Clarifying Percent Effort and Support for Career Development (K) Awardees

In response to questions about career development (K) award policies, NIH issued a Guide Notice NOT-OD-17-094, to clarify percent effort requirements for K award principal investigators (PIs), and acceptable sources of research support. We’d like to provide some additional details to put the recent Guide Notice in context with existing K award policies on percent effort.

For most K award programs, the K award PI (K awardee) must commit at the minimum 9 person months, equivalent to 75% full-time professional effort, directly to their research project and career development activities. The remaining effort (up to 25%) can be devoted to additional research, teaching, clinical work, or other efforts complementary to career development of the K awardee. NIH provides some salary support as part of the K award, and often institutions will supplement the salary of these K award PIs up to a level that is consistent with the institution’s salary scale.  NOT-OD-17-094 clarifies that salary supplementation for the K awardee’s time spent devoted to the career development award and directly related to the research project is allowable, but must be from non-Federal sources, which can include institutional sources, and must not require extra duties or responsibilities that would interfere with the goals of the K award.  For additional research projects, the effort not directly committed to the K award (commonly up to 25%), K award recipients may devote effort, with compensation, from Federal or non-Federal  research projects as principal investigator, or in another role (e.g., co-Investigator), as long the specific aims of the other supporting grant(s) differ from those of the K award (see Figure 1). K awardees may also be compensated for effort devoted to teaching or clinical activities.

Pie chart of 100% Full-Time Professional Percent Effort for K award PIs. 75% minimum devoted to K award (50% minimum for certain clinical specialties). Salary supplementation must be from non-Federal source. Up to 25% not devoted to K award. Salary compensation may be from Federal grant or non-Federal source, including salary support for research, teaching or clinical duties.

Figure 1: Salary supplementation and compensation during the entire period of K award (up to 5 years)

Most K programs are mentored career development awards, where a faculty mentor provides guidance to support transition of the K award recipient to independence. On mentored K awards of a 3-5 year duration, NIH policy provides a transitional period to permit the K award PI to apply for and if awarded, lead, an independent research project. If the mentored K awardee successfully becomes a PD/PI of a peer-reviewed research award from NIH or any other Federal agency during the final two years of their K award, they are permitted to reduce the effort devoted to the aims of the K award project from a minimum of 75% to a minimum of 50%. As described in NOT-OD-08-065, at the time the new research grant is awarded, this reduced effort on the K award may be replaced by effort and corresponding salary from the research award, so that the combined total research commitment of the PI remains 75% or more for the duration of the mentored K award (see Figure 2).

Percent effort for mentored K award PI with independent federal funding during the final 2 years of their K award* * Only for K award programs 3-5 years long. See NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-08-065 for full policy details . 50% minimum devoted to K award. Salary supplementation must be from non-Federal source. Up to 25% not devoted to K award. Salary compensation may be from Federal grant or non-Federal source. 25% research and career development. Salary compensation only if PD/PI on Federal grant

Figure 2: Reduced effort during the final two years of a mentored K award

Have additional questions about percent effort and K awards for your K award, or for a specific K award PI at your institution? Contact the grants specialist listed on the notice of award for guidance specific to you. General policy questions may be directed to the Division of Biomedical Research Workforce at NIHTrain@mail.nih.gov.

 

[Note: edited text to clarify that “For most K award programs, the K award PI (K awardee) must commit at the minimum 9 person months, equivalent to 75% full-time professional effort, directly to their research project and career development activities.” 10/12/2017 NIH staff]

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10 thoughts on “Clarifying Percent Effort and Support for Career Development (K) Awardees

  1. Please speak to the concept of subsumed effort on K awards and whether that still exists.

    I find the comment

    “For most K award programs, the K award PI (K awardee) must commit at the minimum 9 person months, equivalent to 75% full-time professional effort, directly to their research project.”

    At odds with the purpose and previous guidance on K Awards since they are so much more than a single research project. (“support and protected time for an intensive, supervised career development experience” for instance) Perhaps that was meant to read:

    “For most K award programs, the K award PI (K awardee) must commit at the minimum 9 person months, equivalent to 75% full-time professional effort, directly to the K award.”?

    • Good catch. We adjusted the text of the article above to read, “For most K award programs, the K award PI (K awardee) must commit at the minimum 9 person months, equivalent to 75% full-time professional effort, directly to their research project and career development activities.”

  2. Please address the % effort regarding a no cost extension for a K awardee. Does the effort need to remain at the 75% full-time professional effort directed at the research project?

    • Yes. K awardees must continue maintaining 75 percent (or any approved) effort) during a no-cost extension. Similar to any other grant, all terms and conditions of award also apply during a no-cost extension.

      • If a PI has a K award and received an R01 in the last year of the K and the R01 effort is concurrent with the K, would they be allowed a no cost extension on the K? If so, would their effort on the K have to be 75% or could it be 50%? And lastly, could the R01 effort still be concurrent with the K while the K is on extension?

        • Question 1: If a PI has a K award and received an R01 in the last year of the K, and the R01 effort is concurrent with the K, would they be allowed a no cost extension on the K?
          Answer: You may reduce your level of effort on the K to 50%. That said, we recommend consulting with your program officer first as well. Please note that no-cost extensions do not require NIH approval for the first 12 months.

          Question 2: If so, would their effort on the K have to be 75% or could it be 50%?
          Answer: It could be 50%, but is subject to approval by the funding NIH Institute or Center. Please also keep in mind that all terms and conditions of award apply during a no-cost extension.

          Question 3: Could the R01 effort still be concurrent with the K while the K is on extension?
          Answer: Yes, the 50% effort could be concurrent on the K award. Please note that we recommend consulting with your program officer and grants management staff first.

  3. Does this mean you may still only PI a R21 or R03 in your 2 final years of a K award? Or may you PI an R21/R03 before then?

    • The two questions you posed reflect separate NIH policies related to K awardees.

      For example, to address your first question, NOT-OD-08-065 indicates that, in the final 2 years of the K award, the recipient must be a named PI on a competing NIH research grant application (e.g. R03 or R21) or a sub-project director on a competing multi-component research or center grant or cooperative agreement application

      Regarding the second question, a different NIH policy (NOT-OD-17-094) states that K awardees may supplement their salary, but only with non-Federal sources, during the entire period of the K award. Further, salary supplementation must not require extra duties or responsibilities that would interfere with the K award’s goals. If the effort is not directly committed to the K award, however, the awardee may devote effort, with compensation, on Federal or non-Federal sources as a program director, principal Investigator, or co-Investigator—as long the specific aims of the other supporting grant(s) differ from those of the K award.

  4. Does it constitute overlap when a PI on an R-mechanism gives up his salary on the R because he was awarded a K-award which will now cover the salary (for the first three years since I have a K08)?

    Also, when giving up salary on an R, the grantee can request to re-budget funds, but the NIH doesn’t take the salary out of the grant and use it as an offset for next year’s award, right?

    • Regarding Question 1 (after clarifying activity code is R21): It depends, and we recommend the PI reach out to their program officials for each grant in this situation. If the research under both awards are the same or similar, then the effort devoted to the R21 is subsumed under the minimum effort required by the K08 award (commonly 75 percent). However, the effort devoted to the R cannot exceed the remaining effort (commonly 25%) if the research is clearly different. Please note that if the grantee requested nearly 100% salary on the K award, then the investigator would likely have to give up effort on the R award.
      Regarding Question 2: We recommend contacting the grants management specialist at the other funding IC to discuss that issue.

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