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Frequently Asked Questions

General | Administrative | Participation | Travel | Insurance | VISA/Immigration

General Questions

Q: What is Oak Ridge Associated Universities?

A: Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) is a university consortium leveraging the scientific strength of 121 research institutions to advance science and education by partnering with national laboratories, government agencies, and private industry. ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Q: What is the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education?

A: The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a DOE institute focused on scientific initiatives to research health risks from occupational hazards, assess environmental cleanup, respond to radiation medical emergencies, support national security and emergency preparedness, and educate the next generation of scientists.

The research participation programs remain a key function of ORISE. In administering more than 100 of these programs, ORISE deals with at least 13 federal agencies.  Examples include DOE, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Commerce.

In supporting these programs, federal agencies and host facilities partner with ORISE in setting the stage for the future of our nation’s scientific capabilities by:

  1. Enhancing the educational programs offered by academic institutions.
  2. Strengthening the scientific and technical manpower base.
  3. Transferring knowledge and technology to the academic community.
  4. Supporting a growing national commitment to science education.
  5. Preparing participants with the skills for tomorrow’s scientific workforce.

Q: What is the ORAU's role in the research participation programs?

A: ORAU administers the programs under an interagency agreement between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy. ORAU manages administrative processes, including program announcements and recruiting, applicant inquiries and support, accepting and processing application materials, interacting with sponsoring DoD groups for the application review and selection process, issuing appointment offers, processing appointment letters and terms of appointments to begin the appointments, assisting candidate relocation to the facility site, making regular stipend payments, and processing other allowed reimbursements.

Q: During the appointment, what is a participant’s status and relationship to ORAU and ORISE?

A: During the appointment, he/she is a research participant administratively associated with ORAU and ORISE through an ORISE appointment letter and Terms of Appointment. He/she will be on appointment as a guest participant at the host facility and is not an employee of ORISE, ORAU, DoD or any other organization associated with this program.

Q: What does the research participation program provide?

A: Participant benefits include a monthly stipend, travel and training opportunities related to the appointment activities, and in some cases, a health insurance allowance. Appointments can range from periods of weeks or academic terms to twelve months, renewable for up to five years.

Q: Where can I find a complete description of the research participation program?

A: Visit Programs for descriptions of the various types of program available.

Q: Can research participants be part-time?

A. Research participants may participate any percentage of time that the Army facility requests.  Monthly stipends may be prorated to reflect the percent of participation.

Q: What are the eligibility requirements for the programs?

A: Please visit the Eligibility page to review a summary of requirements.

Q: How does someone apply?

A: Instructions and applications are available on this Web site.

Q: When must one apply?

A: Most of the projects are open for applications throughout the year. Available open positions are based on need and funding. Contact the ORISE office to learn if any current postings have specific deadlines and requirements.

Q: How are applications evaluated?

A: Evaluation will be based on the following criteria:

  1. Relevant course work, research experience, and overall academic record.
  2. Education plan and statement of career interest of student.
  3. Recommendations and/or endorsements (reference forms).
  4. Relevant employment experience or volunteer activities; extracurricular activities; honors and awards; interpersonal, written, and oral communications skills.

Q: What is the selection process?

A: ORAU and ORISE conducts an initial administrative review to determine compliance with requirements and completeness of applications. Only complete applications will be considered. The applications are then forwarded to selecting officials at the sponsoring DoD facility for review.

Q: How soon after submission of an application will a selection be made?

A: The selection process may take as long as one to three months. Applications of candidates not immediately selected will remain active for one year and may be reviewed again by the selecting facility or shared with other project sites during that period should vacancies arise or funding become available.

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Administrative Questions

Q: What is an ORISE participant?

A: An ORISE research participant is a guest at a DoD facility, participating in hands-on research alongside some of the best minds in science and using state-of-the-art equipment.  Participants not only gain experience and further their education, but they also support the research missions of the host facility and ultimately DoD.

The ORISE research participation program is intended to be a win/win arrangement for both the participant and the facility. The host facility provides the funding for the participant's stipend and, in return, expects the participant to become an active, contributing member of its research community.  Participants should expect to gain training and experience relative to their chosen field of research.

Q: How does a sponsor initiate an appointment?

A: The first step is to ensure that the interagency agreement is in place between the sponsor and DOE. Then the sponsor can send funding and make appointments through ORISE.

Q: How long does the funding approval process take?

A: If the DOE has no questions about the funding document, it can go through in a matter of days.

Q: If a sponsor has someone new for the research participation program, does the sponsor mail the application before the funding approval?

A. Ideally, the sponsor sends the application, supporting materials, and the selection form, which specifies the appointment start date, funding source, stipend to be paid, etc.  Once DOE approves the funding, ORISE sends the formal offer letter to the potential participant.  In some cases, when ORISE has received only the selection form, the offer letter lists the missing information as “contingencies” to be completed before the person can start the appointment.

Q: Do proposals to set up a program come from the division, branch, or command?

A: ORISE currently has proposals at all levels.

Q: How does a sponsor make changes to a funding document that has already been sent to DOE for approval?

A: A sponsor can consult with staff of the ORISE Work for Others Office to make pen-and-ink changes to correct any information on a Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request (MIPR).

Q: We have unused funding on a MIPR because the participant retired before the appointment end. Can that funding be used for other participants?

A: Yes, so long as the MIPR did not specify a participant by name, and the period of performance of the MIPR has not expired.

Q: What can a sponsor expect in terms of reporting of costs and funding information?

A: Cost reports are provided monthly detailing the costs by participant. Other information is available upon request which shows actual and estimated costs as well as funding balances and estimated yearend balances.

Q: How does a sponsor send in new funding?

A: New funding is submitted through a MIPR. This document must be sent to DOE for review and acceptance. The information on any attachments should be fairly general with regard to text describing the use to support ORISE research participants. Specific participant information should be provided directly to ORISE through a Selection Form.

Q: Who sets the participant’s schedule?

A: Since participants in the research participation programs are not employees, they do not formally earn annual or sick leave.  Recognizing that “breaks” in academic calendars are desirable and routinely observed by colleges and universities, guidelines are established for participants under 12-month appointments.

Q: Besides the research activities, what else should a participant be doing?

A: The research participant should be encouraged to participate in seminars, professional meetings, staff meetings, and other functions that will provide insight into the ways that professionals interact within the DoD facility and with others.

Q: Who processes a participant’s security check, if required for sponsor facility access?

A: The sponsor is responsible for all facets of security checks and badging to ensure the participant has appropriate facility access.

Q: Are there brochures available for the ORISE research participation programs?

A: Yes, brochures are available for research participation programs, please contact Kim Myers at kim.myers@orau.org to request copies.

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Participation Questions

Q: How are participants notified of their selection?

A: When ORISE receives a selection form from the Army facility, an offer packet with details of the appointment is sent by email or Federal Express to the home or preferred address of the potential participant.

Q: What is the best/fastest way to get the signed appointment documents back to ORISE?

A: By fax to ORAU Office at (410) 306-9306.  Remember that the original documents must be mailed back too.

Q: Is there any flexibility in start and end dates for participants?

A: Yes, to a point.  Start and end dates are subject to approval by the research mentor and must be confirmed in writing through an appointment letter to the participant from ORISE.

Q: What is the procedure for participants to request changes in the appointment?

A: The first step is to check with the research mentor at the facility.  The next step would be to contact ORISE by e-mail, fax, or phone.

Q: Are participants in the program considered employees of the facility or ORISE?

A: No. They are research program participants and do not enter into an employer/employee relationship with either the facility or ORISE.

Q: Does a participant get vacation or sick leave during the appointment period?

A: Since research participants are NOT employees either of the facility or of ORISE, there are NO benefits such as vacation or sick leave.  However, most mentors will help design a schedule that is mutually agreeable.  The participant is not expected to be present on days that the facility is closed for holidays.  If a participant needs to be off for any extended period of time and cannot make up the time, then the facility will notify ORISE, and the participant will be put on leave-without-pay status until he/she returns.

Q: How do participants receive their stipend?

A: Stipend checks are received according to a prearranged schedule for participants. Direct deposit is highly encouraged and is available by completing an EFT Authorization Form. Pay dates are generally the last business day of each month. The first payment will be made after all required paperwork is returned to ORISE and after the facility has returned the Certification of Start Form.

Q: Can stipend checks and other ORISE payments be direct deposited?

A: Yes, ORISE uses electronic fund transfer (EFT) to make stipend, travel reimbursement, and other program-related payments. EFT is a safe, proven, and effective method of payment, and almost all financial institutions are able to accept EFT. Stipend payments are credited to the account on the payday with funds available immediately on that day. Travel reimbursements can be credited to the account as soon as the travel expenses are audited by ORISE. Complete the EFT Authorization Form for this service.

Q: What are the benefits of electronic fund transfer?

A:With postal delivery occasionally disrupted or delayed, ORISE cannot guarantee on-time mail delivery of checks. EFT ensures that payments are deposited promptly without worry of checks being delayed, lost, or misdirected. EFT saves time and effort because you do not have to go to the bank to deposit checks.

Q: What is ERADS?

A:The Electronic Remittance Advice Delivery System (ERADS) is currently available for travel reimbursements.  When the travel reimbursement is electronically deposited, the ERADS system sends an e-mail notification of the deposit. If ORISE auditors make a change to the reimbursement amount on the Travel Expense Statement, a copy of the revised TES will be e-mailed to the participant, and the EFT should occur within a few days. The ERADS notification confirms that the EFT has occurred.

Q: Is ERADS available for stipend payments?

A: Not yet. A paper check stub is mailed to the participant’s address after EFT of the stipend payment.  The stub (statement of earnings) details the stipend and deductions for the pay period and the year to date.

Q: How does a participant sign up for EFT/ERADS?

A: It’s easy! Just fill out the EFT/ERADS Authorization Form, and attach the required voided check or deposit slip. Participants must verify the account and transit routing numbers with their bank or financial institution.  Return the form to ORISE, 4692 Millennium Drive, Suite 101, Belcamp, MD 21017.

Q: Can overseas participants use EFT/ERADS?

A. Possibly. ORISE can make electronic direct deposits only to U.S. financial institutions. Overseas participants must verify that their financial institution has a U.S. transit routing number.

Q: How does a participant become reimbursed for a training registration fee or tuition?

A: On this Web site, there is a Request for Payment Form.  The facility sponsor must approve, and then the form must be submitted to ORISE.

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Insurance

Q: Is health insurance a requirement of the program?

A: Yes, the Terms of Appointment require that participants have coverage under a health insurance plan.

Q: Is health insurance available through ORAU?

A: Yes, participants are eligible for ORAU health insurance, or they may purchase their insurance elsewhere.  Whether or not insurance is included as part of your stipend payment depends on your Army facility research program.

Q: How soon does the ORAU health insurance become effective?

A: If a participant does not have coverage at the start of the appointment, the effective date will be the first day of the appointment.  If this is a change from another insurance company, then the effective date will be the day after the other insurance ends unless a participant requests an earlier effective date.

Q: When is the health insurance card mailed?

A: It takes about a month to get the insurance card in the mail.  The insurance booklet sent to new participants contains a purple insert, which gives the group number/ID number needed for both prescription drugs and doctor’s appointments.

Q: Why would two insurance premiums be deducted from a participant’s first stipend?

A: This depends on when in the month the coverage takes effect.  If the coverage takes effect during the first 15 days of a month, the participant must pay for the current month and the next month since premiums are paid in advance.  However, if the coverage begins after the 15th, then the participant only pays the one premium for the next month.

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Travel

Q: Is travel covered under the research participation program?

A: Certain travel and relocation expenses may be reimbursed by the ORISE to participants who submit appropriate documentation. If a sponsor plans for the research participant to travel during the program, for example, to attend conferences or training, then the sponsor should allocate that amount plus overhead in the funding provided. ORISE can make travel arrangements for the participant if the sponsor so requests.

Q: Does participation in the program entitle participants to be reimbursed for travel to meetings and conferences?

A: That is possible. However, it depends on whether the facility has allocated funding for those expenses for the participant.  A participant should check with the research mentor or facility administrator to see if the particular research program intends to allow/reimburse this type of travel.

Q: What travel services does ORISE provide?

A: ORISE has travel agents to handle reservations for airline, hotel, rental cars, etc.  The forms required for travel are available through this Web site, under Forms.  Approval by the facility is required before submission of most forms.

Q: DOMESTIC TRAVEL- If traveling within the United States, how far in advance should a participant contact ORISE?

A: Allow a minimum of 2 weeks. For cheaper airfares, paperwork should be submitted at least 25 days before the start of travel.

Q: FOREIGN TRAVEL- If traveling outside the United States, how far in advance should a participant contact ORISE?

A: Allow a minimum of 60 days before the beginning of travel.

Q: Are participants allowed a travel advance?

A: Yes, but only an amount equal to the per diem for the entire trip.  However, Corporate Travel cards are available through ORISE to use for official, business-related travel expenses ONLY!.  If ORISE makes the airline arrangements, they pre-pay that cost.

Q: Are tips for taxis, shuttles, and limos reimbursable?

A: Yes. Tips (not to exceed 15%) for ground transportation will be reimbursed.

Q: Are tips/baggage handling charges reimbursable?

A: Baggage handling charges up to $1 per item are reimbursable for appointment-related equipment and/or materials only (not for personal baggage handling). Baggage handling charges are reimbursable ONLY for travelers who cannot carry their luggage due to physical limitations—must be noted in the comments section on the Travel Expense Statement (TES).

Q: Are insurance charges for rental vehicles reimbursable?

A: No. Reimbursement will NOT be made for the purchase of collision insurance (referred to as “CDW”), personal accident insurance (“PAI”), or any other insurance not covered in the rental car rate.  Should an accident occur or claims arise during a traveler’s use of a rental vehicle while performing business-related activities on official travel, ORISE/the government will cover all damages and liability claims to the extent that they exceed the insurance coverage provided by the rental car agency or the corporate credit card program.

Q: What original receipts are required for reimbursement?

A: Airfare (traveler’s original passenger receipt or electronic ticket confirmation); local transportation costs exceeding $50; lodging; excess baggage charges (explanation required); rental car (including gasoline, parking, and toll charges); registration fees (not pre-paid by ORISE); and any other miscellaneous expense over $50.

Q: Why doesn’t a participant submit receipts for meals?

A: Meals are covered by the allotted per diem, which is based on the GSA rate for the locality. Per diem is reimbursed as follows: 3/4 day per diem for the first and last day of travel plus remaining days at one full day of per diem. The per diem is also intended to cover other nonreimbursable expenses.

Q: Are personal phone calls reimbursable?

A: Reimbursement for personal calls is limited to $5 per day, with a maximum of $15 reimbursed for each seven-day period.

Q: If a participant wants to stay over on a Saturday night to reduce airfare costs, will ORISE cover the additional days?

A: ORISE permits and encourages travelers to prolong a trip to reduce the total cost.  Reimbursement for up to two additional nights lodging and associated expenses will be paid IF overall cost savings in total expenses results from the Saturday-night stay.

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Visa/Immigration Questions

Q: Can foreign nationals participate in the ORISE program?

A: For those projects that can accept foreign nationals, once an applicant is offered and accepts an appointment, ORISE will begin the process to sponsor the J-1 Visa status for that participant. Doing this properly depends on many things, such as if the participant is already in the country or not, and time to process the Visa can be lengthy. It is best for the applicant to notify ORISE at the time of application about his/her citizenship and Visa status.

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