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Commitment to Early Stage Investigators

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Fiscal Year 2012

Archive Edition

BACKGROUND. The NHLBI is committed to identifying and attracting new independent biomedical researchers to study health-related areas that fall within the mission of the Institute and to support 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 NHLBI provides special consideration to Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) in funding priority and period of support for new competing (Type 1) regular research project grants (R01) and first renewal (Type 2) R01 applications.

New unamended applications submitted by New Investigators (NIs) who do not qualify as ESIs are not eligible for special funding status.

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 an NI who is within 10 years of completing his/her terminal research degree or is within 10 years of completing medical residency (or the equivalent).

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, a PI is not excluded from consideration as an NI or an ESI if he/she has been the PI of an award from any of the following two 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

Please note that the NHLBI considers both NI and ESI status to have been determined at the time of the initial A0 grant application submission. If an applicant would have qualified for ESI status at the time of the A0 application submission, that status would be maintained through to the A1 and A2 revisions.

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. 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 in FY 2012. In addition, new competing (Type 1) ESI R01 applications that are >5 but <=10 percentile points above the regular R01 paylines in FY 2012 may undergo an expedited program 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.

ESI 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
  • the individual must be currently holding a position at a domestic institution with a faculty rank up to and including an Associate Professor or equivalent.

Please note that if an 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.

Note regarding grants with Multiple PIs: In the case of a grant application that involves more than one PI, all PIs must meet the definition of New Investigator in order to check "Yes" in the "New Investigator" box. Please note that only those multiple PI applications where all investigators are ESIs will maintain eligibility for special funding consideration.

For additional information on NIH policies applicable to 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.

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