OEP/EOIRO: August 1996
First Independent Research Support
& Transition (FIRST) Awards (R29)

Federal Demonstration Project, NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts,
Volume 23, No. 42, December 2, 1994
Just-in-Time Procedures, NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts,
Volume 25, No. 10, March 29, 1996 and
Streamlined Noncompeting Award Process (SNAP), NIH Guide for
Grants and Contracts,
Volume 24, No. 38, October 27, 1995

NIH has announced a new policy on new investigators, and will no longer be accepting FIRST (R29) award applications under this announcement, effective June 1998. For details, see the transition policy announced in the NIH Guide

This is an updated announcement for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) First Independent Research Support and Transition (FIRST) Award (R29). A description of the "just-in-time" (JIT) application procedures was announced in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Volume 25, No. 10, on March 29,1996. The JIT procedures were required for the June 1, 1996 receipt date and will continue to be required henceforth. Those NIH Institutes and Centers that support FIRST Awards and the person in the Institute/Center who should be contacted for further information are listed under Inquiries at the end of this announcement.


The purpose of the FIRST award is to provide a sufficient period of research support for newly independent, biomedical and behavioral science investigators to initiate their own research and demonstrate the merit of their own research ideas. These grants underwrite the first independent investigative efforts, provide a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate creativity, productivity, and promise for an independent research career and for the principle investigator (PI) help in the transition to traditional types of NIH research project grants. The award is not intended for mid-career individuals who may be in transition to another area of research. FIRST awards provide support for five years to permit the newly independent investigator to establish his or her own research program and make significant and innovative contributions to laboratory or clinical biomedical or behavioral research.

Eligibility Requirements
Applicant Principal Investigator

To be eligible for a FIRST award, the proposed PI must be genuinely independent of a mentor, yet be at the beginning stages of his or her research career, i.e., have no more than five years of research experience since completing postdoctoral research training or its equivalent. It is permissible for PIs in the final stages of training to apply, but FIRST awards will not be made to persons who are in training status. In addition, the proposed PI must otherwise be eligible to serve at the applicant institution as a PI on a traditional research project grant (R01) (that is, he or she meets the institution's criteria for serving as a PI), but must not have served as the PI on any Public Health Service (PHS)-supported research project other than a small grant (R03), an Academic Research Enhancement Award (R15), an exploratory/ developmental grant (R21), or certain research career awards directed principally to physicians, dentists, or veterinarians with little research experience (K01, K08, and K12 ). Current or past recipients of Independent Scientist and other nonmentored career awards (K02, K04) are not eligible. Leaders of subprojects on multicomponent awards such as program project grants (P01), center grants (P50), or Minority Biomedical Research Support grants (S06) may be eligible, but are encouraged to contact the appropriate person from the Institute/Center likely to be designated to consider funding the award (see INQUIRIES).

An important principle to remember with regard to eligibility for FIRST awards is that the more extensive the candidate's independent research experiences (regardless of funding source), the less enthusiasm reviewers may have for the application.

Applicant Organization

Only domestic organizations and institutions are eligible to receive FIRST awards. However, U.S. citizenship is not required of the proposed PI.

General Features of the FIRST Award
Application Requirements
  1. A FIRST award is for a distinct research endeavor and may not be used merely to supplement or broaden an ongoing project.
  2. An individual may submit only one FIRST award application to the NIH for any one receipt date and may not submit any other type of research grant application, including research career applications, amended applications, and responses to a Request For Applications (RFA), during that same review cycle. However, applications for an R03, R15, and R21 may be submitted for the same review cycle as a FIRST application, provided the applications are on different topics. Persons holding FIRST awards may submit applications for other projects during the FIRST award project period, if they have committed less than 100 percent time and effort on the FIRST award. They may also submit an R01 application to continue the project begun under the FIRST award and, if successful, terminate the FIRST award early in order to accept the R01.
  3. FIRST award applications must propose a five-year project plan and request five years of research support. An application that requests less than five years of support will be designated an R01 and will be reviewed as such, if the applicant does not withdraw the application. In very unusual circumstances, FIRST awards for periods of less than five years may be recommended by the initial review group or the awarding Institute/Center, but applications must be submitted for a five-year project period.
  4. The PI must commit at least 50 percent of his/her effort to the proposed project and may request up to 100 percent effort, if that level of effort is required to do the research. The percent of effort requested will be examined by an initial review group, and reductions may be recommended.
Funding Restrictions
  1. Total direct costs for the five-year period may not exceed $350,000. The direct cost award in any budget year should not exceed $100,000. Indirect costs will be paid to the grantee institution in accord with applicable policy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
  2. Because FIRST awards have Expanded Authorities for post-award grant management, carryover of unobligated funds from one budget period to the subsequent one is a feature of this award, and may be accomplished at the discretion of the PI and the grantee institution. However, if funds have been restricted by a specific term or condition on the Notice of Grant Award, they may not be carried over without the prior approval of the awarding unit. Annual Financial Status Reports (FSRs) are no longer required, because FIRST awards are subject to the Streamlined Noncompeting Award Process (SNAP), NIH Guide for Grant and Contracts, Volume 24, No. 38, October 27, 1995.
  3. FIRST awards are not renewable; however, a PI may submit a traditional research project grant (R01) application to continue and extend the research supported by a FIRST award. In this case, the application will be considered a competing continuation (renewal), rather than a new application.
  4. Grantee institutions may extend the final budget period of the project one time for up to one year beyond the original termination date shown on the Notice of Grant Award. The process for extending the final budget period is consistent with other grants that operate under expanded authorities or the Federal Demonstration Partnership (NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Volume 23, Number 42, December 2, 1994).
  5. Replacement of the PI on a FIRST Award is not allowed. Transfer of the FIRST Award with the PI to another institution for the remaining performance period may be requested.
  6. All relevant portions of the PHS Grant Policy Statement are applicable to these awards.
Application Procedures
Applications must be submitted to the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) (formerly known as the Division of Research Grants - DRG) in accordance with regular receipt dates (see below). Assignment to the most appropriate Institute/Center and initial review group will be made by the CSR according to established guidelines.

The following table indicates the receipt, review, and award cycles
(Receipt Date)
(Receipt Date)
(Receipt Date)
Feb. 1 March 1 May 1 June/July Sept./Oct. Dec. 1
June 1 July 1 Sept. 1 Oct./Nov. Jan./Feb. April 1
Oct. 1 Nov. 1 Jan. 2 Feb./Mar. May/June July 1

Application Form Instructions

Beginning June 1, 1996, all unsolicited FIRST award applications must follow the Just-In-Time (JIT) application instructions. JIT is an initiative of the NIH Extramural Reinvention Laboratory under the auspices of the National Performance Review and government-wide efforts to create a government that works better and costs less. The principle of JIT is to avoid asking for information until it is actually needed in the process. JIT, applied to the handling of FIRST award applications, will postpone until after an application has been reviewed for scientific merit the collection of certain information that previously was required in all competing applications at the time of submission. Collection of the information "just-in-time" for an award to be issued means that the information will be current (rather than several months old, as is currently the case, which has therefore usually necessitated a request for a second submission of updated information). Moreover, the information is collected only for those applications with a likelihood of funding, which significantly relieves the administrative burden for the approximately 70 percent of FIRST applicants who will not receive an award.

Applicants must use the PHS 398 application form (revised 5/95), which may be obtained from institutional offices of sponsored programs, the NIH website (http://www.nih.gov) or, if not available any other way, by contacting the GRANTSINFO, Office of Extramural Outreach and Information Resources, Office of Extramural Research, 6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7910, Bethesda, MD, 20892-7910; Telephone: (301) 710-0267; FAX: (301) 480-0525; Email: grantsinfo@nih.gov.

Applications must conform to the format of the Research Plan and other sections of form PHS 398, unless otherwise noted in these instructions. The PHS 398 instructions on page limitations, type-size requirements, and appendix restrictions must also be followed.

FORM PAGE 1/FACE PAGE (Grant Application) -- Complete this page with special reference to the following items:
  • The acronym"FIRST" (R29) must be entered on line 2;
  • Amended applications must indicate the previous grant number in the block in the upper right corner;
  • Leave items 7b. and 8b. blank, because indirect costs will be calculated at the time of award using the institution's actual indirect cost rate. Applicants will be asked to identify indirect cost exclusions at that time.
FORM PAGE 4 (Detailed Budget for Initial Budget Period) -- Do not submit this page. It is not required, nor will it be accepted at the time of application. NIH may request this information from the applicant just prior to award.

FORM PAGE 5 (Budget for Entire Proposed Period of Support) -- Complete this as follows:
  • Provide only the requested total direct costs for each year and total direct costs for the entire proposed period of support. Do not complete the categorical budget table.
  • Budget Justification -- Begin the budget justification in the space provided, using continuation pages as needed
  • List the name, role on project, and percent effort for all project personnel (salaried or unsalaried) and provide a narrative justification for each person based on his/her role on the project and proposed level of effort.
  • Identify all consultants by name and organizational affiliation and describe the services to be performed.
  • Provide a narrative justification for any major budget items, other than personnel, that are requested for the conduct of the project that would be considered unusual for the scope of research. No specific costs for items or categories should be shown.
  • If consortium/contractual costs are requested, provide the percentage of the subcontract total costs (direct and indirect) relative to the total direct costs of the overall project. The subcontract budget justification should be prepared following the instructions provided above.
FORM PAGE 6 (Biographical Sketch) -- A biographical sketch is required for all key personnel, and should be completed as follows. Do not exceed the 2-page limit for each person.
  • Complete the education block at the top of the form page;
  • List current position(s) and those previous positions directly relevant to the application;
  • List peer-reviewed publications directly relevant to the proposed project, with full citation; and
  • Provide information about research projects completed and/or participated in during the last 5 years that are relevant to the proposed project. Title, principal investigator, funding source, and role on project must be provided.
FORM PAGE 7 (Other Support) -- Do not submit this page. Information on active support for key personnel may be requested by the NIH just prior to award.

FORM PAGE (Checklist) -- Do not submit this page. A completed checklist will be required just prior to award.
Additional Documentation
In addition to the application form itself, the following items must be included with every application:
  • A letter or memorandum from a department head or dean that addresses the following:

  • Eligibility of the proposed principal investigator to lead a research project independently at the applicant institution (i.e., is this person qualified to be the PI on a traditional R01 research project grant?). If the applicant institution is the same institution where the proposed PI received his or her postdoctoral research training, it must be shown that the FIRST award would support a research endeavor independent of any conducted in the former training environment.

  • Details of the institution's intended commitment to the project for the 5-year period.

  • Letters of reference that address the proposed PI's scientific originality and potential for independent research are a critically important part of FIRST award applications. At least three letters of reference must be submitted with the application. Applications received without the three reference letters will be returned to the applicant. A list of the individuals who are providing letters of reference (with their names, titles, and institutional affiliations) must be included as Section 10 of the Research Plan. It is permissible for a department head or dean to provide both a letter/memorandum of applicant eligibility and institutional commitment (see above) and a letter of reference but the letters must be prepared as separate documents.

  • The letters of reference should be requested well in advance of the application receipt date, and the referees should be advised to provide them to the applicant in sealed envelopes as soon as possible. To protect the utility and confidentiality of reference letters, applicants are asked not to open the envelopes. The sealed envelopes must be attached to the front of the original application. An applicant submitting a REVISED APPLICATION MUST AGAIN SUBMIT REFERENCE LETTERS.
Review Considerations

Applications will be reviewed according to the established procedures of the NIH peer review system. A scientific review group will evaluate the scientific and technical merit of the proposed research in light of the PI's level of research development. The review criteria are:

  • applicant's demonstrated ability to develop a sound research plan;

  • applicant's potential to carry out independent research;

  • quality of applicant's education, scientific training, and research experience;

  • applicant's commitment to a research career;

  • institutional commitment to the applicant and project; and

  • where applicable, the adequacy of plans to include (a) both genders and (b) minorities and their subgroups, as appropriate for the scientific goals of the research. Plans for the recruitment and retention of subjects will also be evaluated.
Award Criteria
All awarding units of the NIH are authorized to use this mechanism. FIRST Awards are included in the research project grant funding pool.

Beginning June 1, 1996, all unsolicited FIRST (R29) Award applications MUST follow the application procedures described above. Failure to provide the requested information in the format required could result in an application being returned, without review, to the applicant. For those applications where there is a likelihood of funding, NIH grants management staff will contact the institutional business official prior to award to request information about active other support, the checklist page, and in some cases, a detailed budget for the project.


Additional information about the FIRST award and JIT procedures may be obtained from any of the NIH awarding Institutes/Centers listed below.

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

    Miriam Kelty, Ph.D.
    Associate Director
    Gateway Bldg., Room 2C218
    7201 Wisconsin Ave.
    Bethesda, MD 20892
    Telephone: (301) 496-9322
    Email: keltym@gw.nia.nih.gov
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

    James Vaughn, Ph.D.
    Chief, Biomedical Research Branch
    Division of Basic Research
    Willco Bldg., Suite 402
    600 Executive Blvd., MSC 7003
    Bethesda, MD 20892-7003
    Telephone: (301) 443-4223
    Email: szakhari@willco.niaaa.nih.gov
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
    Allan Czarra, Ph.D.
    Director, OPCO
    Division of Extramural Activities
    Solar Bldg., Room 3C28
    6003 Executive Blvd.
    Bethesda, MD 20892
    Telephone: (301) 496-7291
    Email: ac20a@nih.gov
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
    Steven Hausman, Ph.D.
    Acting Director
    Extramural Program
    Bldg 45, Room 5AS13F
    45 Center Dr., MSC 6500
    Bethesda, MD 20892-6500
    Telephone: (301) 594-2463
    Email: hausmans@od.niams.nih.gov
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
    Toby Friedberg
    Referral Officer
    EPN, Room 636
    6130 Executive Blvd., MSC 7405
    Bethesda, MD 20892-7405
    Telephone: (301) 496-3428
    Email: friedbet@dea.nci.nih.gov
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
    Hildegard Topper
    Special Assistant to the Deputy Director
    Bldg. 31, Room 2A04
    31 Center Drive, MSC 2425
    Bethesda, MD 20892-2425
    Telephone: (301) 496-0104
    Email: ht20t@nih.gov
National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
    Craig Jordan, Ph.D.
    Acting Director, Division of Extramural Activities
    EPS Bldg., Room 400C
    6120 Executive Blvd.
    Rockville, MD 20892
    Telephone: (301) 496-8693
    Email: jordanc@nih.gov
National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR)
    Norman Braveman, Ph.D.
    Assistant Director, Program Development
    Bldg. 45, Room 4AN.24B
    45 Center Drive
    Bethesda, MD 20892-6142
    Telephone: (301) 594-2089
    Email: bravemann@de45.nidr.nih.gov
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
    Walter Stolz, Ph.D.
    Division of Extramural Activities
    Bldg. 45, Room 6AS.25C
    45 Center Drive
    Bethesda, MD 20892
    Telephone: (301) 594-8834
    Email: ws23c@nih.gov
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
    Eleanor Friedenberg, Ph.D.
    Office of Extramural Program Review
    Parklawn Bldg., Room 10-42
    5600 Fishers Lane
    Rockville, MD 20708
    Telephone: (301) 443-2755
    Email: ef27d@nih.gov
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
    Jose Velazquez, Ph.D.
    Program Administrator
    111 Alexander Drive
    Bldg. 3, Room 308
    P.O. Box 12233 (MD 3-04)
    Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
    Telephone: (919) 541-4998
    Email: velazqu1@niehs.nih.gov
National Eye Institute (NEI)
    Maria Giovanni, Ph.D.
    Research Training Director
    EPS Bldg., Suite 350
    6120 Executive Blvd., MSC 7164
    Bethesda, MD 20892-7164
    Telephone: (301) 496-0484
    Email: myg@eps.nei.nih.gov
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
    Michael Martin, Ph.D.
    Deputy Associate Director
    Bldg. 45, Room 2AN.32K
    45 Center Drive, MSC 6200
    Bethesda, MD 20892-6200
    Telephone: (301) 594-3910
    Email: martinm@cu.nih.gov
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
    Ronald Geller, Ph.D.
    Division of Extramural Affairs
    Room 7100
    6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7922
    Bethesda, MD 20892-7922
    Telephone: (301) 435-0260
    Email: rg33k@nih.gov
National Library of Medicine (NLM)
    Peter Clepper
    Program Officer
    Division of Extramural Programs
    Bldg. 38A, Room 55518
    8600 Rockville Pike
    Bethesda, MD 20894
    Telephone: (301) 496-4221
    Email: peter_clepper@ccmail.nlm.nih.gov
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
    Hugh Stamper, Ph.D.
    Division of Extramural Activities
    Parklawn Bldg., Room 9-105
    5600 Fishers Lane
    Rockville, MD 20857
    Telephone: (301) 443-3367
    Email: hstamper@nih.gov
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
    Constance Atwell, Ph.D.
    Associate Director
    Federal Bldg, Room 1016
    7550 Wisconsin Ave.
    Rockville, MD 20852
    Telephone: (301) 496-9248
    Email: ca23c@nih.gov
National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR)
    Lynn Amende, Ph.D.
    Division of Extramural Programs
    Bldg. 45, Room 3AN12
    45 Center Dr., MSC 6300
    Bethesda, MD 20892-6300
    Telephone: (301) 594-5968
    Email: lamende@ep.ninr.nih.gov
National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR)
    Bettie Graham, Ph.D.
    Mapping Technology Branch
    Bldg. 38A, Room 614
    9000 Rockville Pike, MSC 6050
    Bethesda, MD 20892-6050
    Telephone: (301) 496-7531
    Email: bettie_graham@nih.gov
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
    Louise Ramm, Ph.D.
    Deputy Director
    Bldg. 12A, Room. 4011
    9000 Rockville Pike
    Bethesda, MD 20892
    Telephone: (301) 496-6023
    Email: louiser@ep.ncrr.nih.gov

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