Still Have Questions on the NIH Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Policy?

Looking for answers to your questions on our Early Stage Investigator (ESI) policy? Check out the following highlighted frequently asked questions (FAQ) for information on how NIH defines and reviews ESI applications to promote the growth and stability of the biomedical research workforce.  

How does NIH describe an Early Stage Investigator (ESI)?

An ESI, or Early Stage Investigator, is 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 and who has not previously competed successfully as PD/PI 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 https://grants.nih.gov/policy/early-investigators/list-smaller-grants ESIs are encouraged to enter the date of their terminal research degree or the end date of their post-graduate clinical training in their eRA Commons profile to ensure their correct identification.  

 Will all my research grant applications receive special consideration?

No. Only R01-equivalent applications will be identified as applications from Early Stage, or Early Established Investigators so that they can receive special consideration.  

How are applications from ESIs identified in the review process?

The ESI status of the PD/PI(s), on any R01 Equivalent application will be determined at the time of submission. If the PD/PI(s) on the application is/are classified as ESI on the date the application is successfully submitted to Grants.gov, the application will be flagged as ESI and will receive special consideration during the review and funding process. 

What happens if I update my degree end date or my ESI extension request is approved after my application is submitted?

When NIH approves ESI extension requests or a PI updates their degree information in their eRA Commons personal profile after application submission, the ESI status for the application will be updated once the summary statement is released.

If I have two different applications under consideration as an ESI and one is awarded, will ESI consideration be given for the other?

No. Only one substantial NIH independent research application can be awarded as an ESI. When an ESI-eligible application is pending and the PD/PI has been awarded another R01 or R01-equivalent application, the ESI status of the pending application will be updated after release of the summary statement to indicate the application is no longer ESI-eligible.

See the Early Stage Investigators and Next Generation Researchers Initiative FAQ page for more information.

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8 thoughts on “Still Have Questions on the NIH Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Policy?

  1. I am inquiring as to whether being a PI on a Direct to Phase II SBIR award eliminates my ESI status. I have looked up that the SBIR Phase I award does not effect my ESI status but does a Phase II award? Thank you for your time.

  2. How being a project leader (not a PI or MPI) on a multi-component grant, like a P01 or a SPORE, affects the ESI status?

  3. Will funding on R01 level grants from other federal agencies (DOD, etc.) disqualify a researcher from ESI status?

    • No. To be eligible for ESI status requires that you have not previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award.

    • No. The definition of an ESI is 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 and who has not previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award. (AHRQ is not part of NIH.)

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