The NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) offers unique research opportunities to highly talented national and international individuals to engage in ongoing NASA research projects at a NASA Center, NASA Headquarters, or a NASA-affiliated research institute. These one- to three-year Fellowship appointments are competitive and designed to advance NASA’s missions in space sciences, Earth sciences, astrobiology aeronautics, space technology, human exploration, and space operations.
As a postdoctoral or senior scientist, the Fellow will be conducting research of national importance and collaborating with distinguished scholars from the United States and the international community. The research of NPP Fellows has made significant contributions and advancements in the scientific efforts of NASA and in the body of scientific knowledge as a whole.
This document provides information on the conditions of the Fellowship award, the responsibilities of a NPP Fellow, and the procedures and practices to be followed during the NPP appointment. NASA and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), the administrator of the program, are pleased to support this valuable Fellowship program.
An NPP Fellow is not an employee of NASA, ORAU, the host facility, or any other office or agency. Instead, a Fellow is affiliated with ORAU for the administration of the appointment through the ORAU offer letter and terms of appointment, and has a guest appointment at the NASA-designated facility.
When accepting the terms of appointment, a Fellow agrees that the receipt of stipend payments from ORAU shall not be construed as an employment relationship and that no employment-related benefits (such as paid vacations, sick pay, maternity leave, or unemployment compensation) are appropriate or applicable to the appointment.
As a guest at a NASA facility, a Fellow is expected to devote full time and effort in pursuing the activities of the research or management program, publishing in the open scientific literature, presenting at appropriate scientific conferences and meetings, and participating in technical activities at the NASA facility.
The Fellow must meet all requirements regarding the policies of the assigned facilities during the appointment. A Fellow shall, at all times, observe and conform to all applicable rules, regulations, and requirements of the facility to which he/she is assigned, including, but not limited to, those with respect to environment, safety, and health (ES&H) and ES&H training requirements; security; operating procedures; drug-free workplace requirements; and appropriate conduct. Failure of the Fellow to follow these requirements shall result in termination of the appointment.
In some cases, access to restricted areas or restricted data may be necessary. In these cases, neither the appointment nor its acceptance by the Fellow shall become effective until NASA and the facility have granted the appropriate access authorization (security clearance) to the Fellow in accordance with the provisions of existing laws and regulations.
A Fellow has access to special facilities and property and, in most cases, is issued instruments or equipment by the host facility in connection with the appointment. A Fellow has the responsibility to protect, properly care for, and safeguard such property, facilities, instruments, or equipment. If any property, facilities, instruments, or equipment are damaged, destroyed, stolen, or lost as a result of the negligent actions or inactions of the Fellow, the Fellow is liable for the damage or loss, up to the fair market value of the property or equipment. If necessary, the monetary amount for the damage or loss may be deducted from stipend payments.
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. Awards, prizes, review panel honoraria, scholarships, Veterans Administration benefits, sabbatical compensation, and any other payments may be accepted by an NPP Fellow, provided these payments do not represent dual payment for the same activity.
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 shall perform the research work stated in the proposal submitted with the NPP application and approved by the advisor and Center representative.
Fellows are strongly encouraged to publish reports and articles in scientific and engineering peer-reviewed literature. All publications related to the Fellow’s appointment should include an appropriate statement of the Fellow’s NASA Postdoctoral Program appointment, including the facility at which the research was conducted. For example, "(insert Fellow name)’s research was supported by an appointment to the NASA Postdoctoral Program at the (insert name of the NASA Center or facility; e.g., NASA Ames Research Center), administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities under contract with NASA."
Depending on the journal, editors will allow different kinds of acknowledgements. The Fellow may edit the language as necessary, but all publications related to the NPP appointment should include a statement acknowledging the NASA Postdoctoral Program appointment, including the NASA Center at which the research was conducted.
Some journals ask authors to provide their affiliation/address directly after the author's name or as a footnote, depending on the journal style (for example, "Doe, John, NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, NASA Ames Research Center, P.O. Box xxx, Moffett Field, CA 94035”). This option provides additional recognition for NASA, as well as for the Fellow.
During the first year of the NPP appointment, NASA expects Fellows to focus on the research proposed in their application. The highest priorities should be to complete analysis and obtain results to present at scientific meetings and publish in peer-reviewed journals. In general, Fellows should not write or submit proposals during this first year, but exceptions may be made for special circumstances (e.g., the timeliness or cycle of a particular research opportunity, the singular expertise of the Fellow, etc.). The Fellow should discuss any possible exception to this general rule with their NPP advisor and Center representative well in advance of the proposal deadline.
During the second year of the NPP appointment, NASA grants more flexibility. Fellows may write and submit research proposals. The first step is to discuss the proposal research topic, funding opportunity, and submission details with the Fellow’s NPP advisor and Center representative well in advance of the proposal deadline. Outcomes of these discussions will determine the next steps of the proposal process. Note: if the proposal is successful, the funds cannot be used to increase the NPP second-year stipend but can be used to support the NPP third-year stipend.
Proposal Support for Year 3 of NPP
Fellows need an institutional affiliation for proposal submission and funds administration; hence, Fellows are encouraged to affiliate with their host NASA Center (or affiliated institution). Different NASA Centers (or affiliated institutions) have different rules about proposal submission, so it is important to discuss these options with the appropriate center representative well in advance of the proposal deadline.
Some NASA Centers allow the Fellow to submit a proposal as a principal Investigator or a co-investigator with Center affiliation. Others require that the NPP advisor (or other civil servant) serve as the official principal investigator. In the latter case, the Fellow may be named as the co-investigator (Co-I)/science principal investigator (Science PI) to ensure scientific credit for the proposal. For further information, please refer to the ROSES FAQ on this topic.
Fellows must notify the relevant Program Officer at NASA Headquarters that third year funding should be applied directly to the NPP contract with ORAU via the "format two" process (not awarded to the Fellow’s NASA Center or affiliated institution). View a list of NASA program officers.
Post NPP Proposal Support
Fellows may only remain in the NPP for a total of three years, so those who propose for funds post NPP cannot use the NPP contract as described above. ORAU may consider allowing Fellows applying for grant funding beyond their NPP Fellowship to affiliate with ORAU. Salary, overhead, and total costs for the years past NPP year 3 will be determined according to ORAU corporate policy. Fellows who have obtained a position with another organization after the termination of their fellowship can affiliate with that organization; the budget for support after the end of the fellowship would be determined by that organization.
If a proposal will provide support for both third-year NPP funding and post-NPP funding at another organization, the proposal budget should note that year 1 is to fund the third year of the NPP appointment (and be put on the NPP contract with ORAU), while the remaining years are to provide support during the appointment at the new organization.
Fellows who want to remain physically located at their NASA Center must seek approval from their Center. NASA Centers usually require researchers working at the Center to pay fees or other overhead. Fellows may need to budget for this amount. Some Centers have restrictions on the organizations that may pay the scientists who are physically located at a Center, and may have other restrictions as well regarding office space. Please consult the Center representative for more information.
Each NPP Fellow must submit a final report prior to the completion 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.
Fellows who participated in a research program will be asked to provide the major findings and contributions to scientific and technological knowledge. Fellows who participated in a research management program should address the objectives of their research management activities as they relate to NASA’s mission and to science and technology advances in general.
The release of the final stipend payment is contingent upon receipt of the final report by ORAU.
By accepting the NPP appointment, a Fellow must agree to the following:
- A Fellow must agree to provide NASA or the host facility, in written form, any and all technical data produced or generated during the course of the appointment in whatever format it may be recorded. If not recorded or written, the Fellows shall (upon request) provide NASA or the host facility a written report of any technical data generated by the Fellow during the course of his/her appointment. NASA, the host facility, and/or the government of the United States shall have the right to use, duplicate or disclose such technical data, in whole or in part, in any manner and for any purpose and to permit others to do so.
- The Fellow agrees to respect any and all limitations to access to any restricted data or other classified information, proprietary information or any other technical data that are privileged or confidential, which he/she receives, or in any way obtains access to, during or as a result of the appointment. The unauthorized disclosure of, or failure to safeguard, such information may subject the Fellow to civil and/or criminal liability under applicable laws of the United States.
- "Technical data" means recorded information, regardless of form or characteristic, of a scientific or technical nature. Technical data do not include financial reports, costs analyses, or other information incidental to contract administration. Examples of technical data include research and engineering data, engineering drawings and associated lists, specifications, standards, process sheets, manuals, technical reports, catalog item identification, and related information.
This policy will be in effect during a federal government shutdown due to absence of appropriations. Except as provided herein, all other NPP policies and procedures remain in full force and effect.
NASA sites may be closed and NASA email may be inaccessible during a government shutdown. Therefore, Fellows are strongly encouraged to ensure their NPP profile includes a personal email address and mobile phone number. This information can be updated at any time, but it will be required for ongoing communications prior to a potential government shutdown. ORAU’s communication with Fellows (including incoming Fellows) occurs via Fellow’s personal email and mobile phone numbers on file with the NPP. ORAU communicates program-wide information; Center representatives communicate Center-specific direction to Fellows.
Appointment Start Date
New Fellows should not start during a government shutdown, unless specifically authorized by the Center representative and advisor.
Fellows are very strongly encouraged to submit renewal applications well in advance of a potential government shutdown as NASA advisors and Center representatives may not be able to take action during a shutdown period.
Fellows ending their appointment during a government shutdown should contact email@example.com well before their end date.
Fellows’ stipends are issued during a government shutdown as long as NPP funding is available. If funds are not available to issue stipends, U.S. citizen and permanent resident Fellows are reminded that auxiliary employment considerations are limited to those which do not compete with NASA research. Foreign national Fellows should refer to Foreign Nationals section of the Government Shutdown policy.
If authorized by the government, Fellows (including those that left the program during the shutdown) will receive back stipend payments for the NPP appointment period after funding was exhausted.
Health Insurance and Benefits
Fellows enrolled in the NPP health insurance program will continue uninterrupted while the NPP is funded. If NPP funds are exhausted, ORAU will issue guidance regarding the status of health insurance.
Fellows should direct any question regarding eligibility for unemployment benefits to their state unemployment office. Note that NPP Fellows receive stipends, not wages, and are not employed by ORAU or NASA.
Fellows whose work schedule was significantly affected by the government shutdown can petition for an extension to their NPP appointment based on the number of days needed to complete their fellowship obligation OR extend their fellowship by the number of days a Fellow was unable to work. This petition is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and must be approved by NASA. Fellows seeking such an extension should contact their Center representative for guidance.
Fellows are very strongly encouraged to submit travel expense authorizations (EAs) well ahead of a potential government shutdown because NASA advisors, Center representatives, and the contracting officer may be furloughed and not able to take action during a shutdown period.
Fully approved travel will be permitted as long as funding is available.
Access to Computing Resources
Computing access will vary and depends on current government and Center policy.
The rules governing foreign national J-1 Visa holders are set by the U.S. Department of State, not NASA or ORAU. Department of State staff members may be furloughed during a government shutdown. The ORAU Visa specialist will provide guidance to Fellows when specified instructions from the Department of State are received.
Foreign nationals must ensure they have enough personal funds to maintain their health and welfare. They may remain in the United States for up to 30 days once they are no longer receiving funds.
In a government shutdown scenario in which NPP funding is exhausted, foreign national NPP Fellows may consult or lecture for pay with consent from the ORAU Visa specialist and the NPP program. The foreign national may not obtain a job such as in retail or the restaurant industry as the Fellow does not have the proper Visa designation; ORAU has neither the power nor the authority to adjust this designation.
To obtain consent to consult or lecture for pay, the foreign national should request from the ORAU Visa specialist the form: “Request to permit reimbursement/compensation from a source other than ORAU.” This document facilitates an application by a ORAU J-1 foreign national, as provided for in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 514.20(g). The regulations at 514.20(g)(2(i)(A) require that the entity offering the reimbursement or compensation set forth the terms and conditions of the offer to lecture or consult. The authorization, if granted, is in the form of a letter signed by the ORAU Visitor Program Alternate Responsible Officer. The letter represents the full extent to which ORAU can extend such authorization.
ORAU, the Fellow’s host facility, NASA, and any persons acting on their behalf, are not responsible for the following types of occurrences.
- Any alleged or actual liability, cost or expense incurred as a result of personal injury to or death of persons, including the Fellow, or damage to or destruction of property, or for any other loss, damage, or injury of any kind whatsoever, except where such death, injury, loss, or damage is the result of willful negligence or intentional misconduct of an officer, agent, or employee of ORAU, the host facility, or NASA.
- Any claims, losses, expenses (except as otherwise provided in the official ORAU offer letter and terms of appointment) or damages, including but not limited to, bodily injury, death, or property damage, caused by the negligence or misconduct of the Fellow.
- Any claims, losses, expenses, or damages, including, but not limited to, bodily injury, death, or property damage, arising out of, or resulting in any way from, the use or misuse of information acquired by the Fellow during the NPP appointment.
Neither ORAU, the host facility, NASA, NASA contractor, nor persons acting on their behalf, makes any warranty, express or implied, (i) with respect to the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information acquired by the Fellow during the appointment, (ii) that the use of any such information may not infringe upon privately owned rights, (iii) that the information acquired by the Fellow during the appointment will not result in injury or damage when used for any purpose, or (iv) that information acquired by the Fellow during the appointment will accomplish any particular results or are safe for any purpose, including the intended purpose.