Disclaimer: The information on this page is meant to provide general guidance. Instructions and procedures outlined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement and SF424 Application Guide take precedence over any information provided on this page and should be referred to for complete and comprehensive directions.
Before you try to apply to the Early Independence Award, make sure you are eligible. The Early Independence Award has strict eligibility requirements that must be met. Use our Eligibility Tool to help determine your eligibility, but also check the Funding Opportunity Announcement and the information below.
In order to support the most innovative and impactful research, the NIH recognizes the need to foster a diverse research workforce across the nation. Applications to this award program should reflect the full diversity of potential PDs/PIs, applicant institutions, and research areas relevant to the broad mission of NIH. Talented researchers from diverse backgrounds (see NOT-OD-20-031), including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and women, are strongly encouraged to work with their institutions to develop applications for this Funding Opportunity Announcement. As outstanding research is conducted at a broad spectrum of institutions, it benefits the national scientific enterprise for NIH to support exceptionally innovative and impactful science that represents this breadth. Therefore, applications are encouraged from the full range of eligible institutions, including those serving primarily underserved groups, those that may be less research-intensive, and from all domestic geographic locations. Applications are welcome in all research areas broadly relevant to the mission of NIH. These areas include, but are not limited to, the behavioral, medical, natural, social, applied, and formal sciences. Research may be basic, translational, or clinical. The primary requirements are that the research be highly innovative and have the potential for unusually broad impact.
Steps to Determine Your Eligibility
Step 1: Fit NIH Mission and Goals
NIH seeks fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. The Early Independence Award welcomes all areas of research relevant to this mission, including (but not limited to) topics in behavioral, medical, natural, social, applied, and formal sciences. Research may be basic, translational, or clinical. The primary requirements are that the research be highly innovative and have the potential for unusually broad impact.
Step 2: Fit the Purpose of the Early Independence Award
The award provides an opportunity for exceptional junior scientists to accelerate their entry into an independent research career by skipping the traditional postdoctoral training period. The Early Independence Award is an R01-equivalent research grant that will support an independent research project at an institution that is expected to provide the applicant with an independent research position.
Applicants should be junior investigators with a record of scientific innovation and research productivity. They should demonstrate unusual scientific vision and maturity and not need post-doctoral training to develop further skills and knowledge.
Step 3: Meet the Eligibility Requirements
Any eligible individual with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) is invited to work with his/her institution to develop an application for support. NIH recognizes the need to foster a diverse research workforce across the nation and encourages applications from diverse PI/PDs, applicant institutions, and research areas relevant to the broad mission of NIH.
Use our Eligibility Tool to help determine if you are eligible and check the list below.
You must have completed or will complete an advanced terminal research degree (typically a PhD) sometime between June 1, 2020 and September 30, 2022, as stated on your transcript. For clinicians, you must have completed or will complete your clinical training (which includes residency and fellowship periods) sometime between June 1, 2020 and September 30, 2022.
Previous Postdoctoral Experience
You cannot have served as a postdoctoral fellow for 12 months or more after a previous, non-terminal doctoral degree (if you have or will have multiple doctoral degrees). This does not include serving as a postdoctoral fellow after your terminal research degree or completion of clinical training. Another way of thinking about it is you cannot have served as a postdoctoral fellow for 12 months or more before June 1, 2020.
You must be in a non-independent research position at the time your application is submitted, meaning all the following are true:
- Your current research agenda is set through concurrence with mentors.
- Your research is funded primarily through support to other investigators (mentored fellowships do not count).
- You do not have any research space assigned directly to you by your institution.
- Based on institutional policy, you cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without a special waiver or exemption.
You retain your eligibility even if you become functionally independent after you submit your application.
NIH makes awards to institutions, not directly to individuals. An applicant must have an institution submit the application on their behalf. NIH does not match potential applicants to host institutions. The institution must guarantee an independent research position to the applicant if awarded and is expected to provide substantial support.
There is a two-application limit per institution (as defined by unique DUNS number) per competition. This is to ensure awardees have the proper institutional support needed to succeed. Institutions often have an internal selection process for selecting candidates, so potential candidates should work with their institution and follow its process to ensure their application is one of the two allowed.
Only U.S.-based institutions are allowed to apply, but there is no U.S. citizenship requirement for the applicant. Only single PD/PI applications are allowed.
The project period for an Early Independence Award is five years. For years 1 and 2, you must commit at least 9.6 person-months to your Early Independence Award project. For years 3-5, you do not need to focus exclusively on the Early Independence Award project but must still commit at least 9.6 person-months towards independent research in general.
The Early Independence Award is a research project grant and R01 equivalent, not a training or mentorship grant. You must develop a research project around a topic of relevance to the NIH mission. Your approach should reflect careful deliberation of strengths and weaknesses and display independence from your previous mentor's work. Preliminary data are not required but will be evaluated if included.
You are welcome to view previously funded Early Independence Award research to get a sense of the scope and framing of successful proposals, but keep in mind that NIH is always looking to expand its portfolio of supported research. If your area of research is underrepresented or has not yet been funded, it does not mean it is not welcome or wanted for the Early Independence Award. NIH welcomes all topics relevant to the NIH mission and encourages unique and diverse topics to apply to the Early Independence Award. Increasing scientific diversity is a programmatic priority.
If you are submitting other NIH applications besides the Early Independence Award, note that multiple applications with essentially the same content and scope are not allowed under review at the same time per NIH policy. An application cannot be submitted before the summary statement of an earlier, overlapping application has been issued.
Step 4: Get Additional Questions Answered
If you still have questions about your eligibility, check out the Frequently Asked Questions section and past Q&A Webinars posted on the website. You can also contact NIH staff at EarlyIndependence@od.nih.gov.
More questions? Contact us at EarlyIndependence@od.nih.gov.
This page last reviewed on July 29, 2021