New and Early Stage Investigator Policies

New investigators are the innovators of the future. They bring fresh ideas and technologies to existing biomedical research problems, and they pioneer new areas of investigation. Entry of New Investigators into the ranks of independent, NIH-funded researchers is essential to the health of our nation’s biomedical research enterprise. This page provides information on policies that support New Investigators, as well as investigators early in their career (“early-stage investigators” or ESIs).

On This Page:

History of NIH’s New Investigator Policies

NIH interest in the training and subsequent research support for New Investigators is deep and longstanding. Over the years, NIH created a number of special programs to assist New Investigators in obtaining independent research funding. Read the detailed history of NIH New Investigator policies.

Current NIH New and Early Stage Investigator Policies

The following policy changes were adopted in 2008, resulting in increased numbers and the percentages of competing R01 equivalent awards going to New Investigators.

New Investigator Policy:

NIH institutes and centers make funding decisions that ensure the success rates for New Investigators on new (type 1) R01 equivalent research grant applications should be comparable to the success rates on similar applications from established investigators.

Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Policy:

To address the increasing average age of New Investigators, NIH Institutes and Centers will make funding decisions that ensure that at least half of the awarded New Investigators are within 10 years of completing their terminal research degree or their medical residency.

The ESI policy allows for extensions of the ESI eligibility period due to time away from research due to medical concerns, disability, family care responsibilities, extended periods of clinical training, natural disasters, and active duty military service. In general, the NIH will extend the period of ESI status for a period equivalent to the time away from research or research training. Extensions related to periods of part-time status normally will be prorated to reflect the actual time away from research and normally will be considered only when the appointment is reduced by 50% or more for a sustained period of time.  

NIH Policy on Peer Review of New Investigator Applications

NIH clusters R01 equivalent grant applications from New Investigators in peer review. This allows peer reviewers to compare applications from PD/PIs with comparable levels of experience. Peer reviewers are instructed to focus more on the proposed approach than on the track record and to expect less preliminary information than might be provided by an established investigator.

New Investigator 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 or ESI in order for the application to have the New Investigator or ESI designation.

New Investigators and 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.


New Investigator

A Program Director or Principle Investigator (PD/PI) is considered a New Investigator if he/she has not previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH research award. An investigator will retain their New Investigator status if he/she receives any of the smaller research grants, training, infrastructure, and career awards that appear on this list.

Early Stage Investigator

A PD/PI 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). 

How NIH Tracks New Investigator and ESI Status

  • All Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs) must have an eRA Commons account at the time of application that includes their most recent research degree and/or the date at which their residency period was completed.
  • NIH systems will automatically calculate the new investigator and ESI status of each investigator. The status is shown in the investigator’s eRA Commons profile.
  • Investigators should make sure their New Investigator and ESI status are correctly marked in their profile. If your status is incorrect, please contact the NIH eRA Service Desk.
  • If you think the period of ESI eligibility should be extended to account for illness, parental leave, military service or other factors that have kept you from your research, use the procedure described in the Extension Request Form to request an adjustment.
  • Upon receipt of an R01 equivalent grant application, the application will be designated as being from a New Investigator or ESI if the PI (or all PD/PIs on a multi-PI application) is designated as such in his or her eRA Commons profile.        

Special Award Programs for New Investigators

Data on New Investigators