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NIDCD and Your Research Career


What research training opportunities are available at NIDCD?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and is the federal focal point for research on human communication. NIDCD funds research and research training in more than two dozen disciplines, such as molecular genetics, physiology, cellular biology, linguistics, psychoacoustics, molecular genetics, epidemiology, bioengineering, nanotechnology, toxicology, computational biology, immunology, and structural biology—the full range of the biological and behavioral sciences.

NIDCD funds research and research training in the normal and disordered processes of Hearing, Balance, Smell, Taste, Voice, Speech, Language.


What am I eligible for?

The NIDCD seeks individuals with the highest potential to develop into successful independent scientists through research training and career development opportunities. Each of the award mechanisms for research training and career development support addresses a specific educational and career stage and set of needs. You will want to review the eligibility criteria and provisions carefully.


Who can help guide me through the process?

The Division of Scientific Programs manages the extramural research and research training portfolios of grants and contracts for the NIDCD. No matter what your level of training need or career stage, the scientific program officer will be a key resource for you. The following scientific program officers are available to assist you:

Daniel Sklare, Ph.D.
research training across scientific programs

Amy Donahue, Ph.D.
psychoacoustics, peripheral auditory system, effects of noise on auditory system, presbycusis, and cochlear implants

Lynn Luethke, Ph.D.
systems-level auditory neuroscience, audiology, tinnitus, and hearing aids

Bracie Watson, Ph.D.
clinical and molecular genetics of hearing impairment, otitis media, and immunology

Christopher Platt, Ph.D.
balance and vestibular system

Nancy Freeman, Ph.D.
cellular, molecular, and developmental biology of auditory system

Roger Miller, Ph.D.
auditory and other neural prostheses

Barry Davis, Ph.D.
chemical senses (taste and smell)

Judith Cooper, Ph.D.
language sciences

Lana Shekim, Ph.D.
voice and speech sciences

Howard Hoffman, M.A.
epidemiology and public health

In addition, the NIDCD conducts research within the laboratories of its Division of Intramural Research, located on the NIH campus and in the surrounding region. These laboratories also offer research training opportunities.

For further information on NIDCD’s intramural research program, go to:


What factors should I look for when weighing my options?

Level of experience required

Predoctoral level, postdoctoral level, or newly independent investigator.

Status requirements

U.S. citizenship, permanent residency, or non-citizen national (living in U.S. territories) status.

Eligibility for specific award mechanisms

Individual who is a member of an underrepresented group in biomedical and behavioral research.

Scope of support from an award mechanism

  • Stipend or salary support
  • Tuition/fees
  • Health insurance
  • Research development support (e.g., equipment, supplies, technical support)
  • Travel to scientific meetings
  • Service payback obligation


How will my fellowship application be reviewed?

The NIDCD Communication Disorders Review Committee (CDRC) provides initial scientific and technical review of most NIDCD research training applications.

The NIDCD Division of Scientific Programs provides second-level and programmatic review of NIDCD fellowship applications and makes recommendations to the NIDCD leadership for final funding decisions.

For more information on the review process for fellowship applications,
go to:


How long will the review of my fellowship application take?

Favorably reviewed fellowship applications can be funded within as short as 4-5 months of submission. The three deadlines for fellowship award mechanisms for each year are April 8, August 8, and December 8.


How do I apply?

Most NIH applications now require electronic application submission. Applicants should consult the Web for guidance on how to apply for these and other awards and for additional information about funding opportunities. “How to Apply for an NIDCD Grant” offers further details on award mechanisms and the application and review process.


NIDCD areas of interest
Select “Research” and “Funding for Research”
(Also, read the NIDCD Strategic Plan at

NIH homepage
Select “Grants and Funding Opportunities”

Center for Scientific Review
Select “Resources for Applicants”


How can I ensure a timely review of my fellowship application?

  • Comply with all application instructions such as page limits
    and formatting.
  • Include three sealed letters of reference with the application.
  • Include a training plan in the responsible conduct of research or document if such training has recently been completed.
  • Comply with requirements for protection of human subjects.
  • Comply with animal welfare requirements.
  • Comply with inclusion of human subjects requirements (gender, minority status, and inclusion of children).
  • Submit application on time.
  • In addition to the official application submission, submit an application copy to:

NIDCD Scientific Review Branch
6120 Executive Boulevard
Room 400 C, MSC-7180
Bethesda, MD 20892-7180 (regular mail)
or Rockville, MD 20852 (for express mail)


What training award mechanisms are available?

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSAs) (Fellowships)

  • Provides stipend, partial coverage of tuition, fees, health insurance, and trainee travel.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or permanent resident.
  • Service payback obligation for first-year postdoctoral researchers.

NIDCD Dual-Degree Individual Predoctoral Fellowships for Training Physician-Scientists (F30)

Up to six years of support for the combined clinical and research training of students in integrated, dual-track M.D./Ph.D. programs.

Must propose doctoral dissertation research within the NIDCD research mission under the sponsorship of an NIH–funded investigator.

Typically submitted during the first year of medical school.

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellows (F31)

Up to five years of predoctoral support.

Solely for doctoral candidates engaged in dissertation research.

Students within three months of doctoral candidacy can apply, but activation awaits official designation of candidacy.

Continued NIDCD participation in trans–NIH F31 programs for students from underrepresented minority groups and students with disabilities (not limited to dissertation stage; nonexpedited, Center for Scientific Review–based review).

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (F32)

Up to three years of postdoctoral support.

Opportunities for full–time postdoctoral-level training support to acquire needed research competencies and conduct a specific research project in a host laboratory under a mentor’s sponsorship.

For more information on these and other training awards, go to:


What are the fellowship review criteria?


Who is the candidate and what is his or her promise? Are his or her training needs and the sponsor laboratory a clear match?

Sponsor/Training Environment

Are the sponsor and laboratory a good match for the research project? Does the sponsor have a strong research record, mentorship experience, and federal funding record? Can the mentorship team fill in appropriate expertise? Does the environment offer a challenging training setting that is appropriate for the mentee’s background and experience?

Research Proposal

Is the research proposal cohesive, feasible, and hypothesis-driven or hypothesis-generating? Does the proposal acknowledge experimental pitfalls? Is there an adequate understanding and review of the relevant literature? Has the candidate had a clear and primary role in developing the application?

Training Potential

Does the training reasonably augment research career growth in the candidate’s chosen direction? Will the candidate become proficient in the experimental techniques and approaches? Is the training plan both broadly conceived and, yet, sufficiently detailed in the application?


What career development award opportunities are available for junior faculty members who are clinically trained?

If you are a clinically-trained, junior faculty member (or equivalent in a non-academic setting) with two or more years of prior research experience and you are on a clinician-scientist career path, you are eligible for a K08 or K23 award.

NIDCD K08 and K23 awards provide salary up to $105,000 per year and research development support up to $50,000 per year. Both require at least 75 percent professional effort for three, four, or (typically) five years of mentored research training. In addition, you cannot be a principal investigator (current or past) on an NIH research grant, with the exception of an NIDCD Small Grant (R03).

Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08)

Fosters the development of highly promising clinician-scientists into independent investigators who seek to integrate fundamental research and clinical practice in their careers.

Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)

Complementary program to the K08. Patient-oriented research is defined as research on human subjects or material of human origin in which the investigator directly interacts with human subjects to address:

  • mechanisms and consequences of human disease,
  • epidemiologic, behavioral outcomes or health services,
  • development of new technologies, or
  • therapeutic interventions and clinical trials.


What makes a K08/K23 application successful?

Here is a checklist to consider when preparing your application.

  • Do you have prior research experience?
  • Have you been first author on published or in-press experimental research papers?
  • Have you held a small, peer-reviewed research or seed grant from a funding agency or professional society?
  • Do you have strong institutional support (favorable research start-up package, protected research time)?
  • If you are submitting a revised application, have you provided strong responses to reviewer critiques?

For more information on these and other career development awards, go to:

The mentored K awards are viewed by the scientific and clinical communities as a jumpstart to a career in research. It is a validation of the awardee as a viable clinician-scientist. There are considerations, however, that applicants should weigh. The mandated 75 percent “protected time” is a challenge even within the most supportive institution and the K award primary mission of research development can conflict with a service-providing institution’s primary mission and greatest source of revenue—patient care. The challenge of winning subsequent research funding is necessary for establishing an independent research career.


What other award mechanisms are available for new investigators?

NIDCD Small Grant (R03) Program

Supports newly independent investigators and advanced postdoctoral researchers within seven years of completing their terminal degree (excluding years of clinical training), transitioning to research independence. Applicants need not have their own research space.

  • Provides up to $100,000 per annum for up to three years to conduct pilot or feasibility studies that will launch a research program to be supported by a K award or New Investigator R01 award.
  • Applicants must submit a research plan (not to exceed ten pages) as part of the electronic application process.
  • Historically, approximately 50 percent of successful R03s subsequently are awarded R01 funding.
  • Can provide one year of support for acquiring pilot or feasibility data for new clinician-scientists to launch a successful K award.
  • Can augment the research development support of K awardees who require additional research resources to transition to independent investigators.

For more information on the R03 grant mechanism, go to:

NIH Pathways to Independence Award (K99/R00)

Nurtures highly promising investigators to secure a tenured research position and R01 grant funding early in their careers through a dual-phase award. This includes a mentored postdoctoral phase (K99) and an independent investigator phase (R00), for up to five years of support. Both phases require 75 percent effort. Transition to the R00 phase is contingent on securing an appropriate extramural tenure-track junior-level faculty (or equivalent) position and NIH administrative review.

  • K99 Phase (one to two years): Provides up to $105,000 per year of salary support plus an allowance of $25,000 for research costs.
  • R00 Phase (up to three years): Provides up to $249,000 per year.
  • U.S. citizens and non-citizens, including postdoctoral fellows in federal agencies, are eligible to apply.

NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

Supports exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact. The New Innovator Award is targeted to new investigators who have not yet received an R01 or equivalent type of NIH grant and who have had a relatively short time since receipt of the doctoral degree.

  • Provides up to $1.5 million in direct costs for the five-year budget/project period. Indirect costs such as applicable facilities and administrative costs are permitted and will be determined at the time of award.
  • The focus is on creativity and innovation; preliminary data are not required, but may be included.
  • The proposed research may be in any scientific area relevant to the mission of NIH but need not be in a conventional biomedical or behavioral discipline.

For more information about NIH grant programs for new investigators, go to:


Where is all of this leading? An independent research career.

Investigator-Initiated Research Grants (R01)

Investigator-initiated research grants (R01s) make up the largest single category of support provided by the NIDCD and NIH. The R01 is considered the traditional research grant mechanism.

  • Mainstay of NIH research support for new and established investigators.
  • Applicants must have pilot data and an established publication record.
  • Modules of $25,000 to $250,000 direct costs per year for three, four, or (usually) five years.
  • A detailed budget is required if direct costs exceed $250,000 per year.
  • Applicants must submit a research plan (not to exceed 25 pages) as part of the electronic application process.

For more information about the R01 grant mechanism, go to:

NIDCD employs a special second-level review process for first-time RO1 investigators and junior mentored career-development (K series) investigators. If an RO1 grant application receives a score, but does not fall within the automatic payline, the principal investigator is encouraged to submit a letter addressing the concerns raised at the initial review. If the letter addresses these concerns to the satisfaction of the NIDCD leadership and the NIDCD Advisory Council, the grant application becomes a candidate for high program priority funds.


Are there other assistance programs I should know about?

NIH Loan Repayment Program

Educational loan repayment for the doctoral-level health professional who seeks a research career involving clinical research or pediatric research.

  • Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Provides up to $35,000 per year in educational loan repayment during a two-year commitment to conduct clinical or pediatric research funded by nonprofit or government sources and is renewable.
  • Individuals must commit at least 50 percent effort for the two-year period of the award.

For more information, go to:

NIH Diversity Supplement Program

NIDCD provides opportunities to individuals from underrepresented groups, including individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups, individuals with qualifying disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are interested in entering or resuming research careers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. These programs support research experiences for a range of educational and career levels—from high school students to research scientists and faculty members —by supplementing active NIH grants.

For more information about the NIH Diversity Supplement Program, go to:


Where can I find additional information?

For additional information about NIDCD Extramural Training Programs and NIH Loan Repayment Programs:

Daniel A. Sklare, Ph.D.
Research Training Officer and Loan Repayment Program Coordinator
Division of Scientific Programs
(301) 496-1804

For more information about the NIDCD Diversity Supplement Program:

Judith A. Cooper, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Scientific Programs
(301) 496-5061

For information about research and research training opportunities in the NIDCD Intramural Research Program:

David L. Robinson, Ph.D.
Deputy Director, Division of Intramural Research
(301) 496-1601

For additional information about NIDCD and its programs, visit the NIDCD Web site at

NIH Publication No. 07-5481
Updated October 2007


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Celebrating 20 years of research: 1988 to 2008