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.
Letters of Reference
Letters of reference are an important element of the Early Independence Award application. Applicants must arrange to have at least three and no more than five letters of reference submitted on their behalf.
Applications that are missing letters of reference will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed. Late letters will not be accepted. Applicants are responsible for monitoring the submission of letters to ensure that at least three letters have been submitted prior to the submission deadline. Applicants are encouraged to check the status of their letters in their eRA Commons account.
Letters of Reference Vs. Letters of Support
Letters of reference differ from letters of support. Letters of reference are typically from scientists or others who know the applicant well and are qualified to evaluate the merit of the project proposal and the applicant’s qualifications to fulfill the proposed project.
Letters of support typically come from outside individuals or organizations whose cooperation, assistance, or guidance is needed to successfully complete a project. The letter of support affirms the person or entity’s commitment to assist in the project.
Both letters of support and letters of recommendation are needed for the Early Independence Award application. Letters of support are attached to the application by the candidate, but letters of reference are submitted to NIH directly by the referee and are never seen by the candidate.
It is best to select referees who can speak to your scientific expertise, leadership experience, and management skills and address how you are qualified to conduct successful independent research. It may not be best to choose referees based primarily on their official position, such as your departmental chair or institutional dean.
- Arrange to have at least three and no more than five letters.
- Letters must be submitted by 5:00 P.M. (local time of referee) on the application due date (late letters will not be accepted).
- Letters must be submitted electronically through eRA Commons (paper copies will not be accepted). Note: The referee does not need an eRA Commons account to submit a reference letter for an applicant, but the applicant must have a valid eRA Commons account.
- Provide the referee with the following information:
- Your eRA Commons user ID
- Your last name as is listed in eRA Commons
- Funding opportunity number without "RFA" listed (e.g., RM-22-021)
- URL to the eRA Commons: https://public.era.nih.gov/commons (click on the "Submit a Reference Letter" link on the page)
- URL to eRA help on submitting reference letters: https://www.era.nih.gov/erahelp/commons/Commons/Ref_Ltr.htm
- You will not have access to the letters.
- An email confirmation will be sent to you when a letter is submitted.
- Check the status of your letters on eRA Commons periodically, and remind referees to submit their letters on time.
- Letter must be submitted by 5:00 P.M. (local time of referee) on the application due date (late letters will not be accepted).
- Letter must be submitted electronically through eRA Commons (paper copies will not be accepted). Click on the "Submit a Reference Letter" link on the page. Note: The referee does not need an eRA Commons account to submit a reference letter for an applicant, but the applicant must have a valid eRA Commons account.
- Letter must include the following information:
- Applicant's name on top of letter
- Signature block with your full name, title, institution, and contact information
- 1-2 page description of the applicant's qualities relating to scientific expertise, leadership experience, and management skills necessary to conduct successful independent research (provide specific examples when possible)
- Submit letter through eRA Commons (you do not need to be registered or logged on to eRA Commons to submit a letter).
- Provide your first and last name, email address, institution/affiliation, and department.
- You will need the applicant's eRA Commons user name, applicant's last name, funding opportunity number without "RFA" listed (e.g., RM-22-021), and confirmation number (if submitting a revised Letter).
- An email confirmation will be sent to you when the letter is submitted.
More questions? Contact us at EarlyIndependence@od.nih.gov.
This page last reviewed on June 21, 2022