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Current Research Participants

The information below should help current research participants at USFS with questions about their appointments. Each topic provides a broad overview for that process or area.


  • Nature of the Appointment

    Description of ORISE internship/research participation appointments at USFS.

    An ORISE research participant at USFS is not an employee of ORISE, ORAU, USFS, the host facility, or any other office or agency. Instead, the participant has a guest appointment at the USFS-designated facility and is affiliated with ORISE for the administration of the appointment through the ORISE appointment letter and Terms of Appointment.

    When accepting the Terms of Appointment, a participant agrees that the receipt of stipend payments from ORAU shall not be construed as an employment relationship and acknowledges there are no employment-related benefits (such as paid vacations, sick pay, maternity leave, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, etc.) associated with this appointment.

    As a guest at an USFS facility, a participant is expected to devote full time and effort in pursuing the activities of the research program, publishing research results, participating and presenting at appropriate scientific conferences and meetings, and participating in technical activities at the USFS facility.

    Participants should:

    • Recognize that this is an educational experience and not a contract of employment.
    • Be at the host facility during normal business hours. Telework is not permitted.
    • Observe and conform to all applicable rules, regulations, and requirements of the USFS facility including, but not limited to, those respecting environment, safety, security, operating and health physics procedures, drug-free workplace notification requirements and conduct.
    • Participate in the ongoing research activities of USFS.
    • Recognize that they are guests at USFS.
    • Recognize that they do not earn medical leave or personal leave, although the USFS facility may permit occasional absences (e.g., sick days and days for personal business) without reduction of the stipend payment or termination of the appointment. All absences must be approved in advance by the mentor.

    Participants should NOT:

    • Undertake activities that are reserved for federal employees.
    • Supervise, appoint, mentor, hire or fire USFS staff or other ORISE participants.
    • Accept budget or program management authority, signature authority, official job titles, or function in any way as a representative of the federal government, even if directed to by a responsible federal official.
  • Start of Appointment

    Once the mentor has submitted their selection to ORISE, ORISE will review the selection, verify funding availability, and will initiate the official offer to the candidate.

    There are additional requirements and conditions that must be followed before the candidate can be cleared to begin the appointment. The general steps are outlined below:

    • Prior to the mentor selecting the candidate, the candidate should have completed their application process in Zintellect that consists of the following items:
      • Application
      • Current résumé
      • Unofficial transcript required when applying to an opportunity on Zintellect, however an official transcript is required, if selected.
      • Two references from persons familiar with the candidate’s educational qualifications (including a reference from a current or past faculty member if possible)

    Note: If any of the items above are not received prior to the start of the appointment, the participant may not be able to start on time and/or their stipend payment will be delayed. It is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure ORISE has received these items.

    • Prior to the start date, the candidate will receive the official offer of appointment letter, terms of appointment, and other forms to complete and return. The appointment letter will outline any contingencies that must be met prior to starting their appointment.
    • Selected candidates must provide suitable citizenship documentation (such as a photocopy of a U.S. passport, birth certificate, Certificate of U.S. Naturalization or Certificate of U.S. Citizenship, permanent residency, visa status) at the time appointment is accepted.
    • Selected candidates who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents must also consult with ORISE immigration staff upon acceptance of the appointment to ensure they have the authorizations necessary for participation before beginning their appointments. Selected candidates cannot start their appointment until the ORISE immigration staff have notified they are cleared to start. Also, see Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens for clarification on the types of authorizations acceptable for the program.
    • All participants are required to have health insurance in place no later than the first day of the appointment and maintain health insurance throughout the duration of the appointment. ORISE health insurance is available for purchase. A form will be provided when the offer is sent.
    • The USFS program coordinator must certify the date the participant began the appointment. Once all steps are complete, ORISE will begin stipend payments.

    Note: A delay in any of the items listed above may delay the start date of the appointment and/or the stipend payment.

  • Duration of Appointment

    An explanation of the length of appointments in the USFS Research Participation Program.

    Postgraduate appointments are normally for one year and may be renewed for the equivalent of a total of five years of full-time participation. Appointment renewal is based on the recommendations of the mentor and is contingent upon project needs and funding availability.

    Student appointments are normally for 10-12 weeks during the summer. Part-time appointments during the academic year are also possible. A student may be reappointed with no time limit, while matriculating toward an undergraduate or graduate degree. Students must provide ORISE with proof of enrollment each semester. Once a degree is earned, the student becomes eligible for a postgraduate appointment and may participate for five years in that category.

    University faculty appointments normally occur for 10-12 weeks during the summer. Sabbatical appointments are also possible. A university faculty member may be reappointed, with no time limit, as long as he or she maintains status as full-time faculty at a U.S. college or university.

  • Renewal of Appointment

    Extending or renewing a research appointment at USFS.

    Once ORISE has received approval of the renewal from the USFS mentor specifying the funding, renewal end date, and any stipend or other changes, ORISE will send the participant a renewal letter to sign and return. All renewal appointments are contingent on the availability of funds.

    Refer to the duration of appointment period section for information on the maximum length of an appointment.

  • End of Appointment

    Concluding a research appointment at USFS.

    The duration of the appointment is specified in the appointment letter (and any subsequent renewal letters) from ORISE. Appointment end dates must be strictly observed and may not be changed without the appropriate communication from ORISE.

    As a participant’s scheduled end date approaches, ORISE will send a letter confirming the end date and outlining the procedures necessary to complete the appointment. The participant will need to submit a final report (one to two pages in length) describing the research and educational experiences during the appointment and evaluating the assistance provided by USFS and ORISE. Any outstanding travel or other reimbursement forms must also be submitted. These items must be received by ORISE before the final stipend can be issued.

    Leaving an Appointment Early

    Should a participant need to leave the program before the end of the appointment, the participant should directly inform ORISE by email and copy the USFS mentor. Non-U.S. citizens should also copy the ORISE immigration office. Two weeks’ advance notice is requested. Providing insufficient notice, or failure to communicate directly with ORISE, could result in unnecessary complications with final stipend payments.

    It is the responsibility of mentors and program personnel to inform ORISE that a participant is leaving and on what end date in advance of the departure.

    Extending an Appointment

    Continuing participation after the end of the appointment, even by a single day, is not permitted without first receiving an appointment extension. Please see renewal of appointment for more information on this process.

  • Policies/Regulations of the Hosting Facility

    Description of ORISE internship/research participation appointments at USFS.

    • Participants must complete all hosting facility requirements to gain access to the hosting facility prior to the start date of their appointment.
    • Participants must adhere to the existing policies, regulations and procedures of the hosting facility.
    • Guidelines and procedures for publications, copyrights and patents related to the research project must be discussed with the mentor.
    • Participants must follow the policies of the hosting facility regarding intellectual property rights and dissemination of research information.
  • Health Insurance

    Every participant is required to have health insurance on the first day of the appointment and throughout the duration of the program. Participants may not be present at USFS facilities if their insurance coverage lapses.

    Individual, individual plus one, or family insurance coverage may be purchased through ORISE, or participants may obtain another insurance plan from the company of their choice. More information on the insurance coverage offered by ORISE may be found at the ORAU Health Insurance site

    Participants who enroll in the ORAU/ORISE health insurance plan will have the full cost of the monthly premium deducted from their stipend payment. A participant who begins insurance coverage between the 1st and 15th of a month will pay a premium that month. A participant who begins coverage after the 15th of the month will not pay a premium that month. Insurance coverage will continue through the last day of the month in which the appointment ends. A premium will be deducted from the last stipend regardless of the appointment end date.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Answers to the questions most commonly asked by ORISE participants.

    My mentor has told me that I have been selected for an appointment. When will I receive notification from ORISE? All ORISE appointments must be approved by the USFS mentor. ORISE will send an appointment letter once this approval is received and the funding for the appointment is in place. See start of appointment for more information.

    Can I relocate before I receive my appointment letter?
    We discourage you from relocating until you receive an appointment letter. Only ORISE is authorized to offer you an appointment. Additionally, if your program provides financial assistance for relocation, it is important that you work with ORISE to ensure that the moving expenses you incur will be reimbursable.

    Can I change the start date of my appointment?
    You may delay your start date with approval from your mentor. Please immediately notify ORISE if your start date changes from what is stated in your appointment letter.

    I need to end my appointment early. What should I do?
    You should immediately notify your mentor and ORISE of your new end date. ORISE will notify you of any paperwork that needs to be completed before your final stipend payment will be released. See end of appointment for more information.

    What acknowledgement do I need to put on my posters and publications?
    All published reports, journal articles, or professional presentations that rely on the activities conducted during your participation should carry an acknowledgement such as: “This project was supported in part by an appointment to the Research Participation Program at the United States Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and USFS.”

    How many days of leave do I have?
    Participants do not earn annual or medical leave. However, your facility may allow some personal days off each appointment year without reduction in stipend. Contact your USFS program coordinator for more information. All absences must be approved in advance by the mentor.

    Participants should not be present on USFS holidays. These do not count against personal days, nor will they result in a decrease in stipend.

    Time off in excess of the allowed personal days may be permitted on a case-by-case basis as an unpaid absence. Extended time off for serious illness, emergencies, etc., will be unpaid and will require USFS mentor approval. You must notify ORISE in advance of any unpaid absences.

    Eek! It’s snowing! Do I have to report to USFS?
    You should not report to USFS when your facility is closed for holidays, emergencies, etc. Such closures will not affect your stipend.

    It’s February. Why haven’t I received a 1099 form from ORISE?
    Since ORISE participants are not employees or contractors (and receive stipends, not wages), they do not receive W-2 or 1099 forms. A Statement of Payments will be made available to you, and it can be used in preparing your tax return. Some foreign nationals, depending upon their tax treaty status, will receive 1042-S forms from ORAU. For more information on the tax implications of stipends, please see stipend information.

    Can you tell me how much funding is left in my travel budget?
    If you were provided a limited budget, you can contact ORISE for a current travel budget balance. We can also let you know how much you have already spent on travel. All travel expenditures, regardless of budgeted amounts, must be approved by your mentor.

    Can I defer payments on my student loans while I am a participant in the ORISE program?
    You may be able to defer your student loan payments, since the ORISE USFS program is an educational/training program. Please contact your lender to obtain the necessary forms, and send them to your ORISE point of contact. We will verify your appointment for the lender.

    Do I qualify for student loan forgiveness?
    This determination will be made by your loan provider. We suggest that you provide them with copies of your appointment letter and Terms of Appointment, so that they can determine your eligibility for loan forgiveness.

    What should I do to change my banking information?
    You will need to complete a new Electronic Funds Transfer form on your Zintellect Onboarding page.

    Can ORISE provide me with business cards?
    ORISE cannot pay for or reimburse you for the cost of business cards. Since ORISE research participants are not employees of ORISE or USFS, any personal cards that you may have printed must reflect your accurate status at USFS. Always list your title on this or any other literature as “ORISE Research Participant.”

  • Travel

    Information for participant travel and reimbursement.

    ORISE will process participants’ travel costs for conferences, training events, sampling expeditions, and other travel that supports the educational goals of the appointment, contingent on mentor approval. Participant travel will be in accordance with the ORAU/ORISE Travel Policy.

    Planning your Trip

    As soon as a trip is planned and has been approved by the mentor, the participant completes the Pre-approval Form, prints it and submits it by email to TravelCentral@orau.org.

    Once ORISE has received the approved Pre-approval Form, we will begin processing the travel request. Information on approved expenses may be found in the ORISE Travel Guide.

    Travel Reimbursements

    Within ten days of the completion of your trip, the participant must complete the Expense Report and submit it via email with all receipts to TravelCentral@orau.org.

    Personal Travel

    Participants are permitted to add personal travel days in conjunction with business travel provided that it is approved by the mentor and program coordinator. The Travel Central Team (TravelCentral@orau.org) will do a cost comparison for business-only travel versus business-with-personal travel. The participant will be responsible for all costs that exceed the business-only travel estimate.

    Pre-travel forms

    Travel Authorization Request (TAR) – Form must be approved by your USFS Mentor and submitted prior to official program travel.

    Post-travel forms

    Travel Expense Statement [TES] (Excel) – Form used for reimbursement of expenses for official program travel

  • Non-Travel Reimbursements and Pre-Payments

    Downloadable forms for reimbursement of mileage, parking, conference fees, training, tuition, books, and other supported reimbursable items.

    ORISE will process other participant costs for conference registration, training, tuition, books, mileage, parking and other activities that support the educational goals of the appointment, contingent on mentor approval. The participant submits the appropriate form to ORISE, including receipts when appropriate. For reimbursement to be approved, funds must be available on the date of the purchase, as documented on the receipt. For advance pay to be approved, funds must be available and the appointment active on the date that the cost will be incurred.

    Private Vehicle Mileage and Parking

    Request for Payment

    Form to request reimbursement of registration fees, tuition, books, or other miscellaneous (non-travel-related) costs:

    Note: If you have a trip planned that has conference registration fees, please follow the directions in the Travel Section as the fees can be paid using the Pre-approval Form; this form is only used when you do not have a trip associated with it.

  • Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens

    Important information for non-U.S. citizens participating in ORISE research programs.

    Find out more

  • Stipend Information

    Information on the calculation, payment, and receipt of stipends, including direct deposit instructions, health insurance premiums, and tax information for research participants.

    Participants receive a stipend to help defray living and other expenses during the appointment. Stipend rates are determined by USFS, and are based on the participant’s educational level. Stipends for faculty participants may be based upon their regular university salary.

    Pay Schedule

    Stipends are paid monthly on the last business day of the month.

    Direct Deposit

    Participants submit information for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), or direct deposit, at the start of the appointment. Stipend payments may only be electronically deposited to one account and not to separate accounts. EFT requires the participant to have a U.S. bank account; ORISE cannot transfer funds to foreign institutions.

    Statement of Payments and Payment Stubs

    Annual Statement of Payments and payment stubs will be available via an online service called Doculivery. Information about Doculivery will be provided at the start of your appointment.

    Health Insurance Deduction

    Participants who enroll in the ORAU/ORISE health insurance plan will have the full cost of the monthly premium deducted from their stipend payment. A participant who begins insurance coverage between the 1st and 15th of a month will pay a premium that month. A participant who begins coverage after the 15th of the month will not pay a premium that month. Insurance coverage will continue through the last day of the month in which the appointment ends. A premium will be deducted from the last stipend regardless of the appointment end date.

    Other Sources of Income

    Because the educational benefits of the appointment are the primary focus of the program, the participant may not provide services for compensation to a third party that conflict with the appointment. Awards, prizes, scholarships, Veterans Administration benefits, and other payments may be accepted by the participant provided they do not represent dual payment for the same activity.

    Taxability of Stipends

    For information on tax liabilities and how to file federal tax forms, please contact a licensed tax professional in your jurisdiction. We recommend that you provide your tax preparer with a copy of the most recent Terms of Appointment.

    Federal Income Tax

    All stipend payments paid by ORAU directly to the participant are considered taxable by the U.S. federal government, and it is the participant’s responsibility to report these payments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

    Additional Information for Foreign Nationals: Some foreign nationals will have payments reported to the IRS and/or taxes withheld by ORAU based upon their residency and the tax treaty status with their country. Foreign nationals will receive notification of their tax status after beginning their appointment and upon any change/incident that may affect their status. Foreign nationals for whom ORAU reports payments to the IRS will receive notification of the amount of these payments on Form 1042-S. These documents will be uploaded to your FNIS Account on or before March 15 following the relevant tax year.

    Because participants are not employees, stipend payments are not considered wages and should not be reported as such. Stipend payments are payments made in order to help defray living expenses while the participant is engaged in the research participation program at USFS. For IRS purposes, these payments are considered non-qualified scholarships and fellowships (not tuition and fees). For information on how to report this amount on the federal tax return, refer to IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, which can be downloaded from www.irs.gov/formspubs or requested at 1-800-829-3676.

    Except for some foreign nationals, participants will have no federal tax withheld by ORAU from their stipend payments. Participants who have no tax withheld from their stipend payment can expect to receive an annual Statement of Payments letter from ORAU. Designed to help with tax preparation, this statement will be uploaded to your FNIS Account by February and will include the total amount of payments made to you by ORAU during the previous calendar year.

    Other Taxes

    Because stipend payments are awards (not wages), ORAU does not withhold Social Security or Medicare taxes for any participant. Participants are not self-employed, and therefore do not pay self-employment taxes. ORAU also does not withhold state income tax for any participant.

    ORAU’s Responsibility to Withhold Federal Taxes and Report to the IRS For U.S. Citizens and Non-Citizens Participating in its Fellowship, Scholarship and Internship Programs
    Citizenship Status Qualifying Condition Withholds for Federal Income Tax Reports to the IRS
    U.S. Citizen   No No
    Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card holder)   No No
    Foreign national who is considered a resident for tax purposes* Tax treaty between the U.S. and country of tax residency No Yes (on form 1042-S)
    Foreign national who is considered a resident for tax purposes* No tax treaty between the U.S. and country of tax residency No No
    Foreign national who is not considered a resident for tax purposes** Tax treaty between the U.S. and country of tax residency No Yes (on form 1042-S)
    Foreign national who is not considered a resident for tax purposes** No tax treaty between the U.S. and country of tax residency Yes Yes (on form 1042-S)

    *A foreign national who meets the Substantial Presence Test and is, therefore, considered a resident of the U.S. for tax purposes

    **A foreign national who does not meet the Substantial Presence Test and is, therefore, NOT considered a resident of the U.S. for tax purposes.

  • Advancing Yourself Professionally

    ORISE has been helping young STEM professionals on their career paths since 1946. Current participants have access to resources to help with professional development.

    Find out more