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Research Associateship Programs
500 Fifth Street, NW (Keck 576)
Washington DC 20001

Tel: 202-334-2760
Fax: 202-334-2759

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Coordinator by Agency
Find your program coordinator here


2015 May Review

Application period opens
March 1

Submission deadline is 
May 1

(5:00 PM ET)

Support document deadline is May
(5:00 PM ET)

If a deadline falls on a weekend, it changes to the next business day.



History and Objectives

The National Research Council has conducted the Research Associateship Programs in cooperation with sponsoring federal laboratories and other research organizations approved for participation since 1954.  Through a national competition, the NRC recommends and makes Research Associateship awards to outstanding scientists and engineers, at the postdoctoral and senior levels, for tenure as guest researchers at the participating laboratories.  A limited number of opportunities are available for support of graduate students in select fields.

The objectives of the Research Associateship Programs are (1) to provide postdoctoral and senior scientists and engineers of unusual promise and ability opportunities for research on problems, largely of their own choice that are compatible with the interests of the sponsoring laboratories and (2) to, thereby, contribute to the overall efforts of the laboratories.  For recent doctoral graduates, the Research Associateship Programs provide an opportunity for concentrated research in association with selected members of the permanent professional laboratory staff.   For established scientists and engineers, the Research Associateship Programs afford an opportunity for research without the interruptions and distracting assignments of permanent career positions.

Participating laboratories receive a stimulus to their programs by the presence of bright, highly motivated, recent doctoral graduates and by senior investigators with established records of research productivity. New ideas, techniques, and approaches to problems contribute to the overall research climate of the laboratories. Indirectly, Associateships also make available to the broader scientific and engineering communities the excellent and often unique research facilities that exist in the sponsoring laboratories.

General Eligibility Criteria

Qualified applicants will receive consideration without regard to race, creed, color, age, sex, or national origin.

Education and Experience - Applicants to the Research Associateship Programs must have earned a Ph.D., Sc.D., M.D., D.V.M., or academically equivalent research doctorate before beginning tenure. If you have not received the degree, the graduate dean, registrar, or recorder (not the department chairman or major professor) must certify in writing--directly to the Associateship Programs Office--that you have met all requirements for the degree. The National Energy Technology Laboratory Methane Hydrates Fellowship Program (NETL/MHFP) supports highly qualified postgraduate students in the advancement of Methane Hydrate science by making awards to M.S., Ph.D., and Postdoctoral level candidates.

Citizenship and Immigration Status - Citizenship requirements for the NRC Research Associateship Program vary depending on the sponsoring federal laboratory. For details on visa options please click here. Applicants should also refer to specific detail of citizenship requirements for the laboratory to which they are applying.

Level The NRC makes Research Associateship awards at the Postdoctoral and Senior researcher level and Fellowship awards at the MastersDoctorate and Postdoctoral levels. 

Postdoctoral Research Associateships are awarded to persons who have held the doctorate for less than five years at the time of application and are made initially for one or two years with a possibility for renewal for one or two additional years.  Applicants should refer to specific detail of tenure length for the laboratory to which they are applying. 

Senior Research Associateships are awarded to applicants who have held the doctorate five years or more at the time of application or to persons who hold a permanent appointment in academia, government, or industry and have research experience that has resulted in significant contributions and recognition as established investigators in their specialized fields. Although awards to Senior Research Associates are usually for one year, awards for periods of three months or longer may be considered. Since not all Research Associateship sponsors accept applications for Senior awards, applicants should check the detail of the particular program to which they are applying. 

Methane Hydrate Research Fellowship awards are made to carefully selected Master’s level, PhD level, and Postdoctoral level scientists and engineers in national competitions held two times each year. These awards provide opportunities that enable these scientists and engineers to increase their proficiency in conducting research on the subject of methane hydrates and advance the research program of NETL.  The research may be pursued at NETL labs, at other national or federal government labs, or at accredited universities.

Prior Affiliation with the Laboratory - A primary objective of the Associateship Programs is to provide a mechanism for new ideas and sources of stimulation to be brought to the sponsoring laboratory. Thus persons with recent prior affiliation with a specific laboratory may not be eligible to apply for an Associateship there.  Prior affiliation includes direct employment relationships either with the laboratory or with a contractor whose work is performed there. A long-term consulting relationship usually makes an applicant ineligible.  Research contracts with universities that provide support for graduate students or faculty who perform research on campus are not ordinarily considered to be disqualifying.

Security Clearance - Some awards are contingent upon the satisfactory completion of a National Agency Check (NAC) or other clearance processes. Please refer to the specific clearance information for the laboratory to which you are applying.  An unsatisfactory result from the investigation is cause to withdraw the Associateship award offer.

For program specific eligibility requirements, you must visit the webpage of the Participating Laboratory you are interested in applying to. Visit the list of Participating Laboratories

Stipend and Benefits

Stipend - An NRC Research Associate receives a stipend from the National Research Council while carrying out his or her proposed research.  Stipends for Associates are limited to the amounts set forth by the NRC and the sponsoring federal laboratory and any other arrangement, formal or informal, between an applicant and laboratory personnel for additional monies or other considerations is strictly prohibited.  Note than NRC awards for applicants to NIST are made directly by NIST and Associates are hired in two year term appointments.

Insurance - A group health-insurance program is required for Associates and is optional for dependents. Awardees not covered under a spouse's plan, must participate in the National Research Council's plan. The cost of this program is shared by the Associate and the sponsoring agency. In addition, all exchange visitors and their dependent families are required by the U.S. Department of State to carry health insurance while they are in the U.S. The Associateship Program's group insurance satisfies this requirement. The National Research Council provides this insurance during tenure.

Relocation and Travel - A relocation reimbursement will be determined for each awardee. Details are provided at the time of the award.  Funds are also available for limited professional travel during tenure, provided such travel is approved in advance by the Associate's Adviser, the Laboratory Program Representative, and the Associateship Programs office.

Status of a Research Associate

As an NRC Research Associate you are a guest investigator, not an employee of the National Research Council or of the sponsoring federal laboratory (with the exception of NIST).  No commitment on the part of an Associate, the sponsoring laboratory, or the National Research Council with regard to later employment is implied or should be inferred by the offer or acceptance of an award.

Associates must devote their full-time effort to the research program proposed in their applications and must be in residence at the sponsoring laboratory during the entire period of the Associateship. No period of tenure may be spent in residence at another laboratory or institution. Associates have the status of visiting scientists or engineers but are subject to the general regulations of the laboratory.  No additional monetary aid or other remuneration may be accepted from another appointment, fellowship, or similar grant, except for sabbatical leave, during the period of the Associateship.

Publications -  Since an Associate's later scientific and technical career will be judged by others, publication in the accepted open technical literature is highly encouraged. Publications should include a statement indicating that the research was conducted while the author held a National Research Council Research Associateship.

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The Application and Review Process

View the Application Process Workflow for a general overview of the RAP Application and Review Process.

Finding Research Opportunities - The first step in the application process is identifying the laboratory or laboratories to which you will apply.  This may be accomplished by using the search functions on this website to identify the Research Opportunity(s) of interest to you.  Shown with each Research Opportunity are the names of one or more Research Advisers who conduct or direct the work described in the opportunity.  An Adviser is a scientist or engineer at the sponsoring laboratory with whom an Associate works most closely. Once you have identified a Research Adviser, it is recommended that you contact him or her to discuss your interest in applying for an NRC Research Associateship Award.  Note that you may apply for up to three Research Opportunities during an application cycle.  However, you may submit only one application per sponsoring federal laboratory.

Completing an Application – You must complete the WebRAP electronic application that can be accessed through this site. This system requires uploads of your proposal and other information. After completing the WebRAP application, you must submit supporting documents by email to or by mail to the Associateship Programs office at 500 Fifth Street, NW (Keck 568), Washington, DC 20001. Please refer to the How to Apply and the Supporting Documents page for complete details.

Research Proposal - You must submit a Research Proposal, written by you, that relates to a specific Research Opportunity at the sponsoring federal laboratory. Before writing a proposal you are advised to communicate directly with the prospective Research Adviser, who can provide more specific information on current research and available technical facilities and offer scientific support of proposal development.

Laboratory Endorsement - To be eligible for an award, your proposal must be approved by the prospective Research Adviser and endorsed by the Laboratory Program Representative or Program Committee of the sponsoring laboratory.  This endorsement is obtained by the NRC after the application has been submitted.  The endorsement affirms that the proposal is compatible with the sponsoring laboratory’s interests and that adequate programmatic support will be available if an award is offered.  No applicant will be eligible for further consideration until the Associateship Programs office has been advised by the sponsoring laboratory that his or her proposal has been approved by the Research Adviser and endorsed by the Laboratory Program Representative or the Program Committee.  Since the final review of applications is conducted by special panels appointed by the National Research Council, all applicants should note that endorsement by the sponsoring laboratory, while essential to the application process, does not imply or guarantee an award by the National Research Council.

Application Review - The Associateship Programs office receives all application materials and supporting documents and conducts the competitive evaluations of applications.  Evaluations are conducted by special panels convened for this purpose. Panelists are chosen to review applications on the basis of their stature and experience in the fields of science and engineering, and their evaluations become the basis from which awards are made on behalf of the sponsoring laboratories.  Applicants are recommended for awards only after this open, national competition in which the panels rank candidates on the basis of quality alone.  Final ranking in order of quality and the recommendation of applicants for awards are the exclusive prerogatives of the panels, and, with the exception of the NIST Type 1 program, only notification by the Associateship Programs office of an applicant's status in the competition is authoritative.

Notification of Review Results – Approximately 8 weeks after the application deadline, candidates can log into the application system to view the results of the panel review. At that time, candidates will be able to view their review status as well as scores and comments from the review. The date candidates can view these results will be listed on the RAP homepage for each review cycle. Please visit the application category webpage for a description of each status category an applicant may fall under.  The number of awards will be determined based on the funding available from the sponsoring federal laboratory and with concurrence of the sponsoring laboratory, awards will be made to the highest ranking candidates among those who passed the review.  Final notification of award status may take an additional 4-8 weeks.

Initiation of Tenure – In the event an award is offered, the date on which tenure may begin is negotiated on an individual basis, normally within six months of the award. The starting date may be delayed by mutual agreement of sponsoring federal laboratory, the Associate, and the Associateship Programs office, but cannot be later than one year from the offer date.  If this condition cannot be met, a new application, including a newly approved research proposal, must be submitted to the Associateship Programs office and will be judged without prejudice in the next competition.

Reapplication - Candidates who were recommended for an award by the panels, but who were not offered an award because of funding or other limitations, may reapply at any time without a mandatory waiting period.  Persons who have previously applied for an Associateship, but who were not recommended for an award by the panels, may reapply after one year.  Persons who have previously held an Associateship may apply for another award only if a period of at least two years will have elapsed between termination of the first award and the proposed tenure of a second.

Applicants may review panelists’ evaluations and comments by logging into the WebRAP review module using their username and password information.

Application Deadlines

NRC Research Associateship application deadlines are February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1.  Note that not all sponsors participate in all four reviews.  Applicants should refer to the specific information for the laboratory to which they are applying.

All deadlines for receipt of application materials are strictly observed by the laboratory and the Associateship Programs office. No allowances or exceptions are made for late submissions.

Please direct application inquiries to the Research Associateship Programs at or by phone at (202) 334-2760.

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