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Early Stage Investigator Policies

This page provides information on the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative policies that support early-stage investigators (ESIs). 


Policy Summary 

ESI Infographics ESI Status Image  
Early Stage Investigator A Program Director / Principal Investigator (PD/PI) who has completed their terminal research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, whichever date is later, within the past 10 years and who has not previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award.  See our list of NIH grants that a PD/PI can hold and still be considered an ESI. R01-equivalent ESI applications with meritorious scores will be prioritized for funding.
New Investigator An investigator who has not previously competed successfully for substantial, independent funding from NIH. NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) fund New Investigators according to the ICs' programmatic and strategic interests.


Guide Notices

  • NOT-OD-19-125: Notice of System Change and Procedure for Requesting an Extension to Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Status
  • NOT-OD-19-072: Updates to NIH Policy on ESI Application Status
  • NOT-OD-17-101: Policy Supporting the Next Generation Researchers Initiative
  • NOT-OD-18-235: Update on NIH Extension Policy for Early Stage Investigator Status (ESI)
  • NOT-OD-18-214: Update on NIH's Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) Policy on Early Established Investigators (EEIs)


Fostering the creative discoveries and innovative research that will protect and improve health requires NIH to take steps to promote the growth, stability, and diversity of the biomedical research workforce.  NIH and its stakeholder community have been concerned about the long-term growth and stability of the biomedical research enterprise for many years. Read our page on the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative for additional background.

Determination of Investigator Status

  • All Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs) must have an eRA Commons Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer account at the time of application.
  • Prior to application submission, PD/PIs are encouraged to verify and/or enter the date of their terminal research degree or the end date of their post-graduate clinical training in their eRA Commons Profile to ensure the correct identification.
    • NIH systems will automatically calculate the status of each investigator and display it within their eRA Commons personal profile
    • The ESI status of the PD/PIs on any R01 or R01 equivalent application will be flagged at time of submission
    • Investigators should make sure their status is correctly marked in their profile. If your status is incorrect, please contact the eRA Service Desk Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer .

Extension of ESI Status

  • Some researchers may have lapses in their research or research training, or have experienced periods of less than full-time effort. NIH will consider requests to extend the ESI status period for reasons that can include: medical concerns, disability, family care responsibilities, natural disasters, and active duty military service, determined on a case by case basis at the sole discretion of NIH.
  • Principal investigators can submit a request for an ESI extension via an ESI Extension Request link found in the Education section of the PI's Personal Profile in eRA Commons Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer.  For step-by-step instructions, see the ESI Extension Request online help Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer and the ESI Status Extension Request video tutorial Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer
  • Note: The previous form for requesting an ESI extension was retired on Aug. 22. 2019

Special Programs

NIH has several special award programs for new investigators, including:

History of Related NIH Policies

NIH interest in the training and subsequent research support for establishing independent research careers is deep and longstanding. Read the detailed history of related NIH policies.

Related Data