decorative image
Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.
decorative image
Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

n/a Warning! This browser is not supported - Some features might not work. Try using a different browser such as Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari.

NIH Early Stage Investigators Policy

Learn what an early stage investigator (ESI) is and how NIH prioritizes awards that designate ESIs. Consistent with the 21st Century Cures Act, NIH issued the Policy Supporting the Next Generation Researchers Initiative to address longstanding challenges faced by researchers trying to embark upon and sustain independent research careers, and to promote the growth, stability and diversity of the biomedical research workforce. The policy requires NIH institutes and centers to prioritize R01-equivalent ESI applications for funding.

What is an ESI?

An ESI is 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.

What is the benefit of having ESI status?

ESI applications with scores within funding range will be prioritized for funding by the institute or center receiving the application.

Peer reviewers look more at potential than achievement—they weigh academic and research background heavily. Reviewers may expect new R01 investigators to have fewer preliminary data and publications than more established researchers do.

ESI R01 applications are reviewed on the same timeline as other applications submitted to the same funding opportunity announcement. When feasible, ESI applications are not interspersed with those of established investigators at the review meeting.

Summary statements for ESI R01 applications are prioritized, and when possible, released before summary statements for other applications reviewed in the same meeting. Generally, summary statements will be available no later than 30 days before Council.

How does NIH know who should be considered an ESI?

Information from the Education section of a PI’s eRA Commons profile is used to determine ESI eligibility based on completion date of their terminal research degree or the completion date of post-graduate clinical training. The system notes ESI eligibility in the PI profile.

The ESI status of the PD/PI(s), on a R01-equivalent application will be determined at the time of submission. If the PD/PI(s) on the application is/are classified as ESI on the date the application is successfully submitted to, the application will be flagged as ESI and will receive special consideration during the review and funding process.

Learn more about determining ESI status.