefore are not reported to the IRS by ORAU.

    For more information on state tax liabilities and how to file federal tax forms, Postdocs must contact a licensed tax professional in their jurisdiction. We recommend that Postdocs provide to the tax preparer a copy of their most recent Terms of Appointment.

  • Health Insurance

    Postdocs are required to maintain health insurance coverage during the appointment; a lapse in coverage will terminate the appointment.

    Postdocs receive $5,000 per year (as part of the stipend) to help defray the cost of health insurance. Individual or family insurance coverage may be purchased through ORAU, or obtained through the company of the Postdoc’s choice. Vision and dental insurance plans are not available through ORAU for IC Postdoc Program participants.

    If enrolled in the ORAU health insurance plan, the full cost of the monthly premium will be deducted from the stipend payment.

    For information about the health insurance through ORAU, please visit: http://www.orau.org/healthinsurance/participant.htm.

  • Travel

    For information and questions, please visit the ORAU Travel Central website.

    Postdocs receive an annual travel allowance of $6,000 per appointment year. Such funds may be used for travel to conferences, training events, field expeditions, and other travel that will promote the educational goals of the appointment, provided that the Research Advisor concurs with the trip’s destination, purpose, and estimated cost. Postdoc travel must be in accordance with the ORAU Travel Manual.

    Unused travel funds from the first year may be carried over to the next year. However, all travel funded by the program must be completed prior to the end of the appointment.

    Travel outside the United States is NOT authorized using program funds.

    The travel allowance may be used for relocation if the Postdoc resides more than 50 miles from the assigned research facility and expenses are in compliance with the ORAU Travel Manual, which is in accordance with Federal Travel Regulations.

    Please Note: Every year, Postdocs will be required to attend and present their research at the annual IC Academic Research Symposium. This meeting is typically held in September in the Washington, DC area. Postdocs must budget their travel allowance to ensure there is funding available to attend. 

    Planning a Trip

    As soon as a trip is planned and has been verbally approved by the Research Advisor, the Postdoc should go to the Travel Information Management System (TIMS) by Chrome River and complete the online travel Pre-Approval Request Form (PA). Cost estimates must be as complete and accurate as possible to avoid unnecessary complications in the approval process. Please use the job aid on the travel web site for direction.

    Once ORAU has received the PA with the Research Advisor’s approval, we will begin processing the travel request. Our travel agent will locate the most cost-effective airfare that meets the scheduling needs, and e-mail the itinerary to the Postdoc for approval. No tickets will be purchased until the Postdoc has given his/her approval.

    Rental vehicles will be approved only if there is a business justification, and other modes of transportation are not available. We strongly recommend that the Postdoc allow ORAU to reserve the rental vehicle to ensure that the vehicle will be covered under our corporate insurance policy. Insurance policies purchased through the rental company are not reimbursable. More information on approved expenses may be found in the ORAU Travel Manual.

    Cash Advances

    If the Postdoc pays his/her own registration fee (for conferences, training sessions, etc.), ORAU can reimburse that cost before the trip has been completed. Please submit proof of payment and indicate the cost of the registration in the cash advance section of the Pre-Approval (PA) Request Form. The Postdoc will receive this advance shortly after the PA has been processed.

    ORAU cannot prepay hotel costs. However, the Postdoc may request a cash advance up to the amount of the per diem rate. This advance will be direct deposited into the Postdoc’s bank account shortly before the scheduled departure. To find per diem rates for various localities, visit the GSA website or contact the ORAU Travel Team.

    If the Postdoc receives a cash advance, and the trip is cancelled or the costs are less than estimated, he/she will be required to return the advance to ORAU.