New Investigators Program
Pathway to Independence Award (PA-07-297)
Questions and Answers
Initially Posted: May 22, 2007
This page has been substantially revised and updated. It replaces the Q & A page that accompanied the initial announcement of the program in PA-06-133.
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1. How many awards are expected to be made by the NIH and how many will each participating Institute and Center support?
In FY 2007, its initial year, NIH Institutes and Centers anticipate issuing 171 awards for this program ( http://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/2007estimate.htm). In subsequent years, NIH plans to issue between 150 and 200 awards per year. The actual number and distribution of awards made by the NIH Institutes and Centers will depend upon the quality of the applications received, the results of the scientific peer review process, the availability of funds, and the program priorities of awarding components.
2. What will the success rate be?
This calculation requires us to know the number of competing applications reviewed and funded. Keep in mind that success rates vary by Institute and Center. Although we anticipate significant interest in this new pilot program, it is much too early for us to predict its success rate. To date, NIH has received approximately 1000 applications, including revised applications, and anticipates issuing 171 awards for FY 2007 ( http://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/2007estimate.htm). A number of awards have already been made: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/K99_awards_fy2006.htm
3. What makes the Pathway to Independence program different from others currently supported by the NIH?
The new Pathway to Independence Award program will provide a unique opportunity for highly promising candidates to obtain two forms of support from a single NIH award. The support is interconnected and combines an initial mentored research phase followed by the scientist's first independent research support.
Each candidate is encouraged to discuss their potential competitiveness for this funding opportunity with his/her advisor, department chair, and relevant NIH program staff http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/pa-07-297_contacts.htm prior to preparing an application.
The initial 1-2 year mentored phase allows investigators to complete their supervised research work, publish results, and search for an independent research position.
The independent phase provides up to 3 years of support and allows successful awardees who are appointed to an independent assistant professor (or equivalent) position to continue to work toward establishing research independence and to prepare an application for NIH Research Project R01 grant support. The R01 is the primary mechanism for investigator-initiated funding. Facilities and administrative (F&A) costs for this independent phase will be reimbursed at the extramural sponsoring institution's current rate.
4. What impact will this new program have on existing NIH training and career development programs?
The Pathway to Independence Award is a relatively new initiative that will augment, but not replace, existing NIH programs that provide mentored research and career development experiences for new investigators. Every NIH Institute and Center is contributing to the support of this program.
5. Can a PI change institutions in either phase of the award if they locate a better opportunity at another institution?
A change of sponsoring institution will be permitted only when all of the terms and benefits attributable to the original award can be assured. Consultation with the applicable NIH program and grants management staff is strongly encouraged when a change of institution is being considered.
6. Are postdoctoral fellows currently supported by Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional training or individual fellowship awards eligible to apply?
Applications may be submitted by eligible NRSA recipients. NRSA recipients selected for Pathway to Independence Award funding must terminate their NRSA support prior to receiving support from the PI Award.
7. Are postdoctoral fellows currently supported by NIH Career Development awards eligible to apply?
No. Individuals are NOT eligible if they have been a recipient of an NIH career development award (e.g., K01, K07, K08, K23, K25) or any other peer reviewed NIH or non-NIH research grants over $100,000 in direct costs per year.
8. Who do I contact to find out more about the program and if I should apply?
We encourage inquiries concerning the Pathway to Independence Award program and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants. Applicants should consult with the scientific/research contact person listed on our NIH Web site http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/pa-07-297_contacts.htm
9. Will Pathway to Independence (PI) Award recipients be considered “new investigators” when applying for their first NIH R01 support?
Yes. Pathway to Independence (PI) award recipients can check “Yes” in the “New Investigator” box when applying for their first NIH R01 support . This is consistent with existing policy of considering recipients of all mentored career development awards (e.g., K01, K08, K22, K23, K25, K99) as “New Investigators” when applying for their first NIH R01 support.
10. What are the submission dates for new and revised applications for the PI Award?
The same standard submission dates for research career development awards will be used:
- New applications: February 12, June 12, and October 12
- Renewal, resubmission, revision application: March 12, July 12, and November 12
- AIDS and AIDS-related applications: May 7, September 7, and January 7
See the Submission Dates Schedule for additional information on Research Career Development (K Series) application submissions.
Note: the section “1.B. Eligible Individuals” has been significantly revised and updated in the current K99/R00 announcement: http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-07-297.html
1. Who can apply to be supported as a principal investigator?
Outstanding postdoctoral candidates who have terminal clinical or research doctorates (or equivalent doctoral degrees) and who have no more than 5 years of postdoctoral research training experience at the time of initial application receipt date, or subsequent resubmission(s) are eligible. Parental leave or other well justified leave from postdoctoral research training for pressing personal or family situations of generally less than 12 months duration is not included in the 5-year eligibility limit. In addition, clinical training time with no research involvement (e.g., residency training) is not counted against the 5 year limit (see also question 4 below).
2. Who can't apply to be supported as a principal investigator?
Investigators who have currently or previously held an independent research faculty or tenure-track faculty position, or its equivalent in academia, industry, or elsewhere are not eligible.
Investigators who have more than 5 years of postdoctoral research training experience at the time of initial application or subsequent resubmission(s) are not eligible.
Investigators who have previously been an independent principal investigator on NIH research grants (such as R01, R03, R21, P01, or subprojects of such grants), NIH career development awards, or have been a principal investigator on peer-reviewed, non-NIH research grants over $100,000 in direct costs per year, intended for faculty members, are not eligible.
Individuals that have received a commitment to their research career progression including institutional support to apply for independent R01 or equivalent research funding as a principal investigator are not eligible.
3. Can someone apply for only the independent phase of the award?
No. Applications requesting only the independent phase will not be accepted.
The Pathway to Independence Award is designed and intended to provide up to 5 years of continuous support consisting of mentored and independent research phase.
4. Do postgraduate clinical training experiences count toward the 5-year research training eligibility limit?
No. Time spent conducting postgraduate clinical training that does not involve research is not considered as part of the 5-year research training eligibility limit. Only time dedicated to research activities would count toward the 5-year limit. Therefore, applicants with postgraduate clinical training experience remain eligible and are encouraged to apply for the Pathway to Independence award.
5. Does postgraduate research work conducted outside of the United States count toward the 5-year research training eligibility limit?
Yes. Time spent conducting postgraduate research, whether inside or outside of the United States , is considered as part of the 5-year research training eligibility limit.
6. Postdoctoral candidates who have terminal clinical or research doctorates (or equivalent doctoral degrees) and who have no more than 5 years of postdoctoral research training at the time of initial application receipt date, or subsequent resubmission(s) are eligible to apply. What is meant by “at the time of initial application or resubmission?”
This means that regardless of whether the application is New or Revised (resubmitted for another round of peer review) the applicant must have fewer than 5 years of postgraduate research training experience. For example, if an applicant is within the 5 years of eligibility at the time of initial application receipt date, but not within the 5 years of eligibility at the time of resubmission, he/she is no longer eligible to apply for the PI award, and may not revise and resubmit the application.
7. Are applicants with greater than 5 years of research training experience who have changed research directions or disciplines eligible to apply?
In unusual circumstances, exceptions to the 5-year limit may be approved, e.g., where significant changes in fields of study have occurred, such as moving from physical science to life science research, or from engineering to behavioral research. Such unique exceptions will be considered on a case by case basis and will require concurrence of NIH program staff of the Institute or Center (IC) most likely to be assigned the application for potential funding. IC concurrence must be obtained prior to submission and a statement describing the circumstances must be included in the application. A list of NIH program staff contacts for the PI Award can be found at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/pa-07-297_contacts.htm.
8. When does the clock start ticking for an individual who has earned two terminal degrees (e.g., two Ph.D.s) in a separated time frame? Does the time spent earning the second Ph.D. degree count against the 5-year limitation?
The answer to this question is complicated, and applicants are encouraged to contact the Institute or Center staff for additional guidance. In general, the clock starts with the first relevant Ph.D. degree. Depending on the research training experience, some Ph.D.s may count as biomedically relevant (e.g., Biochemistry, Biophysics). However, if the first Ph.D. is in a totally unrelated field (e.g., English), the clock starts with the second, relevant Ph.D.
9. Who should be applying for this award?
The Pathway to Independence Award Program is designed to facilitate the rapid transition of the most promising and exceptionally talented new investigators into independent research careers. The intended applicant will have no more than 5 years of postdoctoral research training experience, evidence of research productivity including scientific publications and a creative idea for an independent research project. Consequently, applicants should be in the final years of their mentored research training experience and poised to embark on an independent research career in a tenure-track or equivalent position.
10. Are instructional, research or clinical faculty eligible to apply for the PI Award?
Individuals in a mentored or postdoctoral position that meet the eligibility criteria, regardless of the title of their current position, are eligible to apply for this award.
Individuals who currently hold or have held a tenure-track research faculty or other professorship or their equivalent in academia, industry or elsewhere are not eligible to apply for this award. However, a clinical faculty member who does not hold an independent research faculty position may be eligible for the K99/R00 award, and should contact a Program Director at the relevant NIH Institute for guidance.
Individuals that have received a commitment to their research career progression including institutional support to apply for independent R01 or equivalent research funding as a principal investigator are not eligible.
Questions regarding additional unique situations should be discussed with NIH program staff contacts for the PI Award found at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/pa-07-297_contacts.htm.
1. Why is this funding opportunity being provided to support non-U.S. citizens as well as U.S. citizens?
The Pathway to Independence Award seeks to attract the best and brightest individuals conducting research in the United States , regardless of citizenship. This support should help transition them to research independence here in the U.S.
2. Will the visa status of applicants matter?
For each phase of the application (K99 or R00), the applicant U.S. institution is responsible for determining and documenting that an individual's visa will allow him or her to remain in this country long enough to:
(a) transition to an independent research career in the U.S. during the proposed mentored (K99) phase; and/or
(b) be productive on the research project in the U.S. for the duration of the proposed independent research (R00) phase.
3. Will NIH assist with visa related matters so that applicants or awardees can remain in the U.S.?
No. NIH will not intercede on behalf of non-citizens whose stay in the United States may be limited by their visa status. As a result, NIH requires the applicant institution or organization to determine and indicate, in its application, that such individuals' visas will allow them to remain in this country long enough to be productive on the project. If a grant is awarded on the basis of this information and the individual's visa does not allow for such a stay, the NIH may terminate the grant.
4. Will funding preference be given to US citizens?
No. The distribution of awards that will be made by NIH Institutes and Centers will depend upon the quality of the applications received, the results of the scientific peer review process, the availability of funds and the program priorities of awarding components.
5. Will other NIH funding mechanisms that have traditionally been limited to U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. (such as NRSA and mentored career-development awards) be opened to non-U.S. citizens?
No. NIH does not anticipate that any modifications regarding citizenship eligibility will be made to NRSA-supported research training and career development programs.
1. Which institutions are eligible to apply?
Eligible organizations for the K99 phase of the Pathway to Independence Award include domestic for-profit or non-profit institutions/organizations, or public or private institutions (such as universities, colleges, hospitals and laboratories), and eligible agencies of the federal government, including NIH intramural laboratories.
Eligible organizations for the R00 phase include the types listed above except agencies of the Federal government which are eligible for the K99 phase only.
2. Which institutions may not apply?
Foreign institutions are not eligible to apply to apply for either the K99 phase or the R00 phase.
Agencies of the Federal government that are ineligible to receive NIH extramural research grants including the NIH intramural research program are ineligible to apply for the R00 phase.
1. How much support has been committed to this initiative and how much will it cost?
It is anticipated that the NIH Institutes and Centers will issue approximately 171 Pathway to Independence Awards in fiscal year 2007 ( http://grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/2007estimate.htm). In subsequent years, NIH plans to issue between 150 and 200 awards per year. The NIH has committed approximately $390 million of support over the next 5 years (FY 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011).
As always, these numbers are subject to the availability of funds, the scientific and technical merit of applications received, the availability of funds, and the program priorities of awarding components.
As each year's cohort progresses from the mentored to independent research phase of the Pathway to Independence Award, the costs of each award will increase due to increased salary, research support expenses and facilities and administrative (F&A) costs.
2. Why is the NIH investing money in a new program when budgets are tight and R01 funding levels are poor?
In spite of a challenging budget climate, the NIH must ensure that diverse pools of highly trained, new independent investigators are available to address the Nation's future biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research challenges and needs. New investigators bring fresh ideas and innovative perspectives to the research enterprise, which are critical to sustaining our ability to push the frontiers of science. We must maintain our momentum of scientific discovery in order to continue to improve the Nation's health.
3. What are the budget limits for the K99 phase, and how much budget information related to the R00 phase should be included in the initial K99 application?
Applicants should follow the budget format instructions for research career development awards outlined in Section III of the PHS 398 Grant Application when providing information for the requested years of K99 support. The amounts provided for salary and research costs by the participating ICs are not uniform. Please see the Contact Table for IC-specific information: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/pa-07-297_contacts.htm.
Since the R00 phase may be conducted at another institution, budget information for the requested R00 years of support in the initial K99 application should be an estimate not to exceed total costs of $249,000 per year. Information requested on the K99 application Checklist page regarding Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rates for the requested R00 years of support may be left blank.
At the time of the transition from the K99 to the R00 phase, the R00 grantee organization will be required to submit an updated research and budget plan using the PHS 398 application form.
4. Can the Institution Pay the Mentor for his/her activity from any K99 funds?
No. Salary costs are restricted to the postdoctoral candidate only. Research costs are available to support research expenses of the postdoctoral candidate. No salary for mentoring can be charged to either the salary or the research cost categories.
1. Will applications be reviewed by the NIH Center for Scientific Review or by study sections organized by participating NIH Institutes and Centers?
The initial peer review will be organized and coordinated by participating NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). ICs may work together to cluster the review of Pathway to Independence Award applications that involve common areas of science relevant to the missions of multiple ICs.
2. How should potential reviewer concerns regarding overlap with the mentor's line of research during the K99 phase of the award be addressed?
Candidates are strongly encouraged to include in their application: 1) a description of the mentor's research describing how it relates to his or her proposed research and career development plans, and 2) details of potential overlap and synergism. It is reassuring to reviewers if this issue is addressed directly in a letter from the mentor.
3. Will AIDS related PI Award applications receive an expedited review?
Yes. All NIH AIDS-related grant applications will be reviewed on an expedited AIDS cycle. Please see http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/funding/submissionschedule.htm#AIDS for details.
1. Is transition from the mentored to independent research phase guaranteed?
Transition from the mentored phase to the extramural independent scientist phase is not automatic. It is subject to review of the success of the awardee's research training/career development accomplishments and the evaluation of all documents submitted during application for the R00 phase. These include the research plan to be carried out at the extramural sponsoring institution to which he or she has been recruited.
2. What is the anticipated time frame for grantees to transition from the mentored to independent phase of the award?
It is expected that Pathway to Independence awardees will locate a qualifying independent research position prior to completion of the mentored phase, and that transition with associated funding will be continuous in time. It is expected that the awardee will complete at least one full year of mentored training under the K99 phase before transitioning to the R00 phase, except under unusual circumstances. Individuals who expect to transition to an independent position in less time may not be appropriate for this grant mechanism and may wish to consider applying for other grant mechanisms, such as the K22, R03, R21, or R01, instead. K99 phase awardees who are not able to transition at the end of the K99 project period may ask for a No Cost Extension. Requests for administrative supplements to extend K99 phase support generally will not be considered.
3. What paperwork needs to be submitted to apply for the independent phase of the award?
See details given in the separately posted document: Transition Details for PAR-07-297, NIH Pathway to Independence (PI) Award (K99/R00) [Link URL].
1. How will you know that this program is a success and should be continued?
The Pathway to Independence Award program is intended to facilitate the ability of a new investigator to complete their mentored/supervised research work, establish independence, obtain an independent research position, and to prepare an application for NIH Research Project (R01) grant support. An evaluation plan is being developed and will be implemented to monitor these anticipated outcomes and to assess the overall scientific progress being made by the investigators involved.
The Pathway to Independence Award program is intended to facilitate the ability of a new investigator to complete their supervised research work, establish independence, publish results, obtain an independent research position, and to prepare an application for NIH Research Project (R01) grant support. Transition from the mentored phase (K99) to the extramural independent scientist phase (R00) of the award is intended to be continuous in time and except in unusual circumstances, the K99 phase will not be extended. It is expected that K99 awardees will locate a qualifying independent research position prior to completion of the mentored phase, and that transition with associated funding will be continuous in time.
Activating the Independent Phase of the Pathway to Independence Award (R00)
The K99/R00 award is intended to facilitate the successful transition to independence. Applicants for the R00 phase are encouraged (but not required) to apply for independent positions at departments and institutions different from where they conducted their mentored research. It is important for all applicants, but especially so for applicants who intend to stay at the mentored phase institution for the independent phase, to provide a plan by which they will advance to independence.
Applicants may apply for and accept independent phase positions within the NIH intramural research program (IRP). However, the award will be terminated at the time the candidate begins their independent appointment in the IRP. The independent phase of the award will not be activated. This is because NIH intramural scientists are supported directly by NIH intramural funds and are not eligible for NIH extramural grant awards. Such outcomes are not inconsistent with the goals of the PI award initiative.
The primary intent of this program is to develop outstanding researchers who will pursue extramural research careers related to the mission of the NIH awarding component that provided the support for the program. Applicants for the R00 phase are expected to continue research in an area relevant to the mission of the NIH awarding component that funded the K99 phase.
In order to activate the extramural independent scientist R00 phase, individuals must have been offered and accepted a tenure-track, full-time assistant professor position (or equivalent) at an eligible institution with appropriate infrastructure to support the proposed research program and a history of external research funding. Transition from the mentored phase to the extramural independent scientist phase is not automatic and is subject to an administrative review of the:
- Success of the awardees' research progress and accomplishments,
- K99 phase mentor's statement.
- Evaluation of the research plan to be carried out at the extramural sponsoring institution at which he or she has been recruited,
- Institutional commitment to the candidate, and
- Plans for his/her career development.
The application for the extramural independent scientist R00 phase of the award must be submitted no later than 2 months prior to the proposed activation date of the R00 award by the R00 phase grantee organization. However, to avoid potential problems in activation, applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NIH program officials as soon as plans to assume an independent position develop, and not later than 6 months prior to the termination of the K99 phase of the award to discuss plans for transition to, and the application for, the R00 phase. This is especially important if the applicant has any question about the acceptability of a specific independent position for the R00 phase of the award.
The independent phase institution will submit an application on behalf of the applicant for the R00 award using the PHS 398. The R00 application must include:
- a new Face Page signed by the R00 phase institutional representatives
- a new project description page (Form page 2)
- detailed budget pages (Form pages 4 and 5), non-modular budget for initial budget and entire period
- biographical sketches
- a new resources page
- a report of progress during the K99 phase
- an updated research plan
for the R00 phase
- just-in-time information for the R00 phase , including updated other support, IRB and IACUC approvals
- a new Checklist
The abstract and specific aims should be updated and briefly described in 2-3 pages to reflect current plans for the R00 phase. A letter from the Department or Division Chairman describing the institution's commitment to the candidate and plans for his/her career development should be submitted as well as a final evaluation statement by the K99 phase mentor, if not already provided. Applicants for the R00 phase are also encouraged to include a plan and timeline for submitting an independence research grant application in a research area relevant to the mission of the NIH awarding components.
For non-U.S. citizen/permanent residents, the applicant U.S. institution is responsible for determining and documenting in the application that the applicant investigator's visa will allow him or her to remain in this country long enough to be productive on the research project in the U.S. for the duration of the proposed independent research (R00) phase.
The original application plus one copy are to be mailed to the Financial or Grants Management contact person of the awarding NIH Institute or Center.
The R00 application will be evaluated by extramural staff of the awarding component for completeness and responsiveness to the program. Applicants that are approved to transition will receive a Notice of Award. Applicants who are not approved to transition will receive written notification from the awarding component communicating the rationale for the disapproval. This letter typically will be sent within 60 days of receipt of the R00 application.
For further assistance, applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant Institute/Center for programmatic and budgetary information: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/pa-07-297_contacts.htm.
An institutional commitment agreement will be required at the time of activation of the independent phase of the award. This agreement should satisfy the criteria described in the PHS398 application under Section III.Preparing an Individual CDA Application (Part F.3. Environment and Institutional Commitment to the Candidate). In addition to space, facilities, resources, and other support needed to conduct the proposed research, the sponsoring institution must provide protected research time (minimum of 75% effort) at least for the duration of the R00 award. The start-up package and other institutional support should be comparable to that given to other recently hired faculty into tenure-track or equivalent positions. Moreover, institutions may not require the use of R00 funds to offset a typical startup package. The sponsoring institution should describe the candidate's academic appointment, bearing in mind that it must be tenure-track or equivalent, and confirm that the appointment is not contingent on the transfer of the award to the institution. The independent phase institution must foster and support the awardee's ability to apply for and secure independent research grant (R01) support.
R00 phase awardees may engage in limited teaching, administrative and clinical duties as part of the 25% effort not required by this grant award, as long as such non-research duties are minimal. In cases where salary commensurate with the required 75% effort cannot reasonably be covered by the $249,000 maximum total cost R00 phase award, grantee institutions may need to supplement the candidate's salary so that the salary is consistent with salaries of individuals in comparable positions at the institution. However, such supplements may not require applicants to engage in additional responsibilities that would interfere with the required 75% effort on the PI Award. NIH staff may review start-up packages and other commitments between the institution and candidate prior to activating the independent phase of the award. NIH will not activate the independent phase if the institutional commitment is deemed inadequate.
Although the financial plans of the NIH Institute or Center provide support for this program, awards pursuant to this funding opportunity are contingent upon the availability of funds.
Termination of the K99 Award Phase
If transition from the K99 phase at an extramural institution to the R00 phase occurs at the originally scheduled end date of the K99 award, then no specific steps to terminate the K99 award are necessary. If the transition occurs prior to the scheduled end date, then a revised Notice of Award will be issued to terminate the K99 phase award. Carryover of unspent funds from a partially completed year in the K99 phase into the R00 phase will be permitted, subject to approval by the Grants Management Office of the awarding NIH Institute or Center.
Notification of Award for the Independent Phase
Applicants that are approved to transition will receive a Notice of Grant Award reflecting the new R00 grant mechanism, the dollar amount, and the new recipient organization (if applicable).
For further assistance, applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant NIH Institute/Center for programmatic and budgetary information: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/pa-07-297_contacts.htm