As I’ve blogged about before, in response to the recommendations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) working group that studied the biomedical research workforce, we are implementing changes to the NIH Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) awards. As described in these NIH Guide Notices, NIH leadership decided to shorten the eligibility period from 5 years to 4 years, and to increase the number of these awards, aiming for a 30% overall NIH success rate – that’s assuming the availability of sufficient funds and meritorious applications (for reference, last fiscal year (FY2012) the success rate was 23.3%. Keep in mind that this is the aggregate NIH success rate and that individual IC success rates vary). These changes will be implemented for applications due February 12, 2014 and beyond.
I’m aware that some of you have questions about how we arrived at these changes, so I wanted to provide some additional information to put these changes in context.
As described in the working group report, the changes to the K99/R00 program are intended to help more PhD graduates shift into permanent tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions more rapidly. Since the first K99 awards were made in fiscal year 2007, the median time from degree to the K99 application for applicants holding the PhD has always been generally 4 years. (It’s important to keep in mind here that the time-to-degree measure is not relevant for MDs and other clinicians, as their eligibility is determined by the number of years of postdoctoral research training experience, and excludes their postdoctoral clinical training years.) Additional data shows that since fiscal year 2008, between 60 and 70% of K99 awards went to initial applications, or in other words, applications in the A0 stage. An estimated 35% of the unfunded A0 applications were re-submitted as an A1.
You can see the data behind these summaries here.
As also described in the guide notices, we’re making changes on our side too. We recognize that, for K99/R00 applications submitted earlier in the post-doc training period, reviewers need to reset their expectations of applicants’ preliminary data and publications. Our scientific review officers will be providing guidance to peer reviewers, helping them to keep the new framework in mind, and encouraging them to appropriately assess the research plan given the eligibility guidelines.
I encourage you to review the latest guide notices, review our resources for applicants (like the our research training pages and K99 FAQ page), and reach out to your advisor, department chair, and NIH program staff as you or your colleagues consider applying for a K99/R00 award.