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Early Independence Awards Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

  1. What is the NIH Director's Early Independence Award?
  2. How many awards will be made in 2015?
  3. What scientific areas are eligible under the Early Independence Award?
  4. Are women and members of underrepresented minority groups encouraged to apply?
  5. How much can be requested?
  6. Do Early Independence Awards provide indirect costs?
  7. How much time/effort are recipients expected to devote?
  8. Are there any post-award requirements?
  9. Are Early Independence Awards renewable?
  10. Will the Early Independence Award program be offered again in 2016?

General Questions for Institutions

  1. How does an Institution select potential Early Independence Principal Investigators?
  2. What is meant by “independent research position”?
  3. Is there a limit to the number of applications that can be submitted by an Institution?
  4. What is the expectation for Institutions in terms of Institutional commitment to the Early Independence Investigators?
  5. Is it expected that an applicant would have laboratory space?
  6. If our Institution signs up for the “matching portal” will we be obligated to find a matching PI and support their application?

General Questions for Investigators

  1. Who can apply to be supported as a Principal Investigator?
  2. Since completing my PhD I was awarded a position of faculty at at a University. Does my faculty position preclude me from this award?
  3. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to apply?
  4. May I apply from a foreign institution?
  5. Is the NIH Intramural program an eligible institution?
  6. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow. Am I eligible to apply for an NIH Director's Early Independence Award?
  7. I am not yet at the institution that would be hosting me as an Early Independence Awardee. Should I apply from my current institution or my new institution?
  8. How can I find an institution that is willing to host me?
  9. If I receive an Early Independence Award, will I still be considered an “early stage investigator” when I apply for my first R01 grant?
  10. If I am not successful and the program is re-announced, may I reapply next year?

The Competition Process for 2015

  1. What are the dates for submission of 2015 applications?
  2. Which review criteria will be emphasized?
  3. Do I need or may I submit letters of reference?
  4. What happens at the interview?
  5. May I suggest specific reviewers for my application?
  6. What format should my budget be?
  7. How should I account for indirect costs (facilities and administrative costs) in my application?
  8. Are the 'specific aims' as presented in the specific aims page to be limited to the traditional specific aims of the research project (as you would have on a typical R01) or should they also include some summary of career development aims of the EIA candidate?
  9. May I include a co-PI, or co-investigator on my application?
  10. May in request more or less than $250,000 in direct costs per year?
  11. There are several components in the electronic application form that are not specifically listed on the funding announcement (e.g., Specific Aims, Abstract, Narrative, etc.), but listed as requirements in SF-424. Are these required as part of the application?
  12. Is a data management plan part of the application?
  13. Is a Specific Aims document requested separate from the Research Strategy? Or does the Research Challenge portion of the Research Strategy replace the Specific Aims document?
  14. Are Letters of Intent Required in order to submit an application?
  15. In addition to my “letters of reference”, I would like to include “letters of support” that will describe the recourses I will have outside of my institution to support my project/career. Is this allowed?
  16. I would like to have more than 5 referees submit letters of reference, is it ok to have additional letters of support for them in the appendix?
  17. An applicant institution official must have authority to represent the institution and guarantee that the institution will be able to provide the resources stated in the application if the DP5 is awarded. In many institutions, this person might be the department chair but in others it might be the vice-chair.

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GENERAL QUESTIONS

 

  1. What is the NIH Director's Early Independence Award?

    The NIH Director's Early Independence Award is a relatively new funding mechanism that provides an opportunity for exceptional junior scientists to "skip the post-doc", and start an independent research career at a supportive Institution directly following the completion of their graduate degree or clinical residency.
     

  2. How many awards will be made in 2015?

    The NIH expects to make at least 10 awards in FY2015, depending on the quality of the applications and the availability of funds.
     

  3. What scientific areas are eligible under the Early Independence Award?

    The proposed research may be in any scientific area relevant to the mission of NIH (biological, behavioral, clinical, social, physical, chemical, computational, engineering, and mathematical sciences).
     

  4. Are women and members of underrepresented minority groups encouraged to apply?

    The NIH recognizes a unique and compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social sciences research workforce. The NIH expects all of its efforts to diversify the workforce to lead to the recruitment of the most talented researchers from all groups; to improve the quality of the educational and training environment; to balance and broaden the perspective in setting research priorities; to improve the ability to recruit subjects from diverse backgrounds into clinical research protocols; and to improve the Nation's capacity to address and eliminate health disparities. Grantee institutions are always encouraged to consider talented researchers from diverse backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research, including underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities and women for participation in all NIH-funded research opportunities.
     

  5. How much can be requested?

    Applicants may request up to $250,000 in direct costs per/ year for up to 5 years.
     

  6. Do Early Independence Awards provide indirect costs?

    Yes. In addition to the direct costs, applicable facilities and administrative costs (indirect costs) will be allowed and will be determined at the time of award based on the institution's negotiated rate.
     

  7. How much time/effort are recipients expected to devote?

    The NIH Director's Early Independence Awards is a mechanism to establish an independent research career, and therefore Early Independence Investigators are expected to devote most or all of their time to conducting independent research. If the Early Independence PI is a clinician, he or she may conduct the minimal clinical duties necessary to maintain credentials.
     

  8. Are there any post-award requirements?

    Awardees will be required to submit a scientific progress report each year describing the progress made under this grant. Awardees will be expected to attend regular Investigator Meetings to be arranged by the NIH. A site visit to the Awardee by NIH staff may occur at least once during the funding period, most likely in the first year of award. Awardees will be required to submit a final progress report, Final Invention Statement, and Financial Status Report at the end of the budget/project period. In addition, to help NIH evaluate this program, awardees may be contacted periodically for at least five years and asked to report on their current efforts as Early Independence Awardees.
     

  9. Are Early Independence Awards renewable?

    No. Competing renewal applications for an Early Independence Award will not be allowed. Toward the end of the Early Independence Award project period, awardees are expected to seek funding support to continue their research through traditional routes, such as submission of an R01 or an equivalent grant application.
     

  10. Will the Early Independence Award program be offered again in 2016?

    NIH plans to announce the Early Independence Award program in 2016, but we won't know the amount of funds available for the program until we receive our Fiscal Year 2016 appropriation from Congress.

 

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General Questions for Institutions

 

  1. How does an Institution select potential Early Independence Principal Investigators?

    Institutions may establish any selection process that best meets the needs of the Principal Investigator and the Institution while ensuring the eligibility of the Principal Investigator as indicated in the FOA.
     

  2. What is meant by "independent research position?"

    For the purpose of this award, the PD/PI will control the budget from the award along with the space and resources necessary to conduct the funded research project. In addition, the position will confer eligibility to apply for grants and other types of research support. The application must include a written commitment to an independent research position that will be activated no later than the start date of the Early Independence Award. These positions should not involve significant teaching or administrative requirements imposed by the host institution.
     

  3. Is there a limit to the number of applications that can be submitted by an Institution?

    Institutions may only submit 2 applications for each submission date. An institution is defined as an organization that has a unique DUNS number. For example, if a university-affiliated school of medicine, school of dentistry, and hospital, all have one DUNS number, that institution, may submit at most to 2 applications in total. However, if each entity of that Institution (school of medicine, dentistry and hospital) has a separate and unique DUNS number, each entity can submit at most 2 applications (2 applications per unique DUNS number, totaling 6 applications for the Institution).
     

  4. What is the expectation for Institutions in terms of Institutional commitment to the Early Independence Investigators?

    In addition to provision of independent research space, support staff, access to necessary resources, supplies and equipment the institution may provide full or partial salary support. The institution is also expected to integrate the Early Independence Investigator into the faculty environment of the host department or other unit of the Institution. Mentoring equivalent to that provided to assistant professors should be provided.
     

  5. Is it expected that an applicant would have laboratory space?

    Yes, independent laboratory space should be included if that is appropriate for the type of research to be conducted. For the DP5 award program, significant attention is paid to the resources provided by the institution. Simply stated, the resources provided communicate to the reviewers the commitment of the institution to the applicant. Overall, applications are reviewed based on the research proposal, the applicant and the institutional commitment to the applicant.
     

  6. If our Institution signs up for the “matching portal” will we be obligated to find a matching PI and support their application?

    No, because each institution (as defined by a unique DUNS number) may submit only up to two applications in response to this funding opportunity announcement potential EIA candidates must “matchup” with an institution that is willing to submit an application on their behalf and host them as an EIA recipient. The NIH has developed this web resource to facilitate the “matching” process between host institutions and potential EIA candidates. Participation is voluntary, and does not obligate an institution or individual to “match” via the portal, or to submit an application to the RFA.

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General Questions for Investigators

 

  1. Who can apply to be supported as a Principal Investigator?

    On the date of application submission, individuals must be within 12 months before or after the receipt of their terminal research degree or completion of clinical residency. The date of receipt of the degree is the date the degree was conferred, as indicated on your transcript.
    At the time of appointment to the grantee Institution, the Early Independence PI must have received a Ph.D., M.D., D.O., D.C., D.D.S., D.V.M, O.D., D.P.M., Sc.D., Eng.D., Dr. P.H., D.N.Sc., N.D (Doctor of Naturopathy), Pharm.D., D.S.W., Psy.D., or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited domestic or foreign institution (it is the responsibility of the sponsoring institution to determine if a foreign doctoral degree is equivalent). Certification by an authorized official of the degree-granting institution that all degree requirements have been met is also acceptable.
     

  2. Since completing my PhD I was awarded a position of faculty at at a University. Does my faculty position preclude me from this award?

    Faculty status does not affect eligibility if you are within 12 months of your terminal research degree, or medical residency. However, if you are already a faculty member, you will be expected to make a compelling case about why the EIA would still accelerate entry into your independent research career. In addition, effort of the awardee should be expended almost exclusively on independent research.
     

  3. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to apply?

    No. There are no citizenship or residency requirements. Foreign scientists are eligible to apply if they are applying through a U.S. institution.
     

  4. May I apply from a foreign institution?

    No. You may apply only if you are at an institution in the United States or its territories. For the types of eligible domestic institutions, please see the FOA (Section III.1.A. Eligible Institutions).
     

  5. Is the NIH Intramural program an eligible institution?

    Yes. Please see special application instructions under Section IV.2. "Applications involving federal agencies"; of the RFA. Each constituent Institute or Center of NIH with an Intramural Research Program may submit up to two applications.
     

  6. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow. Am I eligible to apply for an NIH Director's Early Independence Award?

    Only if you are within twelve months of receipt of your terminal doctoral degree or clinical residency at the date of application submission. The date of degree receipt is the date indicated on your official transcript.
     

  7. I am not yet at the institution that would be hosting me as an Early Independence Awardee. Should I apply from my current institution or my new institution?

    Since applications are submitted by an institution on behalf of the principal investigator, the application must be submitted by the institution where you will hold an independent position and conduct the proposed research. In most cases, applications will be submitted in advance of the actual appointment date. You should consult the sponsored research office at your host institution about this.
     

  8. How can I find an institution that is willing to host me?

    Prospective candidates may approach an institution to request that the institution consider hosting them as an Early Independence Awardee. Alternatively, institution officials may actively recruit individuals that they would like to host. To facilitate the “matching” of prospective candidates with potential host institutions, the NIH Common Fund has established a web resource in which host institutions can indicate their interest in hosting EIA Awardees and provide pertinent information such as contact information, details of supporting documents to be submitted, and deadlines for submission.
     

  9. If I receive an Early Independence Award, will I still be considered an "early stage investigator" when I apply for my first R01 grant?

    No. The DP5 award will count as your first substantial NIH grant, so you would be ineligible for early career stage investigator status after receiving this award.
     

  10. If I am not successful and the program is re-announced, may I reapply next year?

    In principle, yes, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements and the host institution is willing to submit the application on your behalf. Substantial changes to the proposed research plan would be expected.

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The Competition Process for 2015

 

  1. What are the dates for submission of 2015 applications?

    Applications may be submitted to Grants.gov beginning December 30, 2014 and must be successfully received by Grants.gov no later than 5:00 p.m. local time (of the investigator's institution/organization) on January 30, 2015.
     

  2. Which review criteria will be emphasized?

    All standard review criteria will be weighed in determining the final impact score. Particular emphasis will be given to the strengths and potential of the Early Independence PI, as well as the suitability and commitment of the Institution to the Early Independence PI.
     

  3. Must I submit letters of reference?

    Yes. You must arrange to have at least three and no more than five letters of reference submitted on your behalf. Refer to Section IV.6.3 of the FOA for detailed guidance. 
     

  4. What happens at the interview?

    The peer review committee will select a subset of applicants it deems to be the most meritorious and invite these applicants for in-person interview in Bethesda, MD. The interviews will give the peer review committee an opportunity to carefully explore the potential of each candidate, the merit of the proposed research, and the commitment of the institution to the candidate's development as a productive and innovative researcher. The results of the interview will be factored into the overall impact score using the standard review criteria.
     

  5. May I suggest specific reviewers for my application?

    No, you should not name specific reviewers for your application. Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by (an) appropriate Scientific Review Group(s) as convened by the Center for Scientific Review. While you should not suggest specific reviewers, you could suggest the scientific background that you feel would be appropriate to review your application. This information, if you chose to provide it, may be included in your cover letter.
     

  6. What format should my budget be?

    You should submit a modular budget.
     

  7. How should I account for indirect costs (facilities and administrative costs) in my application?

    Use the F&A (Facilities and Administrative) costs rate negotiated by your institution, and apply this to the modified total direct cost base. Contact your sponsored programs office or equivalent at your institution for further information.
     

  8. Are the 'specific aims' as presented in the specific aims page to be limited to the traditional specific aims of the research project (as you would have on a typical R01) or should they also include some summary of career development aims of the EIA candidate?

    The specific aims page should relate to the research project similar to a typical R01. Career development and other issues related to the application should be addressed under Item 10 “Other Project Information Component” and in the Research Strategy section as stated in the funding opportunity.
     

  9. May I include a co-PI, or co-investigator on my application?

    You may not have co-PIs, or co-investigators on your application. The candidate should be the sole PI on an EIA funded project. You may have collaborators on your project, and the role of collaborators may be discussed in the Research Strategy. While the NIH does not require each collaborator to provide a letter of support, we would suggest that collaborators who will provide substantial support for the research proposal submit letters of support, which may be included in the appendix.
     

  10. May I request more or less than $250,000 in direct costs per year?

    Applicants may request up to $250,000 in direct costs per/ year for up to 5 years. You may request less than $250,000 per year but cannot request more that the allotted amount.
     

  11. There are several components in the electronic application form that are not specifically listed on the funding announcement (e.g., Specific Aims, Abstract, Narrative, etc.), but listed as requirements in SF-424. Are these required as part of the application?

    The requirements for SF-424 should be followed for the DP5 mechanism including Abstract, Narrative and Specific Aims sections which can be included in the Research Strategy component. The FOA describes deviations from the standard application.
     

  12. Is a data management plan part of the application?

    No, a data management plan is not required unless there are expenditures of $500,000/year; this grant is limited to $250,000/year.  Please do note, however, individuals are required to comply with the instructions for the Resource Sharing Plans (Data Sharing Plan, Sharing Model Organisms, and Genome Wide Association Studies(GWAS)) as provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.
     

  13. Is a Specific Aims document requested separate from the Research Strategy? Or does the Research Challenge portion of the Research Strategy replace the Specific Aims document?

    The Specific Aims page is a document that is separate from the Research Strategy document and is attached to the application separately.
     

  14. Are Letters of Intent Required in order to submit an application?

    Letters of Intent (LOIs) are requested, but are not required, are not binding, and do not enter into the review of subsequent applications. The information that LOIs contain allows NIH staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.
     

  15. In addition to my “letters of reference”, I would like to include “letters of support” that will describe the recourses I will have outside of my institution to support my project/career. Is this allowed?

    Yes, you may include letters of support in the Appendix.
     

  16. I would like to have more than 5 referees submit letters of reference, is it ok to have additional letters of support for them in the appendix?

    You should not use the appendix to circumvent the letters of references. You must arrange to have at least three and no more than five letters of reference submitted on your behalf.  Each referee must submit his or her letter independently via the URL in the FOA. For this funding opportunity letter of reference cannot be submitted by the applicant.  Individuals that are in your mentorship plan can provide letters of support.
     

  17. The FOA states that "In addition to the required information detailed in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, applicant institution officials must address each of the following items below." Who is an appropriate “institution official?"

    An “applicant institution official” must be an individual with the authority to represent the institution and guarantee that the institution will be able to provide the resources stated in the application if the DP5 is awarded. In many institutions, this person might be the department chair but in others it might be the vice-chair or dean.

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