Scientist Administrators

The NIH Agency Single Qualification Standard is used when the job title is Health Scientist Administrator with any parenthetical. The OPM Standard is to be used for all other 601 positions.

Scientist Administrators (SA's)

The Public Health Service (PHS), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, consists of several agencies, each responsible for administering programs of essential importance to the Nation's health. One of these agencies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has major responsibilities for conduct and support of state-of-the-art research and associated research training in biomedical, social, and behavioral sciences. Areas of interest include basic research focused on the development of new knowledge in such fields as genetics, cellular and molecular biology, chemistry and biomedical engineering, as well as more targeted research studies focused on the development of new and more effective methods to diagnose, treat, and prevent a host of human health problems ranging from cancer, AIDS, arthritis and heart disease to alcoholism, drug abuse, osteoporosis and psychiatric disorders.

Although a small amount of research training supported by the NIH is performed intramurally, a much larger portion is conducted at universities, medical schools, and other research organizations located throughout the country. Indeed, the NIH devotes more than 80 percent of its annual budget to activities performed by non-Federal Government institutions under grants, fellowships, and R&D contracts.

Responsibility within the PHS for planning, directing, and managing the evaluation for these extramural activities rests with subject matter experts designated as Scientist Administrators (SA's). These individuals, most of whom have had doctor (Ph.D., M.D., or D.D.S., for example) level training and independent research experience, use their knowledge to assure that Federal funds are used well and wisely.

Scientist Administrators are filled in the 0101 and 0601 occupational series and can serve as either Program Officers or Scientific Review Officers.

Program Officer (PO) 

Support extramural grants, contracts, and training with the goal of improving national health.

Duties include:

  • Advise grant applicants/grantees
  • Attend scientific review meetings
  • Make funding recommendations
  • Monitor awarded grants
  • Foster specific science through initiatives and meetings
  • Engage the public/scientific communities
  • Maintain own area of scientific expertise

Scientific Review Officer (SRO)

Works in partnership with the scientific community to ensure that the scientific review groups (study sections) identify the most meritorious science for funding by NIH Institutes and Centers.

Duties include:

  • Refer and review applications
  • Order review based on grant mechanism
  • Identify and recruit reviewers
  • Record scores and produce summary statements
  • Convene study section meetings and ensure policies are followed
  • Attend Council meetings and handle appeals

Desired Characteristics of SA’s

  • Competence in science
  • Recognizable accomplishment and career progression in a research activity related to health or biomedical/behavioral sciences; competence in management.
  • Ability to communicate effectively, to plan, to initiate, to administer, and to evaluate a scientific program successfully; familiarity with the dynamics of health-related research.
  • Understanding not only the internal relationships of the organization with which the research is identified and conducted but also the practices and policies affecting national health research efforts; and ability to work effectively and cooperatively with others.
  • Developing and maintaining good working relationships with Initial Review Groups, members of National Advisory Councils and Boards, representatives of academic institutions, the scientific community, public, and private organizations and agencies, and the general public, as well as supervisors, colleagues, and subordinates.
  • The ability to develop and maintain such relationships will be an important factor in the evaluation of their work.

0101/0601 Scientific Administrators Comparison Chart

0101 Social and Behavioral Scientist Administrator (SBSA) 0601 Health Scientist Administrator (HSA)
Grade Levels  12 to 15
Supervisory/Non-Supervisory Can be supervisory or non-supervisory
Roles Program Officer or Scientific Review Officer
Research/Experience Background

Social or behavioral science research/experience backgrounds based on the social determinants of health.

Medical, healthcare, or life science research/experience backgrounds.

Basic Education/Experience Requirement

Must have a bachelor's or graduate/higher level degree in the behavioral or social sciences, or related disciplines appropriate to this position; OR,

have a combination of education and experience that provided the knowledge of one or more of the behavioral or social sciences equivalent to a major in the field; OR,

have four years of appropriate experience demonstrating that you have acquired knowledge of one or more of the behavioral or social sciences equivalent to a major in the field.

Successful completion of all requirements for a Ph.D. (or equivalent doctoral degree), in an accredited college or university, including acceptance of the dissertation, in an academic field of the health or pertinent sciences (i.e., biochemistry, molecular biology, physiology, etc.) allied to health or health related research;


Successful completion of a full 4-year course of study in an accredited college or university, leading to a bachelor's or higher degree, with major study in an academic field of the health or pertinent sciences which have been applied and utilized by the applicant in health or health-related research and, in addition, at least 1 year of qualifying progressively responsible experience; or any equivalent combination of graduate study and research experience in these fields. This education and experience must demonstrate that the applicant has acquired the scientific knowledge, skills and abilities to apply and utilize them successfully in health or health-related research at a level which is the qualitative equivalent of that acquired in meeting all the requirements for the Ph.D. degree (or equivalent doctoral degree), including the dissertation as indicated above. The appropriate doctoral equivalency must be supported by publications in health or health-related research accomplishment in appropriate scientific journals; or other objective evidence in such form that it may be reviewed and evaluated.

Basic Experience Requirements Must have worked independently in planning, organizing, and conducting behavioral or social science health-related research; served in research program administration in these fields; and acquired an understanding of the history, interests, internal dynamics, and relationships of organizations in which health research is conducted.

All applicants must have one year of independent research experience beyond the doctoral degree and one year of program administration. For qualification purposes, independent is defined as having planned, organized, and conducted biomedical, behavioral health, or health-related research. This experience must have provided the applicant with an understanding of the history, interests, internal dynamics, and relationships of organizations in which health research is conducted. This experience may have been gained as a principal investigator of a grant or contract, or may otherwise have been gained through active involvement in initiating research projects, developing protocols, conducting studies, documenting findings, interpreting results in a published report (journal), supervising staff, and managing the budget. Qualifying experience must have been performed for 1-year on a full-time basis. Part-time work will be prorated accordingly.

The background of the applicant must show progressively responsible and successful experience (complexity of work in independent research and research program administration), to be eligible for each successively higher-grade level.

Additional Experience Requirements Click for more Click for more

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