An applicant who has been selected by NASA for a NASA Postdoctoral Program award will receive a formal offer from ORAU. The offer consists of an offer letter, terms of appointment, and supporting materials.
The ORAU offer letter and terms of appointment state the conditions of the fellowship award and provide information on appointment start and end dates; stipend; professional and programmatic travel support; relocation assistance, if applicable; conditions, obligations, and responsibilities of the appointment; appointment facility; health insurance; taxability of stipends and other payments.
The appointment start date is the first day the Fellow will be at their appointed facility, and the completion date is the last day the Fellow will be at their host facility. The timeframe of the appointment is approved by the NPP advisor but can be amended, if necessary, with approval by the advisor and the NPP Center representative at the appointed facility. The Fellow's completion date may be amended for a variety of reasons, including early departure, appointment renewals, etc.
The Fellow's NPP advisor and NPP Center representative will verify the start date by providing ORAU with a Certification of Start Date form on the first day the Fellow reports to the NASA (or affiliated) facility to begin the appointment. ORAU must have proof of the doctorate research degree and all other required ORAU forms and/or requested documents no later than the official start date of the appointment, before the stipend can begin.
The national response to the COVID-19 epidemic necessitates temporary modifications to initial and current appointment policies. For the duration of the COVID-19 epidemic, as determined by NASA, these modifications include:
- The appointment “start date” is redefined as the first day that a Fellow is able to begin their research or management program regardless of whether the Fellow is physically present at their host facility.
- Contingent upon a U.S. Social Security number, a U.S. bank account, and, when applicable, a U.S. J-1 Visa, Fellows who are in the United States, both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens, may start their NPP tenure by reporting remotely to their host facility with the agreement of the NPP advisor, the Center representative, and ORAU.
- New Fellows not yet in the United States, however, cannot be offered remote accommodation unless they are able to provide to ORAU a U.S. Social Security number and a U.S. bank account for direct deposit of stipend payments.
- In cases where the research or management program planned by the new Fellow is not executable due to shelter-in-place orders, etc., then the Fellow will be offered an alternative activity by the NPP advisor. A Fellow may also suggest an alternate activity to the NPP advisor for approval.
- In cases where a current Fellow's research or management program cannot be completed due to shelter-in-place orders, etc., then an alternative activity should be identified and agreed to by the NPP advisor and the Fellow. In such cases, the NPP advisor, subject to the availability of NASA funding and with the agreement of the Center representative, may request a funded extension to the Fellow's appointment not to exceed the length of the interruption in the Fellow’s original research or management program.
- When the shelter-in-place orders, etc., are lifted, NASA will not provide additional travel funds to new, current, or extended Fellows.
- Current Fellows who were out of the United States when travel restrictions were imposed or cannot return to the United States for family or other reasons will be provided a stipend for an amount of time not to exceed their current tenure.
- In cases where a current Fellow's research or management program is interrupted due to the Fellow's COVID exposure/illness/status, COVID in the Fellow's home or other responsibilities, such as but not limited to care for a family member, a full stipend will be provided for an amount of time not to exceed the current tenure.
- All current Fellows, regardless of activity status, who desire to extend their tenure beyond their current tenure, shall request an extension from their NPP advisor, Center representative, and ORAU. NASA may grant Fellows extension requests case by case based on the availability of funds, other limitations, and research priorities.
The ORAU offer letter identifies the NPP advisor for the Fellow’s appointment. Research advisors are scientists and engineers at NASA Centers or NASA-affiliated research centers. Management advisors are managers in a NASA Mission Directorate located at NASA Headquarters.
During the application process, the Fellow communicates with a NASA advisor to develop the chosen research or management topic. During the fellowship, the advisor serves as a mentor and professional colleague, but does not act as a supervisor. The advisor guides the Fellow in all aspects of their research or management activities, helps the Fellow to acquire office space and equipment, and provides information on security, safety, expected attendance schedules, and other requirements of the assigned facility.
For Senior Fellows, the NPP advisor functions in a collegial relationship, and assists with securing office space, lab space, equipment, and/or technical and clerical support.
The The NPP Center representative is responsible for coordinating the NASA Postdoctoral Program for their facility. The Center representative assists Fellows with administrative aspects of the appointment, including the authorization/approval process related to all aspects of the appointment, including required clearances, orientations and safety briefings, access to the facilities, travel approval, appointment renewals, Center termination procedures, etc.
Relocation to the Appointed Center
Before the Fellow makes any arrangements to relocate, he/she should inform ORAU NPP staff as soon as possible of the relocation travel plans. Relocation travel arrangements must be approved by ORAU and adhere to federal travel regulations and ORAU travel guidelines. ORAU staff will provide information, approvals, and assistance with relocation travel arrangements.
First Day at the Center
On the day that the Fellow arrives at the facility to begin the appointment, he/she must report to the NPP Center representative. The NPP Center representative will assist the Fellow with security and badging procedures, orientations, safety briefings, logistical arrangements, and other aspects of the appointment. The Fellow must also submit a “Certification of Start Date” form, which must be also certified by the Fellow’s advisor and NPP Center representative to verify that the Fellow has begun their appointment at their center or institute.
Change in Address/Contact Information
The Fellow must notify ORAU, the NPP Center representative, and the NPP advisor if there is a change in his/her current address, permanent address, phone number, or email address.
During the NPP Fellowship appointment, NASA requires the Fellow to commit to resident participation at an approved NASA site for the duration of the appointment and avoid obligations that will interrupt the research during the appointment. NPP Fellows are not allowed to supplement their stipends through simultaneous employment, grants, or other sources of income that compete with the fellowship research or management position.
A Fellow may take a prolonged break from NPP research activities for up to 12 weeks during the appointment period for a serious health condition, birth or adoption of a child, parental care, or other special circumstances. Prior to the absence or as soon as possible thereafter, the Fellow should notify the NPP advisor, NPP Center representative, and ORAU of the absence. The Fellow and NPP advisor must assess the impact on the NPP research activities and milestones, if any.
Guidelines and procedures for publications, copyrights, and patents should be discussed with the NPP advisor and NPP Center representative at the start of the appointment.
Fellows are strongly encouraged to publish research findings in the peer-reviewed open literature. Fellows are required to adhere to the host institution’s requirements for prior review and approval of all material, whether written or prepared for oral presentation. All publications must include appropriate acknowledgment of the NASA Postdoctoral Program appointment, the host institution, and ORAU. For more information, please see the Reports and Publications Acknowledgement section of the Policies and Procedures page.
Publication charges are not a part of the NPP award budget. Publication costs are usually borne by the NPP advisor or host institution. When preparing for publications, Fellows are encouraged to discuss the host institution’s publication policy with the NPP advisor and the NPP Center representative in advance.
ORAU does not assert any rights to copyrights made during the appointment. If a Fellow asserts copyright in the written works that arise from his/her research activities, the federal government and others acting on the government's behalf will obtain a paid-up license to reproduce the copyrighted work, distribute copies, prepare derivative works, perform publicly the copyrighted work, or display publicly the copyrighted work. Joint works will be owned by the Fellow and the federal government. In the case of copyright agreements for journal publications, the Fellow must conform to the host institution’s procedures for review and approval.
ORAU does not assert any rights to inventions made during the appointment. The Fellow is required, however, to report all inventions made as a result of the appointment promptly to the director or patent counsel of his/her host institution and also to ORAU. In cases where an invention is made jointly with an employee of the host institution, the Fellow may be asked to assign ownership rights to the host institution. In those cases, in consideration for his/her assignment of rights, the Fellow may be offered a share of any royalties that may result from the use or licensing of the invention.
For each invention to which a Fellow retains title, the federal government will obtain, at a minimum, a non-exclusive, non-transferable, irrevocable, paid-up worldwide license to practice, or to have practiced for or on behalf of the United States.
This information will be superseded by any requirements of the individual host institutions, and also is subject to applicable federal laws. The Fellow should discuss the host institution’s patent policies and procedures with the NPP advisor and NPP Center representative before beginning the research.