The instructions for supervisors of an NIH NRSA Fellowship say:

B. Sponsor's/Co-Sponsor’s Previous Fellows/Trainees Give the total number of predoctoral and postdoctoral individuals previously sponsored. Select up to five that are representative and, for those five, provide information on time spent in the lab their present employing organizations and position titles or occupations. Include this information for any co-sponsor as well.

While the instructions do not say the supervisor needs to provide names, even in the absence of a name, providing the information seem like it is treading close to a FERPA violation. It would be surprising if a reviewer would not be able to identify who the former students from the required information even in the absence of the name.

Do I need my former students to fill out some sort of FERPA statement? If so, can I make it them agreeing to some sort of blanket FERPA release a requirement for me to agree to supervise them?

  • 12
    Ask your Sponsored Research Office or equivalent. Given that this is a federal government requirement, either NIH or your university will have to make a call on whether this information is covered by FERPA or not. If your SRO can't tell, they may have to call NIH for a ruling.
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 13:17
  • 8
    Usually a "sponsored individual" would have been employed in your lab as a research assistant or some similar title. So one could argue that this is asking about those individuals in their capacity as employees; information about their employment might not be considered an "educational record" for the purposes of FERPA. As @BillBarth says, you should consult with your institution, since they're the ones who will be sued if you are wrong, but it's hard for me to imagine that this hasn't already been considered and resolved. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 14:44
  • 5
    Also, the information requested here (even including names) sounds to me like it falls under FERPA's class of "directory information". Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 14:46
  • 4
    @Nate Student employment records are considered education records if the job requires the holder to be a student.
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 15:46
  • @NateEldredge Though certain universities recently filed an amicus insisting that legally students are in no way employees.
    – user4512
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 3:16

1 Answer 1


Intuitively I would think that if signed consents were needed, NIH would instruct you to include them in your application or, at least, to obtain them and keep them on file.

I checked a few universities and found that they publish an email address for addressing FERPA questions. Also, there is a contact page for the compliance section of the Department of Education: http://familypolicy.ed.gov/content/family-policy-compliance-office-contact-information

On p. 9 of the instructions you linked to, there is a contact page.

I'm not sure if it's relevant, but on that same page, I read:

Collection of Personal Demographic Data

NIH collects personal data through the eRA Commons Personal Profile. The data is confidential, and is maintained under the Privacy Act record system. http://grants.nih.gov/grants/collection-of-personal-demographic-data.htm

The part of FERPA that looks like it might be relevant is here.

The basic idea that I got about this is that NIH commits to holding the personal information you share with it as close to its chest as your university does. In other words, it commits to using the personal information you give it for internal purposes only. My big-picture view of FERPA is that it provides protections to students from having their personal information publicly disseminated (subject to a ton of fine print).

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