NIMH Policy Update for Career Awards (K-Series)

Notice Number: NOT-MH-08-017

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

Key Dates
Release Date: September 18, 2008

Issued by
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), (http://www.nimh.nih.gov)

This Notice revises and updates the most recent NIMH Policy Update for Career Awards (K-Series) that was published in the NIH Guide on April 21, 2005 (NOT-MH-05-008).  This Notice is intended to complement the policies of the trans-NIH K-series program announcements (see below) and addresses NIMH-specific issues regarding the following program announcements:

PA-07-297: NIH Pathway to Independence (PI) Award (K99/R00)
PA-06-001: Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01)
PA-06-527: Independent Scientist Award (K02)
PA-06-512: Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08)
PA-05-143: Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
PA-08-151: Mid-Career Investigator Award in Patient-Oriented Research (K24)
PA-06-087: Mentored Quantitative Research Career Development Award (K25)
PAR-05-109: NIMH Career Transition Award (K22) – This FOA expired on March 2, 2006.  Non-competing applications will continue to be supported.

Applicants are expected to pursue research and career development activities relevant to the mission of the NIMH (http://www.nimh.nih.gov).  Therefore, prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the appropriate research training program officer at the NIMH (see http://www.nimh.nih.gov/research-funding/training/contacts-for-research-training-and-career-development-programs.shtml) prior to preparing an application for a mentored career development award.  Because of changes in NIMH policy concerning eligibility for K02 and K24 awards (see below), potential K02 and K24 applicants are encouraged to contact the NIMH program official responsible for their qualifying research project grant prior to submitting an application.

Following peer review, Just in Time information will be requested for applications that are being considered for possible funding.  The salary amount requested must reflect the actual salary effective at the start date of the potential career award.  This amount may not be modified mid-year.

The unique aspects of NIMH allowable costs in the categories of salary and research support are described below for each career development program.

Pathway to Independence (PI) Award (K99/R00)

The NIH Pathway to Independence Award provides an opportunity for highly promising postdoctoral scientists to receive both mentored and independent research support from the same award.  The initial K99 phase will provide 1-2 years of mentored support for postdoctoral research scientists followed by up to three years of independent support (R00 phase) contingent on securing an independent research position.  Award recipients are strongly encouraged to initiate a dialog with their NIMH program official prior to initiating a search for an independent, tenure-track faculty position so that appropriate technical assistance may be provided prior to R00 transition.  Award recipients are expected to apply for independent R01 support from the NIMH during the R00 award period.  For policies pertaining to fiscal, citizenship, eligibility (individual and institutional), and review issues, as well as the steps required for transitioning from the K99 to the R00 phase, please refer to the current K99/R00 program announcement, the New Investigators web site, and the NIMH Research Training web site.

Mentored Phase (K99)

NIMH salary support for the K99 phase of this award is generally limited to $50,000 per year, plus fringe benefits.  The total cost per year for the K99 phase generally should not exceed $90,000 at either an NIH intramural or an extramural sponsoring institution site, but may be higher in the case of individuals with exceptional salary needs.  These exceptional salary needs must be well justified in the application and will be considered by the NIMH prior to issuing an award.  The salary must be based on a full-time, 12–month position and must be consistent both with the established salary structure at the institution and with salaries actually provided by the grantee institution from its own funds and/or non-federal funds to other staff members of equivalent qualifications, rank, and responsibilities in the applicable department.  Fringe benefits should be requested based on the sponsoring institution’s rate.

A maximum of $20,000 per year will be provided for research support costs.  Research costs may include (a) tuition and fees related to career development; (b) supplies, equipment and technical personnel; c) travel to research meetings or training; and (d) statistical services including personnel and computer time.  F&A costs will be provided at 8% of modified total direct costs only to extramural sponsoring institutions.

While K99 awardees at an extramural sponsoring institution/organization will be supported by NIMH extramural funds, K99 awardees in the NIH intramural research program will be supported by intramural funds provided by the NIH Institute/Center intramural laboratory in which they are conducting their research.  Budget details for the mentored phase will be negotiated by the K99 candidate with the appropriate NIH Institute/Center intramural program.

The NIMH will not issue a K99 award to an individual who receives a job offer prior to the issuance of the K99 Notice of Award and accepts the offer.

Transitioning from the K99 Phase to the R00 Phase of the PI Award

Transition from the K99 phase (intramural NIH or extramural institution) to the extramural R00 phase is not automatic and is subject to NIMH administrative review of the K99 awardee’s accomplishments during the K99 phase and the materials submitted in support of the R00 phase application.  The K99 awardee must be accepted by an extramural institution in a tenure-track, full-time assistant professor (or equivalent) position in order to transition to an R00 phase award.  It is expected that the K99 awardee will have negotiated this faculty position prior to the project end date of the K99 phase award.  The tenure-track (or equivalent) position may not be contingent upon receipt of an R00 phase award.  While early transition to the R00 phase may occur in exceptional circumstances, it is expected that the PI will have accomplished their K99 goals prior to this transition.  It is expected that these accomplishments will be clearly documented in the R00 phase application.

K99 awardees are strongly encouraged to contact their program officer as they begin to interview for tenure-track faculty positions and to provide regular status updates on their job search.  Such communication will allow program staff to provide appropriate technical assistance as K99 awardees conduct their job search and negotiation.  It is expected that the K99 awardee will notify their program officer upon receipt of any tenure-track faculty job offer (and prior to acceptance of an offer) so that the program officer may address questions concerning NIMH’s expectations for transition to the R00 phase of the award and to address any questions that may arise with the R00 extramural institution concerning requirements for R00 phase awards.  Individuals should allow at least two months for NIMH review of R00 phase applications.

R00 applications submitted after July 15th annually will generally not be reviewed until the next fiscal year (after October 1st).

Additional information concerning the transition from the K99 to the R00 phase of this award, including instructions regarding documentation that must be submitted by the K99 and the R00 applicant institutions, is available at http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/QsandAs.htm.  K99 awardees are encouraged to discuss their transition with their program officer.

Independent Investigator Phase (R00)

The total cost for the independent investigator phase may not exceed $249,000 per year.  This amount includes salary, fringe benefits, research support costs, and applicable F&A costs.  F&A costs will be reimbursed at the sponsoring extramural institution’s F&A rate.  F&A costs requested by consortium participants are included in the total cost limitation.

As is the case for other research project grant awards, the salary requested should be based on the person months that will be devoted to the R00 project.  The PI is required to devote a minimum of 9 person months (i.e., 75% of his/her full-time, 12-month professional effort) to research.  However, it may not be feasible to support this entire effort solely through the R00 award.  R00 phase awardees may devote effort to other research projects and may reduce effort on the R00 award if they receive additional independent research support.  Reduction of effort by 3 person months (i.e., 25%) or more from the level specified in an approved application requires prior approval by the NIMH as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Mentored Career Development Awards (K01, K08, K22, K23 and K25)

Use of the mentored career development award mechanisms (K01, K08, K22, K23 and K25) is intended by the NIMH to assist new investigators at stages beyond postdoctoral training to gain additional mentored experience in order to become independent scientists.  Support for the K01, K08, K22, K23 and K25 awards is limited to one 3-5 year term, and is usually restricted to one mentored career award per individual.

NIMH mentored career award recipients are strongly encouraged to apply for independent research support during the later years of the mentored career award (typically years 3-5).  During the last two years of mentored K support, NIH policy permits award recipients to reduce the level of effort required for their career development award to no less than 6 person-months (i.e., 50%) and replace that effort with effort as a PI on a peer-reviewed research award or as a project leader on a competing multi-project award from NIH  or any Federal agency, if programmatic policy of the other agency allows such an arrangement, provided that the mentored K PI remains in a mentored situation.  This NIH policy permits those mentored K award recipients who are ready to compete for research grants to continue to benefit from the period of protected time offered by the mentored career development award.  Note that the total level of research commitment must remain at 9 person-months or more for the duration of the mentored K award.  For details regarding the policy on concurrent support from a mentored career development award and a research grant, see NOT-OD-08-065.

Mentored K award recipients are encouraged to discuss any issues concerning concurrent support from their mentored career development award and an independent research grant with their NIMH program officer prior to submitting a research grant application.

Individual mentored career development support following institutional mentored career support

The institutional mentored career development programs, e.g., the K12 program and the K12 component of the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, typically support individuals for 2-3 years, which may not be enough time for an individual to transition to research independence.  As a result, the NIMH will allow an individual to receive, in aggregate, up to six years of mentored K support from a combination of institutional and individual mentored career development awards if the individual has initially been supported by an institutional mentored career development program.  This total period of mentored support would be expected to provide sufficient time for transition to research independence.  An applicant would be expected to document and justify the need for additional mentored K support in their individual mentored K application.  As part of the budget recommendation, the review committee will take into account the total amount of mentored K support needed and will factor previous K award support into their recommended duration for the period of mentored K support.  If an individual requests support on an individual mentored career development award (e.g., K08 or K23) following support on an institutional mentored career award, no less than three and no more than five years of support may be requested on the individual mentored career development application.  Regardless, an individual may not receive, in aggregate, more than six years of mentored K support from a combination of institutional and individual mentored career development awards.

Individuals initially supported on an individual mentored career development award continue to be limited to a total of five years of mentored career development support on that individual award.  Similarly, individuals supported on an institutional career development award continue to be limited to the maximum number of years indicated for the specific institutional award.

Salary and Research-Related Expenses for the K01, K08, K22, K23, K25

These NIMH career award programs require recipients to devote a minimum of 9 person-months (i.e., 75% of full-time professional effort) to research and career development activities during the period of the award.  The NIMH will contribute up to 100% of the Principal Investigator's institutional base annual salary, to a maximum of $90,000.  The salary allowance will be commensurate with the actual level of effort up to $90,000.  The salary must be based on a full-time, 12-month position and must be consistent both with the established salary structure at the institution and with salaries actually provided by the grantee institution from its own funds and/or non-federal funds to other staff members of equivalent qualifications, rank, and responsibilities in the applicable department.  Fringe benefits are requested separately from salary and must be based on the salary requested in the application.  The NIMH allows a maximum of $50,000 annually for allowable research-related expenses outlined in the K01, K08, K22, K23 and K25 funding opportunity announcements.  Applicants must justify requested costs.

Mid-Career Awards (K02 and K24)

Unlike other NIH Institutes, NIMH considers early to mid-career faculty eligible for the K02 award.  Tenure-track, tenured or equivalent investigators who are at the assistant to associate professor level may be appropriate candidates for an initial K02 award.  Applicants for an initial NIMH K02 award must have demonstrated independent research accomplishments at the time of application but not yet be considered well-established in the research area of the application.  A tenured full professor would be viewed as beyond the stage of eligibility for an initial, five-year K02 award.  However, if an applicant attains the rank of full professor during the course of the initial 5-year period of K02 support, they remain eligible for a second and final 5-year period of K02 support, provided all other eligibility criteria are met.

The early to mid-career awards, K02 and K24, are available for a maximum of two, five-year terms (including one renewal period of support).  Only investigators with active, peer-reviewed, independent research support from the NIMH at the time of submission may apply for a K02 or K24 award from NIMH (see below for qualifying awards).  Eligibility for renewal of K02 or K24 awards is also limited to those who have an active NIMH grant at the time of application.  Support from the K02, K24, or any combination of these two awards is limited to two, five-year terms.  A K02 or K24 award may be funded for up to five years so long as the qualifying research project grant remains active.  If support for the qualifying NIMH research project grant lapses during the K02 or K24 project period, the K02 or K24 support may be continued for one year after the lapse in funding to allow for a resubmission of the qualifying research application.  If the resubmission is unsuccessful, NIMH may terminate the K02 or K24 award at that time.

For the purpose of these policies, NIMH defines investigators with active, peer-reviewed, independent research support from the NIMH as one of the named PIs on active R01, R24, R37, P01, P20, P30, P50, U01, and U10 grants.  Investigators who are subproject investigators on NIMH P or U series grants, or who are principal investigators on a subcontract of any other grant mechanism, are not eligible.

At the time of the K02 or K24 award, sufficient time should remain on the qualifying NIMH research project grant that the K02 or K24 project period will overlap by at least two years with the NIMH research project grant support (excluding any period of no-cost extension).  If the K02 or K24 project period will exceed the project period of funded independent support, the candidate should provide information about his/her plans concerning continued independent research support in the K02 or K24 application.
 
K02 and K24 awardees are strongly encouraged to consult their program officer prior to submitting a renewal application for a second 5-year period of K02 or K24 support.  Applicants are expected to provide strong justification for how this additional period of protected time is likely to contribute substantively to the continued and significant enhancement of their research career.  It is anticipated that the renewal application may, in many cases, request less than five years of support.  NIMH may give preference to candidates requesting less than five years of support during the second period of K02 or K24 support.

Scientists who hold a position with committed salary support for research or whose primary responsibility is administrative must demonstrate a compelling need for a K02 or K24 award.

Salary and Research-Related Expenses for the K02 Award

The NIMH K02 program requires recipients to devote a minimum of 9 person-months (i.e., 75% of full-time professional effort) to research and career development activities during the period of the award.  NIMH will contribute up to 100% of the Principal Investigator's institutional base annual salary, to a maximum of $90,000.  The salary allowance will be commensurate with the actual level of effort up to $90,000. The salary must be based on a full-time, 12-month position and must be consistent both with the established salary structure at the institution and with salaries actually provided by the grantee institution from its own funds and/or non-federal funds to other staff members of equivalent qualifications, rank, and responsibilities in the applicable department. Fringe benefits are requested separately from salary and must be based on the salary requested in the application.

The NIMH does not provide funds for research-related expenses as part of K02 awards.

Salary and Research-Related Expenses for the K24 Award:

The K24 program requires recipients to devote 3-6 person months (i.e., 25-50% of full-time professional effort) during the period of the K24 award.  NIMH will contribute salary proportional to the Principal Investigator’s effort up to the current NIH salary cap (NOT-OD-08-035).  K24 grantees may not receive additional compensation from another HHS award that would exceed the maximum allowable salary compensation.  For details on current salary limitations, see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/salcap_summary.htm.

NIMH allows a maximum of $50,000 annually for the following research-related expenses: a) research expenses, such as supplies, equipment and technical personnel for the PI and mentees; b) travel to research meetings or training; and c) statistical services including personnel and computer time.

Change of Institution for K01, K02, K08, K22, K23, K24 and K25 Awards

NIMH realizes that investigators often need to obtain external support and/or move to another institution in order ultimately to secure a more independent or more favorable faculty position.  It is therefore the policy of NIMH to be flexible with regard to transfer of a career award to another institution.  NIMH will consider transfers from one institution to another, with prior approval of the responsible Program Officer.  No transfer will be allowed for awards with less than six months remaining in the project period, during a period of administrative extension, or after a project has terminated.

Early consultation with NIMH staff is critical for timely transfer of the grant to the new institution.  It is strongly recommended that potential transfer applicants contact the NIMH program staff listed on their official Notice of Award for consultation and guidance prior to submitting the transfer application.

The transfer application must be submitted at least three months in advance of the desired effective date to allow the necessary time for staff review.  Applications requesting a change of institution that are submitted after July 15th annually will generally not be reviewed until the next fiscal year (after October 1st).  Instructions for change of institution applications may be found on the NIMH Research Training web site.

NIMH Staff Review

Transfer of career grants to another institution may be approved, without peer review, under the circumstances stipulated below.  The Program Officer will assess the degree to which the goals of the original peer-reviewed application (as evidenced in the most recent summary statement) will be met at the new institution.  Critical among these considerations will be the continued capacity to carry out full-time research; the potential to contribute significantly to the scientific field of study as evidenced by research productivity; clear and high likelihood that the new environment will contribute to scientific development and productivity; scientific and technical merit of the research plan and its consistency with the career development plan; the new mentor's research and mentoring qualifications in the scientific area of study (if applicable); and the strength of the institutional environment and commitment.  After consideration, the Program Officer will recommend either approval or disapproval of the requested transfer.  In the event of disapproval (which is not subject to appeal), the grantee has the option of submitting a new application from the new institution, that encompasses the remaining project period, for peer review.

Inquiries

Consultation with NIMH program staff (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/research-funding/training/contacts-for-research-training-and-career-development-programs.shtml) is especially encouraged during the planning phase of an application and prior to the anticipated transfer of an award.  Although a letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the review of a subsequent application, the information contained therein will allow NIMH staff to evaluate the programmatic relevance of the proposed research training and to provide feedback to the potential applicant.  This feedback is intended to help the applicant in the decision to submit an application to the NIMH.  Prospective applicants may visit the NIMH Research Training web site to obtain additional information.

Direct inquiries regarding fiscal matters to:

Rebecca Claycamp, CRA
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute of Mental Health
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6122, MSC 9605
Bethesda, MD 20892
Telephone: (301) 443-2811
FAX: (301) 443-6885
Email: rclaycam@mail.nih.gov


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