SPP Sponsor Information Information about research participation programs for existing and potential SPP sponsors

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education manages competitive internship and fellowship programs on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. ORISE is the only DOE asset with a core mission of preparing the future federal workforce in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through workforce development programs. ORISE strengthens our nation's STEM workforce by administering internships and fellowship programs; recruiting talented scientists and engineers to research with federal and other sponsoring agencies; and assessing current science and technology labor trends

By sponsoring a program through DOE’s Strategic Partnership Projects (SPP), the agency benefits by helping to prepare a diverse, highly talented, educated, and skilled pool of scientists and engineers to address science, technology and policy issues and to enhance the future scientific and technical workforce to be both knowledgeable and trained in fields of specific interest to sponsoring agency. 

ORISE STEM workforce development capabilities

ORISE manages STEM workforce development programs for DOE and other government agencies by specifically:

  • Providing strategy, design and administration of internships, fellowships and other research-based STEM programs.
  • Developing recruitment strategies to attract highly qualified participants to research at national laboratories and research facilities.
  • Offering assessment and evaluation services that support DOE and other government agencies by verifying and improving program outcomes. From survey development and administration to data analysis and reporting, ORISE designs a variety of instruments that enable program sponsors to make decisions, implement best practices, and educate stakeholders about the program's value.
  • Conducting workforce studies that connect STEM workforce trends to the economic impact of research participation programs, tracks new developments or changes in higher education policy, and analyzes critical shifts in the STEM workforce.

Educating the future workforce

Research participation programs (RPP) provide opportunities for postgraduates (master’s, bachelor’s, and associate’s degree recipients); students; university faculty; and established scientists to conduct research, participate in the sponsor’s initiatives, or receive financial support for sponsor-based academic activities. As a result, participants will:

  • Contribute to the sponsor’s scientific mission;
  • Gain hands-on experience with real world problems;
  • Enhance their preparedness for STEM and policy related-careers; and
  • Become part of a skilled workforce for the future that will benefit both the sponsor and the overall global competitiveness of the nation.

The participant will not enter into an employee/employer relationship with the sponsoring agency, DOE, ORISE or any other organization. 

ORISE promotes hands-on science education experiences at government or corporate research facilities for university students, faculty, and recent graduates, as well as pre-college students and faculty. A facility that selects an ORISE participant is inviting the participant to come for an educational experience. It is not a procurement action; it is not contracting for services; and it is not employment.

By sponsoring a research program, you will be providing top and up-and-coming STEM professionals the opportunity to receive hands-on research experience on projects that support your research initiatives and missions. The primary purpose of the program is educational, and the participant is the principal beneficiary. Program participants will gain irreplaceable institutional knowledge that will allow them to apply their research expertise to projects in your agency. Benefits to the sponsor are a secondary by-product of the program.

To establish a proposal under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Strategic Partnership Projects (SPP) program, the agencies work with ORISE management to submit the proposal statement of work (SOW). The SOW defines scope, deliverables and provides cost estimates. In addition, the SOW identifies the academic levels of candidates permitted to participate in the SPP program. While the sponsors may intend only to host a specific level (postdocs, for example) in the their collective programs, the full suite of academic levels is included in their SOW. The sponsor is under no obligation to actually appoint participants of every level defined in the SOW; the SOW only defines what is permissible.

DOE expects that the sponsor will designate a Program Coordinator who will serve as the single point of contact with whom DOE will later correspond.

The ORISE Funding office will submit the draft proposal to DOE’s ORNL Site Office.

Once DOE approves the proposal, the Program Coordinator will be notified by letter that the proposal is approved and provided detailed administrative instructions that contain specific DOE requirements applicable to interagency agreements and how the agreement is submitted from the sponsor to the DOE Contracting Officer. All financial activities for interagency acquisition (IA) work performed by DOE for other federal agencies will be recorded through the Intragovernmental Payment and Collection (IPAC) system.

The sponsor must submit an interagency agreement in order for ORISE to work on the program, accept applications, or appoint applicants who have been selected for an appointment.

Upon acceptance of the interagency agreement by DOE, ORISE will begin program administration.

Frequently asked questions for potential sponsors

Project assignments should be STEM focused and provide the participant with opportunities to receive hands-on experience that complements his/her educational and professional background and helps the participant gain knowledge in areas related to the Sponsor’s mission. The program is not intended to provide workers to augment your organization’s staffing. Therefore, project activities should be appropriate for an education and training program. Participants should not supervise or mentor federal employees or federal contractor staff; have budget, program management or signature authority; carry an official job title; or function in any way as a representative of the federal government.

The schedule/pattern of participation is established by the participant and the mentor, and generally coincides with the operating hours of the assigned facility. Mentors should discuss expectations and schedule with their participants prior to the appointment start date. Since the participant is not an employee, no provisions are made for overtime pay.

Telecommuting is typically a benefit of employment and is not a benefit for participants in a non-employee research participation program.

ORISE programs offer a competitive stipend and may offer (depending on the program) on-station travel, facility inbound/outbound reimbursement, relocation/moving allowance, housing allowance, and health insurance.

Stipend payments

Participants will receive a stipend to defray their living and other expenses during this educational experience. Stipends are not considered compensation for services rendered by participants—there are no salaries or fringe benefits paid. The Sponsor determines and provides funding amounts for participants. ORISE handles the logistical administration of stipends.

Travel costs

Most sponsors provide some amount of money as a travel budget to each participant based on the academic level and project assignment. ORISE handles participant travel arrangements and payments.

Health insurance

All participants are required to have health insurance while appointed, and must provide proof of health insurance. Participants have the option to obtain health insurance offered through ORISE.

The Sponsor may also elect to confer a health insurance supplement to the participant’s stipend to defray the cost of health insurance.

ORISE does not allow awards in the form of monetary compensation. The Sponsor may, however, recognize a participant with non-monetary awards, such as recognition in a group meeting or other forums at your facility.

Participants in the ORISE program are not employees, as such, they are not entitled to annual/personal or medical/sick leave. Programs may choose to implement guidelines and policies for ORISE participants with their agency. Absences are not tracked or regulated by ORISE, therefore all questions and concerns pertaining to absenteeism must be directed to the participant’s mentor or program coordinator. All absences are at the discretion of the mentor and program coordinator.

In cases where assignments require a security clearance, the Sponsor is responsible for obtaining clearances for participants. Participants who are not U.S. citizens but are selected by the Sponsor should anticipate possible delays in their appointments.

The U.S. Department of Energy has extended the use of the ORISE contract to its strategic partners, including federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

A Secondary Sponsor who is affiliated with the primary sponsor can fund participants by citing the same DOE agreement that the primary sponsor does, so long as the Primary Sponsor provides written approval to ORISE, and as long as the secondary sponsor assigns a Program Coordinator to supervise appointments at the Secondary Sponsor’s location.

If the Secondary Sponsor’s use of the program grew to a large number of participants, then ORISE may suggest that the Secondary User establish its own DOE project.

The sponsor defines the mechanism for approval at their end. Most ORISE agreements are approved by the Chief Scientist, by the Director of the facility at which the research is conducted, or by the Program Coordinator who initiated the program with ORISE.

ORISE provides strategy and expertise in the design of the program. ORISE coordinates directly with the Sponsor to establish the program; administer the program in accordance with the approved guidance from the Sponsor; publish the program’s policies and procedures; report on program activities; and review program objectives and operating procedures.

ORISE publicizes the availability of opportunities in the program and recruits participants for the program.

It is the Sponsor’s responsibility to identify mentors for their program. Mentors must be full-time employees of the Sponsor research facility, university, or host facility. 

It is the responsibility of the Sponsor to ensure that all mentors have completed the required ORISE training.

Foreign citizen participation is up to the sponsor. Sponsors should consult with their legal office as to whether the program will permit foreign citizens to participate (many agencies do permit foreign citizens participation, and ORISE becomes the J-1 sponsor for those participants). 

High school students may participate. If the student is under the age of 18, all legal guardians must provide written permission. ORISE has specific appointment processes for students under the age of 18.

All appointments are contingent on the availability of funds of the Sponsor. Participation may be defined either as full-time or part-time. The duration of the appointment may be defined in weeks, months, years, or academic terms or semesters.

The participant is required to submit a final report at the end of their appointment. This report should include an abstract of the research accomplished, and will be used by the Sponsor and ORISE to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. The final stipend payment is contingent upon receipt of the final report.

Mentors should:

  • Develop a training plan for the participant, including the areas of participation in the research project, attendance in meetings, conferences, special courses, etc.
  • Clearly define the activities in which the participant will be involved. Let the participant know your expectations for research progress, professional behavior, compliance, attendance, etc.
  • Assist the participant in getting settled into your facility and becoming a productive member of your facility’s community.
  • Provide the appropriate materials, equipment, safety training, technical and clerical support, and office space for the participant to conduct the project.
  • Provide ongoing technical guidance and advice.
  • Be accessible.
  • Periodically review the status of the participant’s activities and give appropriate feedback.
  • Contact ORISE if a stipend payment needs to be adjusted due to an adjusted schedule, an unpaid absence, or an early termination.
  • Assist in preparation of participant’s renewal request or final reports and make recommendations on extension of appointment.
  • Contact ORISE if a participant demonstrates an inability to function effectively within your research environment.
  • Contact ORISE if a participant does not adhere to the guidelines of the sponsoring agency.

Complete an Opportunity Request Form and return it to your ORISE point of contact. ORISE staff will post the opportunity in Zintellect, where you will be able to review completed applications and make selections.

Zintellect is a user-friendly profile-based application system; it organizes and lists available opportunities for potential applicants, captures applicant data, and allows each mentor/sponsor to view applications and manage their viewing experience in the process of identifying new talent.

You can explore what applicants see in Zintellect by accessing www.zintellect.com.

All published reports, journal articles, or professional presentations that are based on the research conducted during the appointment should be reviewed and approved per agency guidelines. Participants should include the following acknowledgment:

This research was supported in part by an appointment to the Sponsoring Agency administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Sponsoring Agency. ORISE is managed by ORAU under DOE contract number DE-SC0014664. All opinions expressed in this paper are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the policies and views of Agency Acronym, DOE, or ORAU/ORISE.