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New to NCI: Information for New Trainees and Fellows

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Welcome to NCI - we're excited that you are here. These materials support your NCI fellowship orientation.

Trainee Orientations

To welcome trainees to the NIH, the Center for Cancer Training conducts  orientations that are held monthly on both the second Tuesday (Bethesda campus) and Wednesday (Frederick) of the month.  Currently, orientation is being held virtually via WebEx.  Registration is announced one week prior, and meeting details will be sent to all who registered.  All trainees are welcomed.

Each orientation will provide trainees with information on topics such as taxes, non-FTE policies, fellow-led groups to get involved in, and professional development opportunities available to you


Rules and Regulations

Most fellows who come to NIH are familiar with working in a university setting. However, working for the federal government is different in many ways.  As a trainee in the federal government, you are required to abide by ethical guidelines regarding awards, travel, and outside activities.  For example, outside employment or participation in outside activities must be approved by your Supervisor (see Ethics Outside Activity Chart for more details).

For specifics, please review the current  Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) manual and the NIH Intramural Visiting Fellow Program Policies to ensure you stay within the guidelines.  If you have any questions, please ask your Supervisor or contact your Training Director.

Outside Activities

Fellows who would like to participate in outside activities as part of unofficial capacity must have the approval of their Lab or Branch chief and follow federal guidance.  Consult the NCI Office of Government Ethics for guidance.   

Interactions with Members of Congress

As employees of the Executive Branch, NCI staff (including fellows) are not able to participate in advocacy directed towards Congress in their official capacity (Hatch Act). If a congressional staffer or member of Congress asks you to participate in a tour or invites you to the Hill, contact Holly Gibbons in NCI’s Office of Government and Congressional Relations (OGCR) before accepting. Approval is also required prior to speaking at an event where members of Congress are expected to attend.  See more details here(NIH credentials needed)

Social Media

The Hatch Act is relevant to any government staff or fellows’ use of social media accounts. For that reason, it is recommended to add a disclaimer statement to your personal accounts, such as “Views are my own.” For more on social media use, please see information on the Hatch Act and Dos & Don'ts Tips (NIH credentials needed)

For general CCR guidance on these and other topics: (NIH credentials needed)

Trainee Benefits

Health, dental, and vision insurance (either an individual or family plan) are provided by the NCI to trainees with appointments greater than 60 days.  The current health insurance provider is AETNA Signature PPO and the current vision/dental insurance provider is MetLife.  Both plans are administered by the Foundation for the Advanced Education in Science (FAES) – located on the First Floor in Building 10 in room 1N241.  You must enroll in the provided plan (or show proof of alternative coverage) within the first 30 days of your appointment.  Since this is bundled coverage, there is no option to opt out of any one portion of the plan.  To learn more about the enrollment process and complete your form, please visit the enrollment page on the FAES website.

See FAES Election Form for more details.

Retirement Benefits

Fellows are not considered government employees, and therefore, are not eligible for Federal retirement benefits.

Excused Absences (applies to both CRTA Fellows and Visiting Fellows)

  • Vacation/Sick Leave: Fellows are not employees and so they do not earn annual or sick leave. However, at the discretion of the mentor, a Fellow may be excused for the following: 1) Federal holidays, 2) illness, 3) personal emergencies, and 4) vacations when awards are for more than 90 days.  Fellows should receive a minimum of two weeks excused absence annually for vacations.  For Visiting Fellows, DIS must be notified and concur with extended absences of over five weeks in order to avoid violation of immigration.
  • Travel: Payment of travel to attend scientific meetings or to train at a remote site is at the discretion of the NCI and is subject to availability of funds.  This process generally takes several months of advance planning and requires approval by your advisor.
  • Maternity Leave: Fellows will be granted paid leave, full time, excused absence for the birth or adoption of a child, with flexibility being determined by the mentor.  See CRTA manual for details.

Well-being Resources: The NIH OITE offers many resources to help you proactively tend to your stress management and address barriers to your well-being. We believe that you will find strategies to thrive at NIH if you are proactive, regularly take time to tend to your well-being, and are open to new strategies as you recognize new challenges.  We encourage all NIH trainees and fellows to regularly participate in programs to learn well-being and resilience skills.

Additional NIH Amenities

NIH offers many amenities that are available to trainees, such as a parking permit OR metro benefits, campus shuttles, and several child and family programs that assist with child or adult care.  Visit the Division of Amenities and Transportation Services to learn more about these and other programs.

See Child and Family Programs flyer for more details.

Electronic Individual Development Plan (eIDP)

To assist you along your career path, you are required to complete a training plan called the electronic Individual Development Plan (eIDP).  The eIDP is designed to help you to organize and summarize your research projects and related deliverables (like manuscripts and talks), set training goals and expectations based on your research and career aspirations, and track your progress throughout your fellowship.  You will receive an automated email from the eIDP system when it is time to complete your training plan.  Together with your Supervisor or Mentors, you will each fill out your designated sections using the eIDP as a communication tool to help you get the most of your fellowship.

For additional information about the eIDP, please refer to the FAQs, at-a-glance overview, or the eIDP User Guide.  A Brief Guide for completing your initial eIDP will help you get started.  If you have any questions, please contact one of the eIDP coordinators at

Stipend and Tax Information

Fellows are paid monthly through the Fellowship Payment System (FPS), always on the first business day of the month. Stipends are set in accordance with the stipend categories, which can be found in Appendix 1 of the Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) manual.

Federal and state taxes are not withheld from your stipends; you are required to file quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS and to the specific state in which you reside while you are working at NIH. The procedures for filing quarterly estimated Federal taxes can be found using Publication 505 (2018), Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. A 1099G tax form will be distributed to you by late January/early February.  IRS Publication 17 can also provide useful introductory information about Federal Taxes.  The procedures for filing estimated state taxes can be found by visiting the MarylandVirginia, and Washington D.C tax websites.

[updated] Visiting Fellows are typically required to file and pay Federal and State taxes.  A 1042S tax form will be distributed to you by mid-March.  However, each person’s situation is unique and will be dependent on your time spent in the US, residency status, and whether or not your country has a tax treaty with the US.    Please visit the NIH Division of International Services section on United States Income Taxes to learn more about tax treaty agreements and view nonresident tax materials to assist you in your tax preparation. 

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