NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Policy Now Posted


Today we posted a policy (NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-17-101) describing current plans for the Next Generation Researchers Initiative.  Since I first blogged about it in June, NIH leadership have reviewed data (see accompanying blog) and deliberated about how best to proceed.  Our goal is to increase the number of NIH-funded early-stage investigators and assure, as best we can, that funded early-stage investigators have a reasonable chance to secure stable funding during the earliest stages of their independent research careers. This new policy will supersede previous notices on new and early stage investigators (NOT-OD-08-121, NOT-OD-09-013 and NOT-OD-09-134).

The Initiative comes against a backdrop of worsening hyper competition that has led to severe challenges for biomedical scientists early in their career. We understand that these researchers worry external link icon about “desperate pursuit of grants,” reduced time for research, dependence on senior scientists, taking on ambitious avenues, and administrative reporting burdens.

The Next Generation Researchers Initiative represents in part implementation of the Section 2021 of the 21st Century Cures Act. The Act states, “The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall … develop, modify, or prioritize policies, as needed … to promote opportunities for new researchers and earlier research independence, such as policies to increase opportunities for new researchers to receive funding, enhance training and mentorship programs for researchers, and enhance workforce diversity.” The Initiative is also consonant with our responsibility to be proper stewards of public funds in alignment with goals set forth in NIH’s Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2016-2020.

As described in the policy, NIH institutes and centers (ICs) will prioritize meritorious applications that request funding for Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) and for Early Established Investigators (EEIs) who are at risk for losing all NIH funding or who have only one active NIH award. Here are some key definitions:

  • Early Stage Investigator (ESI): A Program Director / Principal Investigator (PD/PI) who has completed their terminal research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, whichever date is later, within the past 10 years. Furthermore, these applicants would not have competed successfully as a PD/PI previously for a substantial NIH independent research award. A list of NIH grants that a PD/PI can hold and still be considered an ESI can be found at
  • Early Established Investigator (EEI): a PD/PI within 10 years of receiving their first substantial, independent competing NIH R01 equivalent research award as an ESI.

As we implement and monitor the Initiative, the NIH Office of the Director and the ICs will, in consultation with a Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, consider evidence-based strategies to identify, grow, and retain ESIs and EEIs. Effective strategies will likely consider factors such as emerging areas of scientific inquiry, needs of the IC portfolios, and projected needs of the scientific workforce.

We have heard many questions about investigators who are new to NIH, but who are at stages in their career that make them ineligible for ESI or EEI status. In keeping with the 21st Century Cures Act’s call for “earlier research independence,” our focus in this Initiative will be to enhance funding opportunities for ESI’s and EEI’s.  We anticipate that individual ICs will seek to fund other more senior investigators who are new to the NIH system through specific programs as well as select pay.

We recommend that you confirm your dates of terminal degree and post-graduate clinical training is correct in eRA Commons. This will help ensure we can apply your eligibility appropriately to receive funding consideration under the policy. On a case by case basis, NIH will consider requests to extend the ESI or EEI period if you experienced a lapse in your research or research training (e.g. medical concerns, disability, family care responsibilities, extended periods of clinical training, natural disasters, or active duty military service).

We invite you to visit the Next Generation Researchers Initiative web page for more information. We appreciate hearing your ongoing feedback as we implement and develop this mission-critical Initiative.


  1. You have completely ignored the middle of the pack – the large group of mid-career investigators who are NOT senior, do not have a multiple R01 cushion, and are more than the arbitrary 10 year period out from their terminal degree. Many of these mid-career investigators are in danger of losing or have lost their funding. Money will now be diverted to “early investigators” who will accumulate multiple R01 at the expense of mid-career investigators who have little or no resources. Institutions should prepare for a tsunami of unfunded mid-career investigators. Shame on the NIH for this myopic policy.

    1. It’s not just the middle of the pack! It completely ignores those in the first few years of their independent careers who have lost ESI status prior to R01 funding.

    2. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s actually very, very sad if you think about it, and what has gone on over the past 10 years or so. Yes, there have been some movements in the right direction for which future generations of researchers should be very grateful, but every single time the goal posts are moved it always seems to come a few years too late to help me (!). Not to sound selfish, and there are probably a lot of investigators in the same position as me, but when the new investigator initiatives came along I was just outside the eligibility criteria because I was supposedly now a senior investigator even though I was only 34 when I got my first R01 10+ years ago. Now this arbitrary 10 year cut-off for Early Established Investigator (EEI) status. There is no way I could qualify for an extension – yes, I have raised a family and juggled responsibilities with a spouse that has her own career also, so didn’t spend 14 hours per day in the lab trying to generate data for grants with resources that I did not have for lack of money, but that doesn’t qualify for an extension for EEI status, does it? Good luck everybody!

  2. Wow! If you are 9 years from terminal degree AND already have a R01, you still get priority for second R01!!! But if you are 11 years from terminal degree and have NO funding, you get NO special treatment. Where is the fairness in that?

  3. Will ICs be posting new ESI paylines to achieve the goal of 200 new ESI applications funded? How will progress toward the goal of 200 more ESI applications funded be ensured/monitored? Will each IC be responsible for increasing their funding rates by X% or, might some ICs not change in current policy/practice?

  4. NIH completely ignored mid-career investigators. Money will now go to early stage investigators at the expense of mid-career investigators. Many of them are in danger of losing or have lost their funding. It is really unfair! Shame on the NIH for this really unfair policy.

  5. The 10 year cutoff to first R01 in order to benefit from the new EEI policy is arbitrary, and excludes a cohort of mid career investigators, many without a cushion of other grants to fall back on, who transitioned to independence too early to benefit from ESI policies and as a consequence experienced some delay at the critical step of achieving first R01.

  6. As pointed by others, NIH is completely ignoring those mid-career scientists that are about to lose their funding but do not qualify for ESI or EEI. Those that started their independent careers at the peak of the economical recession and somehow have survived out of private extramural grants but are productive in their respective fields, without substantial NIH funding yet (New investigators). However, that will not be in any way rewarded. The NIH will rely, by assumption, at the discretion of the ICs to fund those New investigators. That remains to be seen, but so far that have not happened. If the NIH knew the amount of mental and physical struggle of those investigators, it would do something to help them soon, before things start to turn tragic in some cases, before it is too late.

    1. This is perfectly stated. I have been successful in obtaining private funding for the last 10 years and just now received a score on a R01 application that would be considered for funding as a New Investigator for FY2018. I am devastated by this announcement.

  7. NIH version of Obamacare- good intentions but a beuraucratic nightmare that does not address fundamental problem(s). Hopefully NIH knows what these are- at its essence mis-appropriation of an insufficient amount of money. A grants award process that has been polluted by a ruling oligarchy. A product- DATA- that review by independent scientists has shown to be 67-75% bogus. Sound familiar???
    I guess that is enough for now!

  8. Everyone thinks their own particular situation is the most dire. I’m sure that disgruntled mid career investigators used to whine about ESI struggles, and that they will continue to whine all the way through their careers.

  9. If you look at the data on funding trends according to career stage (by the way, thanks for posting, they are truly revealing), the EEI group (representing ~3500 applicants with a 30% funding rate) has been doing as successfully as other established investigators, what is the NIH’s rationale to believe this group needs more helps than the NI group which is apparently the most struggling group among all (representing ~6000 applicants with the lowest 15% funding rate)?

  10. How can you give someone who already has a R01 priority over someone who has no funding? The difference between the two investigators may be a few years or even months. I understand giving someone who hasn’t received R01 funding yet priority, but someone who already has a big grant to his/her credit continues to get priority just because he/she falls within the 10 year arbitrary time frame? The bureaucrats at NIH have really screwed up on this one and will be held responsible for the disastrous consequences.

  11. These mid-career investigators are just like the middle class in our society. They are the main streams of science. How can they be totally ignored by this policy? If NIH does not do something to support this large group of scientists, we will lose this group for ever. It is time for NIH to do something for mid career scientists!

  12. I look forward to the blog post in about 5-7 years when the NIH suddenly discovers that the ESI cohort is struggling with their second renewals and describes a new policy to prioritize -10 competing continuation proposals.

  13. While most investigators agree on the importance of the 21st Century Cures Act’s call for “earlier research independence” . The NIH could also have an initiative for preventing mid-career investigators to be forced to leave science. Mid-career investigators represent the driving force currently in science in this country. They posses the experience for research, teaching and service and the energy to train the next generation of scientists. Keep in mind that those New investigators are the survivors of one of the worst economical crisis in the U.S. So, they have already been selected, as no many investigators survived that and have already left the academia. Why not make a competitive allocation of R01s among those New investigators that have a productive career and have a good grant proposal that otherwise will not be funded when competing with established investigators? Although the competition will remain fierce given the amount of new investigators that started their independent career about 10 years ago, it will give them a much needed break and a more fair competition.

  14. NIH should carefully revise the list of grants that can be held without losing ESI status. This list should include all the grants previously listed under the New Investigator Status policy as many people applied for those with the understanding that getting that funding will not impact their status. For instance, the UH2 program is not an R01 equivalent, provides only small funding for feasibility studies, and there are no guarantees of transition to a UH3 phase. The UH2 program was listed before as a grant that could be held without losing New Investigator Status but now it is not listed as one that could be held without losing ESI.

  15. With single digit pay lines NIH can never jigger the system in a manner that pleases the vast majority. Every attempt at leveling the playing field tilts it another way. Peer review has worked pretty well in the long run, leave it alone.

  16. FY17 Payline in NCI is 10%tile for established PI and 12%ile for ESI. I have an R01 at 13%ile as ESI (this is my last chance to still be considered as ESI) and was told this application will not be funded. Seeing the announcement of the NGRI program that aims to fund 200 more ESIs this year, I really do not understand why an ESI with 13%tile would not be funded, how the NGRI operates, and who eventually may benefit from it.

  17. As a New but not Early Stage investigator, I am revolted by this decision. I’ve succeeded up till now on the largesse of the NSF, which is kind of like sleeping on your friend’s couch funding-wise when compared to NIH funding. I don’t have anything to add to the more eloquent comments above, but thought it worthwhile to add my voice to the chorus. Thumbs down, NIH.

    1. They sure aren’t. I wrote to the NIH about this, got a boiler plate response back, and clearly we were all ignored. They can make themselves feel good about their “support” for the next generation, but their narrow focus will mean that they have lost a significant portion of that generation.

  18. One of my proposals seems to qualify this policy (I am ESI), but so far no one from NIH contacts me about this and the PO has not responded my email. Does anyone know how this policy will be implemented for FY17 since this FY will be ended very soon (based on my understanding it will be ended on Sep.30, so only 3 weeks left). A little worry about it. thanks

    1. My understanding that it is still very unclear how, or if, the ICs will modify their policies and practices to achieve the goal of 200 more ESIs funded in FY2017 (which is ending in 3 weeks, which makes me think they’re going to go back and fund “old” applications from previous FY2017 cycles rather than change paylines moving forward).

      The previous statement that they will aim to fund most ESIs under the 25th percentile has been removed, so there’s no longer even a goal post to focus on. I am an ESI with an R01 just above the current ESI payline and my PO has not been able to provide any unique information regarding my likelihood of being funded this cycle. I think we’re just going to have to wait this out and see if anything comes to fruition in a meaningful way.

  19. The new NGRI policy states that NIH will fund 200 more R01s to ESIs in FY 2017 than in FY2016. However, my PO said that they have completed their funding decisions for FY17. So my application won’t be funded even though it’s within a fundable score. NIH seems disconnected with the workings of each individual ICs. Or maybe will NIH set up a special funding to cover this program for FY17?

    1. WW, when you say that your application has a fundable score, do you mean fundable given your IC’s current ESI payline or, under the 25th percentile that NGRI was originally promoting?

      I agree though, saying they’ll fund more in FY2017 when councils are currently meeting to make FY2018 decisions results in this policy being very unclear.

      1. I meant 25 percentile. NIH statistics showed roughly 200 applications from ESIs with a score under 25th percentile were unfunded, so the original payline should stay.

        1. Are data available showing that raising the payline to 25th across ICs would result in 200 more ESIs funded? I have not seen those numbers publicly.

  20. I completely agree with the criticisms raised above of this policy. There is a petition circulating to reconsider the cap on NIH funding that was suggested earlier this summer and then quickly abandoned when the most highly funded labs complained to NIH. Smaller labs that live off single R01 grants also have merit, but they will be squeezed out by the new policy. I encourage you to check out the petition for more information, entitled “Cap NIH funding for individual Investigators to save the future of biomedical science.”

  21. My proposal is in FY17 and very close to current payline for new investigator. I think I may have chance for this NGRI, but have not received feedback from my PO although I have contacted several times. No ideas what is going on.

  22. Are you kidding me?! Why are we using this ridiculous and highly variable ‘definition of ‘ESI’? We all have different paths to arrive at independence – mine took ~7.5 years: 1 year as a ‘transition postdoc’ in my PhD lab to finish a paper and ‘be competitive’, then a 6.5 year mouse-heavy postdoc. I arrived at my brand new lab with 2.5 years left on the ESI clock. After time spent gathering preliminary data and the first R01 not being funded, the clock ran out.

    I have had my lab for 3 years, and as far as the NIH are concerned, I do not deserve the same chance as an MD/PhD who has had theirs for 5, but whose ESI clock did not start ticking until the end of residency. Or someone who had a 4-year postdoc. The end result is that someone with a few years more training and experience is worse off in the competition for funding. What a wonderful way to support the ‘Next Generation’.

    Please offer one good reason why we don’t just level the playing field and start the clock when you start your ‘independent lab’?

    After this potential policy was announced in June there was an overwhelming response to include New Investigators in the initiative – now it seems the answer was to just ignore them? Very disappointing.

  23. This new policy would have made great sense if the original idea of capping the amount of funding per PI to 3 R01s had been preserved. But, NIH caved in to the lobbying of the super well-funded, and the inevitable outcome of this new prioritization of funding is going to be a crisis in faculty at mid-level positions. The super-funded do not have a monopoly on good ideas, just a disproportionate share of the resources. This is bad policy for the community, and is detrimental to overall advancement of US biomedical science.

    1. Well said – the NIH should have stuck to their guns instead of continuing to funnel huge amounts of money to out-of-touch PIs with giant labs who rely on postdocs to run things – we should be funding the postdocs as independent PIs instead.

    2. This is very well said! Without capping the super well funded, this policy would never work. Based on the comments on this page, it looks like the mid-career reviewers will even more harshly attack on ESI grant applications so that they will not stand a single chance getting funded even with some break in paylines! The mid-career reviewers are now full of hatred against the ESI, which will probably show some signs in the study section.

    3. I agree: there should be some kind of cap on either total NIH/federal dollars received, or on salary support by NIH, with some consideration given for expensive work like clinical trials. I think NIH should also be allowed to consider whether a PI has other funding sources like HHMI or DOD. Rich labs don’t have a monopoly on good ideas or creativity- they simply have more money to gamble on more ideas, and so have a higher chance of hitting on positive results! Labs that are doing fundamental research and supported by a single R01, and at public or small institutions are the ones who are really vulnerable to total loss and leaving science.

      1. I agree with this opinion that there should be a cap on the number of NIH grants that any one laboratory should have. I find the number “3” to be excessive, however, as most single PI labs can produce good work on a single, or at the most two NIH grants. I have supported a successful research lab at a major private research university on ONE NIH grant for 50 years. I felt grateful to have this funding. I have now lost this grant, not because I am no longer producing new and interesting work or because of retirement, but simply because of my age (84). Getting and keeping funding at a young age is a major problem; it is also a problem at the other end of the scale where the few older productive leaders can no longer keep their funding.

  24. I am a mid-career scientist and I lost funding for awhile; and a junior faculty just came to the department after finishing his postdoc; he took over my space and my technicians because he has money from the start-up package and very soon R01 from this kind of initiative.

    1. do you mean he has got a R01 from this initiative or has been notified for award due to this initiative? I am trying to know if there are someone who has been notified or awarded due to this new policy, so far I have not heard anyone yet, so very curious when you mentioned this.

  25. Apparently, NIH has decided to abandon the NI group. With this new policy and without the funding cap, the NI group will be kicked out of the system. What a shame!

  26. Personally, I still believe the biggest issue (particularly for us mid-career PIs) is that we still have large numbers of PIs well above the age of retirement that continue to receive large numbers of grants (often because of “who they are”). I do not see someone who is over 80 years old continuing to run a lab as something laudable (as some of my colleagues do). Rather, I see it as selfish because it is destroying those of us in the middle of the pack for the benefit of people who have already reaped the benefit of higher funding rates earlier in their careers. I was very disappointed that the NIH chose not to cap the number of grants per PI (I wonder who influenced them to make that decision?) and I personally believe that their should be an age cap as there is in Europe – it doesn’t have to be 65, but we simply should not be funding PIs over 80!

    1. could not agree more!! Do PIs over the age of 70 have the stamina to run 5 R01s? Often these R01s were poorly written – clearly written by some of the fellows in training. But they scored 1 or 2 anyway because of that name.

  27. Without some kind of reasonable policy to put some modest limitations on funding at the top of the system (i.e. those with multiple RO1s and funding from other granting mechanisms), I don’t think this will work well for science. Money to fund young investigators is required but in the end, it has to come from somewhere. Seems the decision was to take it from those in the middle. This approach seems to mirror what we are currently seeing in society. Don’t dare ask the wealthiest and most powerful among us to give up anything.

  28. The biggest disappointment I have with our current president is not his social or foreign policies, but his lack of understanding the the NIH needs to be dismantled in order to reignite innovation in this country. The same old car salesmen keep on promoting their old car models while stifling innovation.

  29. The fundamental problem is that there are limited NIH funds available for extramural research. Again, as discusses months before, capping the indirect fund and having an universal indirect fund for all institutions would be a good solution, which would lead to more research grants in general. Over last few years, we have witnessed that many institutions have ever growing administration bodies, which are supported predominantly by indirect federal funds. In turn, institutional leadership would place more pressure on the faculty members for federal grants. Therefore, NIH should change its policy on indirect funds, with universal indirect for all institutions, elite and non-elite, which may benefit biomedical research.

  30. Funding cap makes a lot of sense and is supported by the data that productivity reduced after three R01 equivalent of grants. The rationale for the original proposal with funding cap is strong. This new policy squeezes NI and mid-career investigators in a laser sharp fashion. While ESI deserves additional support, it clearly needs to be re-defined. As suggested in a previous post, ESI should be defined from the date of independence rather than the date of graduation.

    Additional support for ESI with one R01 does not make sense at all. After getting the first R01, one should be able to compete with other mid-career investigators on a level playing field. Funding cap is the key. Supporting ESI at the expense of NI and mid-career investigators can only harm biomedical research of this country.

  31. Could you tell me exactly where you are getting your advice when
    you institute new programs like this? Do you get advice from
    committees from scientific societies, eg. ASCB, representing thousands of working scientists? Have you sent out questionaires to thousands of researchers to get a broad indication of opinions?

  32. I would be really curious to known what the ESI vs EEI vs NI vs. ‘everyone else’ populations look like in terms of diversity.

  33. The new policy won’t help those of us that are more than 10 years out, but still haven’t landed an R01. I’ve scrapped by with institutional funding, foundation awards, even a decent DOD grant, but no elusive R01. I’m willing to keep fighting, because I love what I do, and believe that my research has merit. However, I’m very close to the end of my time on the tenure clock, and the new NIH policy isn’t going to do anything to help me, or others in my situation. We’ve persevered through grim times, and while I don’t think anyone was expecting a handout, a new policy that offered a little more hope could have really helped!

  34. Thumbs down, NIH. This policy entirely ignore new investigators – many who completed their degrees in the Great Recession – who have not been able to procure a R01 during one of the toughest eras for science funding. Expect a mid-career scientific exodus.

  35. I really liked the initial announcement mentioning a percentile (25th) at which most applications would be funded for NI/ESI. I am an ESI with two R01’s at NIA which scored 21st (20th percentile pay-line) and 22nd percentile (33rd percentile pay-line) in the past 36 months. No money in hand and the only advice from my PO is to resubmit to get a better score. This is kind of difficulty, since at least one study section member wants me to have most of the experiments performed before the grant gets payed. I appreciate the “policy shifts” by NIH, but I think the turn around time for getting feedback on proposals is an overlooked factor that disproportionately negatively effects ESI’s. Fund me and I will have less time to blog.

  36. The disappearance of the “New Investigator” status will be lethal to many wet labs like mine (independent for 3 years after a 8 year and a half post-doc in a “Big name lab” to get two first author-papers in top journals). It will also have the following consequences:
    1. Good luck to “Big name” labs in Top institutions (where it takes 5-6 year to get a first-author paper) to find talented post-docs when they will know they are on a very tight clock to get first their independent position, and then their first R01.
    2. Indeed, Assistant Professor positions will now be obtained only by candidates who are within 5 years of their Ph.D. or doctorate degree. Which Department would be crazy enough to hire someone who has much lower chances to get her/his first R01 than a younger candidate? A generation of older post-docs (well-trained in top labs) will be sacrificed.
    3. Finally, I am afraid this new policy will be very detrimental to researchers who want to have children, especially to females (pregnancy is still our privilege and duty :-)) and to those who have a partner with a career as demanding as their! Luckily, I got my 2 children while I was a post-doc (between my two first author-papers; 8 weeks maternity leave for each, not much to deduct for my early investigator status). All my female Faculty colleagues within 6 years of their independent investigator positions, who did not have children earlier, have either no children or only one. I know exactly why: who can afford to be pregnant and tired for over a year (twice) and deal with demanding infants or toddlers when you start your own lab and work non-stop to get your first R01?
    With this new policy, very sadly you have little choice: the biological clock or the R01 clock? Sad….
    I think NIH has no idea how profoundly they can impact on our personal life. I have my mom or my mother in law at home for a whole month to help with the kids before each Standard due dates!

      1. I just want to point out that the current policy on the extension of the ESI and EEI eligibility is inadequate. Although current policy does grant the deduction of the few weeks for the maternity/paternity leave, please bear in mind that childcare is a long-term process. Childcare does not (and will never) stop just after 6-8 weeks of maternity/paternity leave. It takes many years beyond that paltry numbers of weeks to raise kids, which could significantly reduce the number of hours and the productivity of the parent in the lab compared to their childless peers. This group of PIs should be considered for exemption not just for the number of weeks of absence from the lab during maternity/paternity care but for a longer and standard time (say half a year or one year extension for each kid).

        I also want to bring up another category of people who should justly be granted extension of the ESI/EEI period – people who switched from Industry job to become academic PIs. As we all know, industry job is not the same as academic research (except in only very few industry settings such as Genentech). Furthermore, these people, unlike traditional postdocs., can never bring any of their prior research in the industry into their new labs, which means that they have to start from scratch. Inevitably, it will take them a couple of years more than their always-in-academia peers to break ground and gather enough preliminary data to apply for grants. The current NIH policy does not take these into consideration. These people should also be eligible for ESI/EEI extension!

        1. Well said!

          There are a numerous problems with the current ESI extension policies, and I really don’t see how they can be easily resolved. Moreover, I just don’t understand *why* the huge distinction between ESI and NI is necessary. Why not just afford the ESI bump to all NIs?? What is the logic? This is a serious question, would love to see an answer here from NIH.

          If NIH trying to improve funding success of young investigators, as defined strictly by age, this will almost certainly be at the cost of reduced diversity and will be especially detrimental to women who are mothers.

          As I stated above, I would be really curious to compare the gender ratio in the NI vs NEE groups. I’d wager the NI group contains a LOT more women.

  37. This policy is a double disaster for new investigators who failed to receive R01 support during their Early Stage Investigator status. Now, as an extra bonus, those folk are also ineligible for Early Established Investigator status!

    The language of the notice makes it clear that “Early Established Investigator” status is contingent on receiving an “NIH R01 equivalent research award as an ESI”. So if you just missed out on R01 funding during the first ten years after your PhD (a pretty arbitrary criterion, given the variability in how long postdocs take), now you will also miss out on a further decade of NIH assistance.

    This is not a great way to help what is probably the most vulnerable population of junior investigators: those midway through assistant professorships and still without R01 funding.

    1. Not quite. It’s diverting funds from some who have no funding to others who already have an R01. Of course the rich at the top continue to be protected because they lobbied their friends in NIH leadership.

  38. In some fields (like mine which involves systems neuroscience research in non-human primates) it is common to undergo a prolonged period of postdoctoral training, partly because the progress of the research is so slow. In these fields it is also common to have a low publication rate which sets us at a disadvantage with respect to funding decisions. I was already at 9.5 years post-PhD when I started on tenure-track. I didn’t even have animals through quarantine when my 10 years expired and I lost status without ever having a chance to submit a proposal as an ESI. I cannot for the life of me understand why the PhD is the magical date from which early stage is defined? It seems that the date you become an independent investigator with institutionally committed resources that enable one to apply for R series and similar funding is the key here.

  39. These types of policy decisions also assume a one-size-fits-all type of researcher. Many well-trained, competent and dedicated PI’s are in teaching positions, for example, where they might only have a 50-70% research appointment. Investigators in those types of positions are inherently at a disadvantage in terms of time available for writing grants, gathering data etc. I know many middle-stage PIs in teaching-intensive positions who run very very productive labs and are seeking their first R01 for a lot longer than others in research-exclusive positions. The NIH should take this into account – oh, and by the way, often these same investigators are training all the STEM undergrads, many grads, and the entire next generation of scientist. This elitist-type message will now filter down to students and turn away many future scientists as well!

  40. There were very few grants for ESIs when I started my lab, and then the economy tanked and ESIs were struggling more than ever. I recall established PIs at my institute wondering why all the young PIs weren’t getting funded because THEY weren’t having issues. Once it trickled up it became a funding crisis, but it didn’t help those of us struggling from the beginning. It also hurt our standing as we were seen as “not very good” as opposed to “funding is really difficult right now.” Now we are in the valley of death where we didn’t get the funding to establish robust programs at the beginning, and getting renewals or second R01s is still difficult. I see new ESI’s doing ok here because there were programs to help them and New Innovator grants, etc.

    Obviously, the solution overall is that we need more money. But if that isn’t going to happen, can we get back to limiting those at the top with more than 3 R01s to free up some of the money for everyone else instead of putting more emphasis on ESIs at the expense of the rest of us struggling to survive?

  41. As with every other pursuit in life, the 1%-ers appear to be taken care off well. However, there is a new emphasis on making it ‘easier’ on the new/early career investigators. Many assistant profs are suddenly getting funded, despite having relatively mediocre programs. Some of this is because of misguided altruism. And some of this is because the 1%-ers are attempting to push their agendas through their academic progeny. It is also making it complicated during tenure decisions, particularly at mid-level institutions. There, decisions rely heavily on the ability to procure funding. As a result, many mediocre junior faculty who get NIH funding can now win tenure and then either abandon scholarly pursuits or fail to produce any substantial findings later.

  42. Agree with the number of comments on ignoring new investigators or mid-career scientists–this population consists of individuals who were forced into extended Postdoc and Instructor positions (or worse yet out of science altogether) due in large part to a changing economy and NIH budget limitations. Those individuals that were miraculously able to outlast this attrition have inevitably timed out of ESI status, and are now being further penalized. I ask the NIH to consider that their current efforts will result in the loss of an entire generation of potentially excellent scientists!

  43. We appreciate the feedback raised here, and as we work through these comments, we will update our resources (e.g. FAQs).

  44. I strongly support the current NGRI policy! Most ESI like me take a lot of time learning many different things, particularly the application process from different agents. For example, I still have difficulty to figure out best DOD proposal layout after a few years. ESI status will strongly benefit us to receive tenure and turn the great ideas into reality. Keep in mind that most papers in big journals are actually worked out by the the researchers who turn to ESI in few years. However, the current funding situation prohibiting us from receiving the first funding to continue risky ideas. You will notice that we often have to follow postdoc work for a while, because it is impossible to start training students from throwing them brand new ideas.

    Our voice is normally much lower than any other ranked professors. Even in review panel, how many are assistant professors? This hatred on fight for funding can easily extend to the review panel. But thanks to NIH to notice the situation and make changes.

  45. Alas, as a New but not Early Investigator I got 11% with NCI funding 10%.. so as predicted I will be left out ?

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