Disclaimer: The information in these pages are meant to provide general guidance. Instructions and procedures outlined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement and SF424 Application Guide take precedence over any information provided and should be referred to for complete and comprehensive directions.
Letters of Reference
Letters of reference are an important element of the Pioneer Award application. Applicants must arrange to have three (and only three) 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 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 reference are submitted to NIH directly by the referee and are never seen by the PD/PI.
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. Letters of support are not permitted for the Pioneer Award application.
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 three (and only three) 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 on the eRA Commons reference submission page (paper copies will not be accepted).
- Provide the referee with the following information:
- Funding opportunity number without "RFA" listed (e.g., RM-20-011)
- Your eRA Commons user name
- Your first and last name as is listed in eRA Commons
- URL to the eRA Commons reference submission page: https://public.era.nih.gov/commons/public/reference/submitReferenceLetter.do?mode=new
- 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 on the eRA Commons reference submission page (paper copies will not be accepted).
- 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 on the eRA Commons reference submission page (you do not need to be registered on 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-20-011), 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 PioneerAwards@mail.nih.gov.
This page last reviewed on April 16, 2021