ESI Extensions


Kosub: Hello, and welcome to another virtual edition of NIH's "All About Grants" podcast. I'm your host David Kosub with the NIH's Office of Extramural Research. In a prior conversation we talked all about the early stage investigator policy, ESI policy, and specifically from this conversation, we wanted to focus on extensions and how to make the requests and everything you need to know about extensions for the ESI policy. And I'm glad to say we brought back Dr. Shoshana Kahana, she is a Senior Advisor and the NIH Training Policy Advisor within the Division of the Biomedical Research Workforce within the Office of Extramural Research, and we also have Dr. Melissa Stick. She is the chief of the scientific review branch within the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, so I welcome you both to the show today.


Kahana: Thank you, David.


Stick: Good to be here.


Kosub: Great, great, great. So I'll start with Melissa. What is an ESI extension anyways?


Stick: David, that's a great question. NIH recognizes that basically life happens, and as a result of life happening, there are events that will impact an investigator's ability to do research and may result in a lapse in research or research training which ultimately has a reduction or results in a reduction in the research effort. So to accommodate this loss in research effort and these breaks, we have a process now where we're going to consider requests that investigators submit to extend their ESI period.


Kosub: And I guess the next logical question is who can request an ESI extension? I guess, are there certain circumstances that it falls within?


Kahana: So really all PIs can as long as the life event happened in the initial ten year window of their ESI eligibility. So some type of life events that we review include things like childbirth, child care, family care, disability, illness, natural disaster, public health emergency, things like that.


Kosub: Thanks, Shoshana. So I guess what is the process to actually request an extension, and I guess from our side, who's reviewing it, those requests?


Kahana: Yeah. So actually over the last couple of years, NIH has worked really, really hard to make the submission process a bit a bit easier. So requests can actually be submitted directly from the PI's commons profile account, and there is an internal NIH extension committee that is comprised of program and review staff that review their requests on a biweekly basis.


Kosub: Nice, and thanks for that committee. You two are both on the committee which is why we're having you guys participate in this conversation. So that committee must be reviewing lots of information for these requests. Melissa, can you tell us a little bit about what kind of information we're going to be looking at that are going to be submitted by PIs?


Stick: Another good question, David. So typically, what NIH is looking for from investigators is they would like a table submitted with their request as opposed to just general text. This table helps us evaluate the request to make sure we have all of the information that we're looking at. So there is an example on the website as to what the table is looking for, but basically we want to know what an investigator's employment split is. So in normal circumstances, what is the research effort, what percentage, what percentage is allocated for administrative duties or teaching responsibilities, if applicable. And then ultimately, what part of their research effort have they lost as a result of these life events. It's also important to stress that we recognize some of these events and this information is personal, it's private. We are not going to share this. It's confidential. It's kept within the realm of the committee. When we see extension requests that expand or cover more than a year, we may actually go back to the investigator for additional information, but this is on a case by case basis.


Kosub: You mentioned a time frame there, there's something request for over a year. I guess my next logical question is what is the time frame how much time can someone request?


Kahana: So there's actually no cap or maximum amount of time that someone can ask for, so typically, you know, again, the committee will look at the length of time of the life event and then calculate the amount or the percent of research time away that the PI had.


Kahana: So that is a great question. It's one that we get a lot, actually. So the application will be reviewed with the designation that was assigned to it at the time of submission; however, if the extension request was granted, then the application will be updated with the ESI eligibility after release of the summary statements. It is important to note that that update will be seen by the ICs when funding considerations are made.


Kosub: I see. I see. Cool. Thank you for that. And, you know, as I mentioned at the top, we're recording this virtually. We're in the land of COVID right now. Are there any I guess can someone request an extension if their, you know, research has been impacted by COVID or, you know, and also like if someone applied for and received an extension for something else like childbirth, can they still request from for COVID related issues?


Stick: Yes. Another wonderful question. NIH is encouraging


Kosub: I'm full of them, wonderful questions


Stick: Another wonderful question. Thank you. So NIH is encouraging COVID related extensions if it is within the ten year window of eligibility. So if an investigator has already received an extension that takes them beyond their COVID request is beyond ten years, then that COVID request would not be approved. But, again, as long as it's occurring within ten years of their terminal degree or their clinical training, they are strongly encouraged to apply. And if they have any questions, they can certainly reach out for clarification about the eligibility of their extension request.


Kosub: So actually adding to that or kind of building from that, you kind of allude to it, are there, with regards to COVID, are there any other examples of when an extension might not be approved?


Stick: Again, there are going to be life events and situations that people identify in the table but do not qualify for extensions. And again, anything that is beyond the initial ten year window. But if an investigator is not sure, it's really important them to reach out and get clarification, because, again, the program was established to facilitate arrears in biomedical research, and we want investigators to take advantage of this program.


Kosub: Wonderful. Wonderful. Well, Melissa and Shoshana, thank you very much for participating and telling us a lot about the ESI Extension Process. If you have questions out there, please do check out the website. There are also a ton of frequently asked questions, FAQs, that answer a lot of different types of questions out there, ins and outs of the process, et cetera. And also, if you still have questions afterwards, please send us an e mail, and we'll be happy to get to them. This has been David Kosub with another virtual edition of "All About Grants". Thank you.