D-SPAN F99/K00 Answers to FAQ

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Note: these tips are not a substitute for carefully reading the entire NOFO. 



Career Stage

At the time of application:

  • A graduate student with 1-2 years left in a biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research doctoral degree program at time of award (1.5-2.5 years left at time of application). Typically this would be applicants in their 3rd or 4th year.
  • Enrolled at a domestic (US) institution.
  • On track to graduate within 2 years, at time of award (typically 2.5 years at time of application). The F99 phase will not be extended, nor will the K00 phase be postponed, except under rare and unforeseen circumstances.

At the time of award, you must be:

  • A US citizen or permanent resident
  • At the dissertation stage. This means you have passed any and all requirements, as set by your institution, for advancement to the Ph.D. candidacy stage.
  • If you complete the Ph.D. degree requirements or begin a postdoctoral position before an award is made, neither the F99 nor the K00 award will be made.

Degree Program

You must be enrolled in a Ph.D. program or other research doctoral program (e.g., DrPH, ScD). Students enrolled in the following programs are NOT eligible for this program:

  • Dual-degree programs, even if the degrees are completed in separate phases.
  • Professional doctorate or clinical practice degree programs.
  • Any degree programs that require an extended internship following or during the research degree.

Research Area

D-SPAN supports all areas of neuroscience research within the missions of the participating NIH Blueprint institutes or the BRAIN Initiative. Note that NIDCD participation is limited to BRAIN Initiative research areas only; NIDCD does not participate in the NIH Blueprint. 

  • No area of research is given preference.
  • Both the F99 and K00 phases must fall within the NIH Blueprint or BRAIN Initiative missions.
  • All applications are reviewed together in the same study section; applicants do not need to indicate a study section or direct their application to a specific institute.
  • If unsure, contact DSPANF99K00@nih.gov.


This program is intended to enhance the diversity of the neuroscience workforce by supporting a defined pathway across career stages for outstanding graduate students from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral sciences. NIH encourages institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations to enhance the participation of individuals from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences (See the Notice of NIH's Interest in Diversity).

Description of Candidate’s Contribution to Program Goals: The sponsoring institution must provide a document on institutional letterhead that explains, in a manner consistent with applicable law, how the candidate’s participation will further the goals of the NIH Blueprint and BRAIN Initiative Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) program.

The "Description of Candidate’s Contribution to Program Goals” attachment must be dated and signed by an institutional official. In most cases, this will be the dean or the chairman of the department. The signature must appear over the signer's name and title at the end of the statement.

See instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

Foreign Components

Foreign institutions are not eligible or allowed for either phase. Foreign components are allowable.

Relationship to the F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA and other Fellowships

F31 applicants and current awardees are eligible for the F99.

  • Only one fellowship award may be active at any given time. F31 awardees will need to terminate the F31 prior to accepting the F99/K00.
  • The NIH does not allow two overlapping applications to be “pending review” at the same time. “Pending review” covers the time from when an application has been submitted until the release of its Summary Statement. You may not submit an F99 application and an F31 application for due dates in the same review cycle.
  • The F99/K00 is not an NRSA fellowship. Having prior NRSA support does not impact the years of support that may be requested for the F99/K00. Similarly, having an F99/K00 award does not impact any eligibility for future NRSA support.
  • Neither the F99 phase nor the K00 phase may be held concurrently with another federally sponsored fellowship or similar Federal award that provides a stipend or salary, or otherwise duplicates the provisions of this award.
  • Your primary F99 sponsor is not strictly required to have peer-reviewed, neuroscience-related research grant at the time of application or award. However, the sponsor needs to demonstrate the availability of research resources, funding, scientific and technical expertise, and mentorship experience to effectively mentor you. This is part of the review criteria.
  • The roles of any co-sponsors should be clearly described in the application. Co-sponsors are recommended if your primary mentor is junior and/or has not graduated many PhD students.

The Transition to the K phase

  • F99 awardees may not transition to the K00 phase until after their first year of F99 funding.
  • The F99/K00 award is intended to facilitate successful transition to the postdoctoral career stage. Consequently, a requirement for the K00 phase award is successful completion of the doctoral dissertation degree and subsequent transition to a neuroscience-focused, mentored postdoctoral research position within the mission of the NIH Blueprint or BRAIN Initiative.
  • Applicants are encouraged to apply for postdoctoral positions at institutions different from where they conducted their doctoral research. Applicants who intend to stay at the predoctoral phase institution for the postdoctoral phase should consider how they will separate scientifically from their Ph.D. sponsor.
  • The transition from the predoctoral phase to the postdoctoral phase is intended to be continuous in time and, except in unusual circumstances, NINDS will not extend the F99 phase or delay the start of the K00 phase.
  • To begin the K00 phase of the grant, individuals must have been offered and accepted a postdoctoral appointment to carry out neuroscience-focused research, submit a K00 application, and secure approval of the K00 application.
  • When the K00 phase of the award begins, the F99 phase of the award ends.
  • A transition application is required for the K00 phase. Prospective applicants must contact the D-SPAN Program Official as soon as a plan to assume a postdoctoral position develops but at least 6 months prior to the end of the F99 phase of the award to allow adequate time for approval of the sponsor and the project and for development of a complete application.  This will also ensure the transition to the K00 phase takes place without interruption in funding.

Guidance for Preparing the F99/K00 Application

Use the Fellowship (F31-specific) section of the SF424 (R&R) application guide for guidance, except where the instructions in the NOFO, i.e., the Notice of Funding Opportunity (RFA-NS-24-030), tell you to do something else.

Please pay particular attention to the instructions in Section IV.

This guidance is listed in the order it appears in the Fellowship Instructions of the Application Guide. Please pay special attention to the following sections that deviate significantly from the F31 application:

  • Fellowship Applicant Section – follow the instructions in the NOFO. This section should address both phases of the F99/K00.
  • Biographical Sketch for applicant and sponsor(s) – follow the instructions in the NOFO, paying special attention to the personal statement and scholastic performance.
  • Specific Aims – follow the instructions in the NOFO. All applicants must use these two Specific Aims:
    • Specific Aim 1: The Dissertation Research Project.

    • Specific Aim 2: The Postdoctoral Research Direction.

  • Research Strategy Section – follow the instructions in the NOFO. Applicants should individually address the Significance and Approach for each Specific Aim as instructed in the NOFO. Pay particular attention to the Approach instructions for Specific Aim 2.
  • Training Plan, Environment, Research Facilities – follow the instructions in the NOFO. This should not just be a list of activities, but a fully individualized plan for the applicant that describes the candidate’s strengths and gaps in needed skills and explains why each activity has been included in the training plan.
  • Institutional Environment and Commitment to Training Section – follow the instructions in the NOFO. There are several required elements that must be in this section.
  • Description of Candidate's Contribution to Program Goals – this document is required.

F.200 - SF 424 (R&R) Form

  • Item 12, Start Date – refers to the start of the F99 phase.
  • Item 12, End Date – refers to the end of the K00 phase. 
  • Item 15, Estimated Project Funding – This is an estimate that covers both phases. See the NOFO.

F.220 - R&R Other Project Information

  • Item 7, Project Summary/Abstract – Address both phases.
  • Item 8, Project Narrative – Address both phases.

F.240 - R&R Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) Form

  • Applicants are to use the Predoctoral Biosketch form. Applicant must include the start date (month and year) of all education/training experiences.
  • In the "Personal Statement" section, applicants should follow the instructions for "applicants for dissertation research awards" and include a description of their career goals, their intended career trajectory, and their interest in the specific areas of research supported by the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint or BRAIN Initiative. When relevant, applicants are encouraged to account for factors that affected past productivity.
  • Under the section "Scholastic Performance," applicants should list undergraduate courses, but should not include undergraduate grades. Graduate courses and grades must be included.
  • In the biosketch, descriptions of contributions may include a mention of research products under development, such as manuscripts that have not yet been accepted for publication, but you may cite only published papers to support each contribution. You are allowed to cite interim research products (e.g. preprints).
  • In the "Personal Statement" section, the sponsor and any co-sponsors should include a statement describing their mentoring and training philosophy, including commitment to diversity and inclusion in their training environments.  

F.430 - PHS Fellowship Supplemental Form

You MUST follow the NOFO-specific instructions for all sections.

  • Item 8. Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research – required; limited to 1 page. Don’t forget to address each of the 5 required components.
  • Item 9. Sponsor and Co-Sponsor Statements
    • The 6-page limit is the total for the sponsoring team (not 6 pages per sponsor)
  • Vertebrate Animals – include if applicable to the F99-phase research. Follow current NIH Guidelines and include a Vertebrate Animal Section in the application.
    • IACUC approval is needed before an award can be made, but not to submit the application.
  • Item 15. Resource Sharing Plan – include a plan that covers the F99 phase and addresses:
    • This is a REQUIRED element for all NIH Fellowship applications.
    • NIH policy is that the results and accomplishments of the activities that it funds should be made available to the public.
    • The special guidance for research involving special topics such as Model Organisms.
  • Item 24. Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources – If applicable to the F99 project, briefly describe methods to ensure the identity and validity of key biological and/or chemical resources used in the proposed studies.  A maximum of one page is suggested.
  • Item 25. Budget Section – use the F99 institution’s current graduate student and postdoc policies to estimate the costs for both phases, in conjunction with the Budget section of the NOFO, to estimate the total budget.
    • If an award is made, the Grants Management Specialist will verify the tuition and fees for the F99 phase.
    • At the time of transition to the K00 phase, awardees will be asked to submit a new budget as part of the transition application.

F.500 Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information

You, your sponsor, and your grants manager should read the instructions carefully.

  • Include if applicable to the F99-phase research only, not the K00 phase.
  • IRB approval is needed before an award can be made, but not to submit the application.
  • Follow current NIH guidelines, read the FAQs, and then include the Human Subjects section in your application.
  • Common mistakes involve the E4 exemption status and human specimens, cell lines or data. See the NIH OHRP website for guidance.
  • If you answered “No” to the question “Are Human Subjects Involved” but are using human specimens and/or data, you must provide a justification for your claim that no human subjects are involved.

Updated: April 2, 2024