This has to be the longest winded and most indirect way of putting it.
My interpretation (I could be wrong) is that yes, you can use R-mech research grant funds to send your postdocs to meetings, give seminars and do other postdoctoral training activities that are not directly related to the goals of the research grant.
Working in reverse here, I note today's Notice NOT-OD-15-008:
The Uniform Guidance states; ”For non-Federal entities that educate and engage students in research, the dual role of students as both trainees and employees contributing to the completion of Federal awards for research must be recognized in the application of these principles.” Staff in postdoctoral positions engaged in research, while not generally pursuing an additional degree, are expected to be actively engaged in their training and career development under their research appointments as Post-Docs. This dual role is critical in order to provide Post-Docs with sufficient experience and mentoring for them to successfully pursue independent careers in research and related fields.
Does 200.400(f) require recognition of the dual role of postdoctoral staff appointed on research grants as, both trainees and employees, when appointed as a researcher on research grants?
Yes, the Uniform Guidance 200.400(f) requires the recognition of the dual role of all pre and post-doctoral staff, who are appointed to research positions with the intent that the research experience will further their training and support the development of skills critical to pursue careers as independent investigators or other related careers. Neither Pre-Docs nor Post-Docs need to be specifically appointed in ‘training’ positions to require recognition of this dual role. The requirements and expectations of their appointment will support recognition of this dual role per 200.400(f).
This clarification applies to all NIH awards.
Yeah, this is the only thing I found that mentions postdocs in the OMB Clarification.
Sally Rockey's recent post isn't much help
I am pleased that OMB has taken this step to clarify as our partner institutions often struggled with how to charge, what are essential career development activities, to research grants.
but her 2012 post is a little more illuminating (emphasis added).
We all know postdocs don’t spend every moment at the bench. I think everyone would agree that attending a professional meeting and presenting research results is a critical part of a postdoc’s expected responsibilities. However, lately we’ve had a number of inquiries about which activities postdoctoral fellows are allowed to perform as part of their official duties supported by NIH grants.
So, what constitutes appropriate postdoctoral fellowship activities that can be charged to research project grants and other sponsored agreements? The guidelines allow compensation for all activities that contribute to and are intimately related to the work supported by the award, and that are consistent with the institution’s employment agreements with individuals in comparable positions. So, delivering special lectures, writing reports and articles, participating in seminars, consulting with colleagues and graduate students, and attending meetings and conferences can be supported according to these guidelines.
One interpretation of this is that postdoctoral activity had to be "intimately" related to the award. I guess (?) that what we are discussing is whether we can use research funds to send a postdoc to a meeting that is less clearly related to the grant. Maybe the postdoc doesn't have any data yet. Or maybe the meeting is a new area of science. Or maybe...some "alt careers" training experience? So this interpretation here would say no. Has to be "intimately" related.
But, does the "individuals in comparable positions" leave an out?
Postdocs supported by their National Research Service Award (NRSA) receive stipends set by NIH, and they are expected to devote their full time to the proposed research training, ... Since the purpose of an NRSA postdoctoral traineeship or fellowship is to continue training for a career in research, all activities that contribute to this goal are permissible under these awards. Such activities might include laboratory research, writing research reports, reviews and journal articles, and attending and presenting at scientific conferences and seminars. Other training-related activities that would enhance a future scientific career might include teaching or overseeing students on projects related to the fellow’s or trainee’s research training experience.
Getting back to the opaque Notice from today, I am focusing on "Neither Pre-Docs nor Post-Docs need to be specifically appointed in ‘training’ positions to require recognition of this dual role."
So maybe, perhaps, in the indirect fashion of Government speak this "clarification" is trying to say it is okay to spend research grant dollars sending the postdoctoral trainee who is actually called a "research associate" or similar (because they are not on a "fellowship") to meetings unrelated to the grant itself?