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Commitment to Early Stage Investigators

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

February 22, 2010

BACKGROUND. The NHLBI is committed to identifying and attracting new independent biomedical researchers to study those health-related areas that fall within the mission of the Institute and to supporting them in achieving their career goals. Entry of investigators in the early stages of their career into the ranks of independent, NIH-funded researchers is essential to the continued long-term health of the nation’s biomedical research enterprise.

The special funding consideration for new investigators (NI) who are not early stage investigators (ESI) has changed for grant applications submitted for funding in fiscal year 2010, as described below.

NIH DEFINITION.  A principal investigator (PI) is considered an NI if he/she has not previously competed successfully as a PI for a significant NIH independent research award regardless of his/her career status (see below). An ESI is a subset of NIs who is within 10 years of completing his/her terminal research degree or is within 10 years of completing medical residency (or the equivalent). The establishment of the ESI category represents a change in the NIH NI policies designed to encourage early transition to independence.

Specifically, a PI is identified as an NI or an ESI if he/she has not previously competed successfully for an NIH-supported research project, other than the following early stage or small research grants or the indicated training, infrastructure, and career awards:

  • Pathway to Independence Award-Research Phase (R00)
  • Small Grant (R03)
  • Academic Research Enhancement Award (R15)
  • Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21)
  • Research Education Grants (R25, R90, RL9, RL5)
  • Clinical Trial Planning Grant (R34)
  • Dissertation Award (R36)
  • Small Business Technology Transfer Grant-Phase I (R41)
  • Small Business Innovation Research Grant-Phase I (R43)
  • Shannon Award (R55)
  • NIH High Priority, Short-Term Project Award (R56)
  • Competitive Research Pilot Projects (SC2, SC3)

Additionally, the PD/PI is not excluded from consideration as a "New Investigator" if he/she has been the PD/PI of an award from any of the following classes:

Training-Related and Career Awards

  • All Fellowships (F Awards)
  • All individual and institutional career awards (K awards)
  • Loan repayment contracts (L30, L32, L40, L50, L60)
  • All training grants (T32, T34, T35, T90, D43)

Instrumentation, Construction, Education, Health Disparity Endowment Grants, or Meeting Awards

  • G07, G08, G11, G13, G20
  • R13
  • S10, S15, S21, S22

NIs who do not qualify as ESIs will no longer be routinely considered for special funding status beginning with awards made in FY 2010. In particular, any new (Type 1) regular research project grant (R01) application submitted by a non-ESI NI on or after February 5, 2009 will no longer be considered for special funding consideration. This policy will have no effect on Type 1 R01 applications submitted by ESIs.

Note regarding grants with Multiple PD/PIs: In the case of an grant application that involves more than one PI, all PD/PIs must meet the definition of New Investigator to check "Yes" in the "New Investigator" box.

This information is summarized in the table below.

Timeline for Discontinuing Special Funding Consideration for NIs (non-ESI)

Submission Deadline Date Review Date NHLBI Council Date Fiscal Year Does NI (non-ESI) Receive Special Funding Consideration?
October 5, 2008* February/March 2009 May/June 2009
February 5, 2009** June/July 2009 October 2009
June 5, 2009 October/November 2009 January/February 2010

* Please note that any non-ESI NI grant application submitted on or before the October 5, 2008 submission deadline date will be eligible to recieve special funding consideration.

** Please note that any non-ESI NI grant application submitted for the February 5, 2009 submission deadline date or thereafter will not be eligible to receive special funding consideration.

For additional information on NIs and ESIs, please refer to the NIH site entitled New and Early Stage Investigator Policies.  Among the items that can be found there are the modifications in the definitions of new investigators in general, exceptions to ESI eligibility criteria, and frequently asked questions.

NHLBI CRITERIA FOR SPECIAL R01 FUNDING CONSIDERATION.  The NHLBI will continue a commitment to help ESIs by a policy of maintaining separate paylines for new competing (Type 1) R01 and First Renewal (Type 2) applications in accordance with NIH guidelines. Regardless of amendment status, the paylines for new competing (Type 1) and First Renewal (Type 2) ESI R01 applications will be 5 percentile points above the regular R01 paylines for unamended (A0) applications in FY 2010. In addition and also regardless of amendment status, new competing (Type 1) ESI R01 applications that are >5 but <=10 percentile points above the regular R01 paylines for unamended (A0) applications in FY 2010 may undergo an expedited review to resolve comments in the summary statement.  The funding policies will apply to all new competing (Type 1) and First Renewal (Type 2) ESI R01 applications under special funding consideration regardless of the amendment status of the application.  All awards to ESI applicants under this policy will be funded for all years recommended by the NHLBAC. The most recent NIH policy on ESIs can be found at the following link:

EARLY STAGE INVESTIGATORS’ FIRST RENEWAL.  In order for an ESI to be considered for NHLBI priority funding for the first competitive renewal (Type 2) of his/her R01, all of the criteria below must be met:

  • the individual cannot be a principal investigator on an Independent Scientist and/or other non-mentored career award or on another R01 or a sub-project director on a multi-project award, and
  • must be currently holding a position at a domestic institution with a faculty rank up to and including an Associate Professor or equivalent.

The special first renewal payline policy also applies to individuals designated "non-ESI New Investigators" in fiscal years up to and including FY 2009.

Please note that if the ESI is administratively appointed on a non-competing phase of the R01 and meets both criteria, then he/she is eligible for special funding consideration for the competing renewal (Type 2) of that particular application.

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