Encouraging Early Transition to Research Independence: Modifying the NIH New Investigator Policy to Identify Early Stage Investigators

Notice Number: NOT-OD-08-121

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

Key Dates
Release Date:  September 26, 2008

Issued by
Office of Extramural Research
National Institutes of Health (NIH) (www.nih.gov )

Purpose

This notice describes a change in NIH New Investigator policies designed to encourage early transition to independence.  Under this policy, New Investigators within ten years of completing their terminal research degree or within ten years of completing their medical residency will be designated Early Stage Investigators (ESIs).  Traditional NIH research grant (R01s) applications from ESIs will be identified and the career stage of the applicant will be considered at the time of review and award. 

Background

For more than three decades the NIH has explicitly encouraged New Investigators to apply for NIH research grant support.  The involvement of New Investigators is considered essential to the vitality of health-related research and has been addressed by several important NIH programs and studies which are detailed on the New Investigator Website at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/

In spite of persistent attention to the identification and funding of New Investigators, the duration of postdoctoral training has increased.  This is consistent with the observation that the average age at which an investigator first obtains R01 funding has increased by more than 5 years between 1980 to and 2001 (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/Workforce_Info09072007.ppt).  Current New Investigator policies have encouraged entry into the PI pool of investigators but those policies have not addressed the problem of elongated periods of training or the delayed transition to independence. 

Accordingly, the NIH will more broadly adopt an approach piloted by the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (DP2) (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-RM-08-014.html).  This award is targeted to applicants within 10 years of completing their terminal degree or within 10 years of completing their medical residency.  Other features of the New Innovator Award may not apply to ESIs.

The NIH will continue to encourage all New Investigators to apply for NIH R01 awards.  However, under this new policy, those New Investigators who are within 10 years of their terminal research degree or within 10 years of completing a medical residency, will be identified as Early Stage Investigators. Their applications will be identified and their career stage will be considered at the time of review and award.  It is hoped that by providing an advantage for ESIs, the NIH will be able to directly encourage earlier application for NIH research grant support.  
  
Definitions

New Investigator:  An NIH research grant Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) who has not yet competed successfully for a substantial, competing NIH research grant is considered a New Investigator.  For example, a PD/PI who has previously received a competing NIH R01 research grant is no longer considered a New Investigator.  However, a PD/PI who has received a Small Grant (R03) or an Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) retains his or her status as a New Investigator.  A complete definition of a New Investigator along with a list of NIH grants that do not disqualify a PD/PI from being considered a New Investigator can be found at http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/resources.htm.  
  
Early Stage Investigator (ESI):  An individual who is classified as a New or First-Time Investigator and is within 10 years of completing his/her terminal research degree or is within 10 years of completing medical residency (or the equivalent) is considered an Early Stage Investigator (ESI). 

Extension of ESI Eligibility:  The 10 year period after completion of the terminal degree or residency may be extended to accommodate special circumstances including various medical concerns, disability, pressing family care responsibilities, or active duty military service. Guidelines for requesting and considering such requests are being developed and will be announced. 

Planned Implementation

Beginning with traditional R01 applications received for the February 2009 receipt dates, the NIH will identify applications from ESIs and New Investigators and the career stage of the PD/PI will be considered at the time of review and award. Some of the details are still being worked out and will be announced as they become available.  At the current time it is expected that the implementation will include the following features:

More complete information on the ESI-related features of the eRA Commons; instructions to reviewers for consideration of ESI applications; grouping of applications from ESIs during peer review; the process and criteria for requesting an extension of the period of eligibility; and a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) will be developed between the issuance of this announcement and the February R01 receipt dates. 

Inquiries

Direct inquiries regarding this Notice to:

Walter T. Schaffer, Ph.D.
Senior Scientific Advisor for Extramural Research
Office of Extramural Research
Building One, Room 138
Bethesda, MD 20892
Tel: (301) 402-2725
E-mail: schaffew@od.nih.gov


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