NIH Grants Policy Statement
Revised October 2017. This document applies to all NIH grants and cooperative agreements for budget periods beginning on or after October 1, 2017.
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12.3 Eligibility

Eligibility can vary depending on the type of award and may even vary by NIH IC within a particular program. However, there are some eligibility criteria which are consistent across all CDA programs and these criteria are discussed in this section. Candidates are always strongly encouraged to carefully review the eligibility criteria in a specific FOA and to contact the scientific/research and/or grants management contacts in the relevant IC prior to preparing an application to discuss issues of eligibility. These contacts are listed in the individual FOA for each CDA.

12.3.1 Eligible Institutions

Applications for CDAs may be submitted on behalf of the candidate by any domestic for-profit or non-profit public or private institution/organization such as universities, colleges, hospitals, and laboratories to support a research program in a specified area(s) of research. Foreign organizations are not eligible to apply for CDAs, but foreign components may apply.

12.3.2 Eligible Individuals

Any individual with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the candidate (called the PD/PI) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for a CDA program. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are always encouraged to apply for NIH programs. Multiple PD/PI applications are not accepted for individual CDAs; institutional CDAs should check the FOA for the allowability of Multiple PD/PIs.

For mentored CDA programs, candidates who are well-established in their fields are considered ineligible. Some indications of having achieved this status are tenure or the equivalent, a substantial publication record or considerable research support that already requires commitment of a major part of the candidate's time. Applicants who meet one or more of these criteria must provide justification in the application that they are not already established in their field.

12.3.3 Degree Requirements

Degree requirements for CDAs are outlined in the specific FOA. Applicants are generally required to hold a research or health–professional doctoral degree or its equivalent; eligibility for some CDAs is limited to only applicants with health professional doctoral degrees.

12.3.4 Citizenship

For CDA programs other than the K99/R00 program, only U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals or individuals lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time an offer of an award is made, are eligible for this award. Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible to apply for a CDA unless they have begun the process for becoming a permanent resident and expect to be admitted as a permanent resident by the earliest possible award date. In an application package, on the PHS398 Career Development Award Supplemental Form, the option of selecting "Non-citizen with temporary visa" is applicable to K99/R00 candidates only.

Noncitizen nationals are individuals who, although not citizens of the United States, owe permanent allegiance to the United States. They generally are born in outlying possessions of the United States (e.g., American Samoa and Swains Island).

Individuals who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence must have a currently valid Permanent Resident Card (USCIS Form I-551) or other legal verification of such status. For example, if an individual has the proper validation on his/her passport, a notarized photocopy of the passport could suffice. Because there is a 6-month limitation on this validation, it is the applicant organization's responsibility to follow up and ensure that the candidate receives the I-551 before the 6-month expiration date.

An individual expecting to be admitted as a permanent resident by the earliest possible award date listed in the career award FOA may submit an application recognizing that no award will be made until legal verification of permanent resident status is provided to the NIH. The submission of documentation concerning permanent residency is not required as part of the initial application.

Applicants who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence, i.e., have a Permanent Resident Card or other legal verification of such status, should check the Permanent Resident of U.S. box in Section 3. Citizenship of the PHS398 Career Development Award Supplemental Form. Applicants who have applied for and have not yet been granted admission as a permanent resident or have been granted Conditional Permanent Residency Status should also check the same box.

If a candidate's citizenship status changes after submission of an application, the new status should be reported in the candidate's Personal Profile in the eRA Commons.

In all cases involving any type of Permanent Residency status, when an application is selected to receive an award, prior to any award being issued, a notarized statement will be required that documents that a licensed notary has seen the candidate's valid Permanent Resident Card or other valid verification from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service of legal admission to the U.S. In all cases where Permanent Residency status is involved, it is the responsibility of the recipient institution to assure the individual remains eligible for the project period of the award.

12.3.5 Type of Appointment

By the time of award, all CDA recipients must have a full-time appointment at the applicant institution. With prior approval from the NIH, award recipients may hold part-time appointments for limited periods during the course of their awards (see Temporary Adjustments to the Full-Time Institutional Appointment Requirement below). Full-time or part-time is as defined by applicant institutional policy.

Candidates who hold additional appointments with an independent clinical practice plan, the VA or other organizations should contact the scientific/research and/or grants management contact in the relevant IC prior to preparing an application to discuss their eligibility. Responsibilities outside of the applicant organization appointment are not restricted; however, these types of additional appointments cannot be used to meet the full-time appointment requirement nor the effort requirement discussed below. If a candidate has a dual appointment, they must also have a full-time appointment at the applicant institution in order to qualify for a CDA.

12.3.5.1 Temporary Adjustments to the Full-Time Institutional Appointment Requirement

In January 2009 a new policy was adopted allowing a temporary adjustment of the full-time requirement for awarded CDAs under certain circumstances. At the time of the award, the candidate must meet the full-time appointment requirement (as well as any minimum effort requirement); however, awardees may request a temporary reduction in their appointment to less than full-time (but not less than three-quarter time) for a period not to exceed 12 continuous months during the CDA award project period. Circumstances requiring such a change in appointment status might include personal or family situations such as parental leave, child care, elder care, medical conditions, or a disability. Permission to change appointment status will not be approved to accommodate job opportunities, clinical practice, clinical training, or joint appointments.

When requesting approval to change to a part-time appointment status, the awardee must continue to commit at least 75% effort (of the part-time appointment) to research and career development activities. The awardee is encouraged to consider increasing his/her percent effort to greater than 75% (e.g., 85%) to compensate for the anticipated effect of the part-time appointment on the awardee's career progress.

On behalf of the K awardee, the recipient institution must submit a request and documentation to the NIH awarding IC supporting the need for a reduced faculty appointment and assuring the institution's continuing commitment to the scientific and research career development of the awardee. The request should justify reducing the appointment to less than full-time status and must describe the anticipated impact of the requested change on his/her career progress during the remainder of the award period. In addition, the awardee must submit assurance of his/her intention to return to a full-time faculty appointment as soon as possible. The mentor must provide a revised mentoring plan and specifically describe updated milestones for the awardee's progression to independence. Lastly, a revised statement of institutional commitment to the awardee must ensure continued "protected time" and describe additional support that will assist the awardee to continue to make progress toward his/her goals during the requested period of the reduced appointment. During the period of reduced appointment, the salary and other costs supported by the award will be reduced accordingly. Requests must be submitted by the recipient institution to the awarding Institute or Center (IC) where they will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

For transition CDAs (K22 and K99/R00), because of the relatively short duration of the mentored phase of the award, a request for reduction in the appointment must address the impact of this action on the awardee's ability to make sufficient progress to meet the goals of the program. For example, a K99 awardee must describe how the request will affect the awardee's ability to transition to the R00 phase of the award.

This policy also allows awardees to temporarily reduce the level of effort devoted to the CDA award; that policy is described below in Level of Effort. While these 2 policies are similar in overall goals, an awardee may not simultaneously request a reduction in appointment status from full-time to part-time AND a reduction in percent effort to less than 75%.

12.3.6 Level of Effort

In addition to the full-time appointment requirement described above, mentored and non-mentored CDA recipients are required to devote and maintain a minimum level of effort to the award. During a no-cost extension, the recipient is required to maintain any effort minimum and can only reduce his/her effort with prior approval of the awarding IC.

CDA recipients who hold additional appointments with an independent clinical practice plan, the VA or other organizations may not use these additional appointments to meet the minimum effort requirement. Responsibilities outside of the applicant organization appointment are not restricted; however, they also cannot be used to meet any minimum effort requirement. If a CDA recipient has a dual appointment, they must also have a full-time appointment at the applicant institution and be able to meet the minimum effort requirement as part of that full-time appointment in order to qualify for a CDA. Candidates are strongly encouraged to contact the scientific/research and/or grants management contact in the relevant IC prior to preparing an application to discuss their eligibility.

12.3.6.1 Mentored CDAs

Mentored CDA recipients are required to devote a minimum commitment equivalent of 9 calendar person months (75% of their full-time appointment at the applicant institution) to the career development and research objectives of the program specified in each FOA. The remaining 3 person months (25% effort), if applicable, can be divided among other research, clinical, and teaching activities only if these activities are consistent with the goals of the mentored CDA, i.e., the recipient's development into an independent investigator. Some NIH ICs allow less than 75% (but not lower than 50%) effort for certain clinical specialties. Applicants must consult the FOA and also IC Program staff for this exception.

Mentored K awardees are encouraged to apply for additional research grants during the tenure of their K award (see Concurrent Support below). Mentored CDA recipients are allowed to devote complementary effort without salary support on other research grants that include related research between the CDA and the research grant. In such cases where there is scientific overlap, the percent effort on the research grant is subsumed within the required effort of the CDA. However, there should not be significant duplication of the scope of the research supported by the CDA. Further, the related research must be consistent with the goals and objectives of the CDA.

12.3.6.2 Concurrent Support

Provided they remain in a mentored status, mentored CDA recipients in the final two years of their support period are permitted to reduce the level of effort required for the CDA when they have competed successfully for peer-reviewed research awards from NIH or any Federal agency, if programmatic policy of the other Federal agency allows such an arrangement. Recipients are encouraged to obtain funding from NIH or other Federal sources either as a PD/PI on a competing research grant award or cooperative agreement or as a project leader on a competing multi-project award.

Budgets for a competing research grant or a subproject on a multi-project grant should request appropriate amounts for the salary and associated costs for the CDA recipient's effort. At the time the research grant is awarded the effort required on the CDA may be reduced to no less than 6 person months (50% full-time professional effort at the recipient organization) and replaced by effort and corresponding salary from the research award so that the total level of research commitment remains at 9 person months (75% full-time professional effort) or more for the duration of the mentored CDA. This policy applies to the following mentored CDA activity codes: K01, K07 (developmental), K08, K22, K23, and K25, as well as individuals mentored through institutional K12 or KL2 awards. To be eligible for salary support from peer-reviewed research awards from any Federal agency:

For submissions to NIH, a letter must accompany the research grant application from the chair of the mentored award recipient's department or other responsible institutional official providing: (1) evidence that the recipient will continue to focus on the development of his/her research career; (2) will continue to have access to his/her mentor; and (3) that the recipient's total level of research effort will be maintained and protected at a minimum of 9 person months (75% full-time professional effort). For submissions to other Federal agencies, this type of institutional commitment letter is strongly encouraged; however, applicants should check with that agency for guidance on the allowability of such a letter.

When a mentored CDA recipient obtains independent support, as described above, the NIH awarding IC supporting the CDA will adjust the level of effort committed to the CDA to no less than 6 person months (50% effort) consistent with maintaining total research effort at 9 person months or 75% or more of the full-time appointment. NIH may adjust the total salary and fringe benefits amounts awarded to the CDA if consistent with the adjusted level of effort. If necessary, the K award may also be adjusted to avoid any additional budget overlap.

12.3.6.3 Non-mentored CDAs

Established investigators on independent (non-mentored) CDAs are generally required to devote a minimum of 3-6 person months (25-50% effort) conducting research and research career development related activities during the period of the award. Some independent CDAs allow and may require more than 6 person months (50% effort). For example, K02 recipients are required to devote 9 person months (75% effort) to research.

Generally, an independent or leadership awardee may receive additional salary support from other NIH/PHS grants for effort not committed to the CDA and there are no limitations to receiving other salary support. Where applicable, specific policies are noted in the FOA. The candidate must be able to demonstrate that the requested period of salary support and protected time will foster his/her career and capacity to contribute to the specified field.

12.3.6.4 Temporary Adjustments to the Percent Effort Requirement

At the time of the CDA award, the candidate must still meet the applicable effort requirement (as well as the full-time appointment requirement); however, under certain circumstances, awardees may request a temporary reduction in their effort for a period not to exceed 12 continuous months during the award project period. For programs that require a 75% effort minimum (equivalent to 9 person months), an awardee can request a reduction to no less than 50%. Circumstances requiring such a change in effort might include personal or family situations such as parental leave, child care, elder care, medical conditions, or a disability. Permission to temporarily reduce effort will not be approved to accommodate job opportunities, clinical practice, clinical training, or joint appointments.

On behalf of the K awardee, the recipient institution must submit a request and documentation to the NIH awarding IC supporting the need for reduced effort and assuring the institution's continuing commitment to the scientific and research career development of the awardee. The request should justify reducing effort and must describe the anticipated impact of the requested change on his/her career progress during the remainder of the award period. In addition, the awardee must submit assurance of his/her intention to return to 75% effort as soon as possible. The mentor must provide a revised mentoring plan and specifically describe updated milestones for the awardee's progression to independence. Lastly, a revised statement of institutional commitment to the awardee must ensure continued "protected time" and describe additional support that will assist the awardee to continue to make progress toward his/her goals during the requested period of the reduced appointment. During the period of reduced effort, the salary and other costs supported by the award may be reduced accordingly. Requests must be submitted by the recipient institution to the awarding Institute or Center (IC) where they will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

This option is not available for Independent CDAs that require only 25-50% effort; e.g., K07 leadership, K05, and K24.

While this temporary adjustment in effort policy is similar to the policy described above allowing a temporary adjustment in the full-time appointment requirement, awardee may not simultaneously request a reduction in appointment status from full-time to part-time AND a reduction in percent effort to less than 75%.

12.3.7 Prior Research Support

Applicants who have previously served as the PD/PI on a NIH R03 or R21 grant or non-PHS equivalent at the time of application may apply for a mentored CDA (except for the K99/R00 program).

In general, for mentored CDAs, individuals are NOT eligible if they:

Most independent (non-mentored) CDAs require that the applicant have independent, peer-reviewed support at the time the award is made. Some of the participating NIH ICs require the candidate to have an NIH research grant at the time of application and that the support be from their IC. Other NIH ICs will accept candidates with peer-reviewed, independent research support from other sources. Applicants must check the FOA for specific eligibility requirements.