New and Early Stage Investigator Policies

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Definitions of New and Early Stage Investigators

Definition of New Investigator: In general, a Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) is considered a New Investigator if he/she has not previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award.  Specifically, a PD/PI is identified as a New Investigator if he/she has not previously competed successfully for an NIH-supported research project other than the following early stage or small research grants or for the indicated training, infrastructure, and career awards:

  • Pathway to Independence Award-Research Phase (R00)
  • Small Grant (R03)
  • Academic Research Enhancement Award (R15)
  • Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21)
  • Research Education Grants (R25, R90, RL9, RL5)
  • Clinical Trial Planning Grant (R34)
  • Dissertation Award (R36)
  • Small Business Technology Transfer Grant-Phase I (R41, UT1)
  • Small Business Innovation Research Grant-Phase I (R43,  U43)
  • Shannon Award (R55)
  • NIH High Priority, Short-Term Project Award (R56)
  • Competitive Research Pilot Projects (SC2, SC3)
  • Resource Access Award (X01)

Additionally, the PD/PI is not excluded from consideration as a “New Investigator” if he/she has been the PD/PI of received an award from any of the following classes of awards:

Training-Related and Mentored Career Awards

  • All Fellowships (F awards)
  • All individual and institutional career awards (K awards)             
  • Loan repayment contracts (L30, L32, L40, L50, L60)
  • All training grants (T32, T34, T35, T90, D43)

Instrumentation, Construction, Education, Health Disparity Endowment Grants, or Meeting Awards

  • G07, G08, G11, G13, G20
  • R13
  • S10, S15, S21, S22

Definition of Early Stage Investigator: A Program Director/Principal Investigator who qualifies as a New Investigator is considered an Early Stage Investigator (ESI) if he/she is  within 10 years of completing his/her terminal research degree or is within 10 years of completing medical residency (or the equivalent). 

Note regarding grants with Multiple PD/PIs: In the case of a grant application that involves more than one PI, all PD/PIs must meet the definition of New Investigator in order for the application to have the New Investigator designation.

Note regarding transitional grants:  Research grants that combine a smaller initial award that transitions without further competition to a second phase supported by a substantial, independent research grant will discontinue the New Investigator status for the PD/PI(s) at the point of transition to the larger award. This includes combined, transitional awards like the R21/R33, SBIR/STTR Fast-Track (R42, UT2, R44, U44), UH2/UH3.

Link to FAQs Frequently Asked Questions about NIH New and Early Stage Investigator Policies

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Procedures for New and Early Stage Investigators

NIH New Investigator policies are designed to counter advantages enjoyed by well-established investigators and to encourage early transition to independence. Applications from New and Early Stage Investigators are identified at the time of receipt using the definitions described and applying the classification for each of the PD/PI(s) that appear in the NIH eRA Commons profile. Under this policy, applications from New Investigators are segregated to the extent possible so that they can be reviewed in relationship to applications from other New Investigators. After review, NIH Institutes and Centers are required by policy to maintain comparable award rates for new (type 1) applications from both Experienced and New Investigators. Further, approximately half of the awarded New Investigators should be Early Stage Investigators. These policies and procedures are explained in detail in the FAQs and in the current policies described below. Of special note is the ability to request an extension of the Early Stage Investigator (ESI) period to account for time away from research. A history of NIH going back to 1972 is described in the section on History of New Investigator policies. 

Form for Requesting an Extension in the Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Period.

ESI extensions will be considered only after the terminal research degree and/or the residency end date has been added to the eRA Commons Profile       

Sample requests for extension of the ESI period

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Special Awards for New Investigators

Data on New Investigators