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

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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.

43 Comments

  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?

    1. 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.

    1. 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.)

  4. Hello,

    I have a PI who who earned an MD in in 2006, completed her fellowship in 2013, and earned a MSCR in 2016. Can you please clarify when her ESI status would expire?

  5. Is a research associate from a foreign institution (e.g. INSERM, France) eligible to apply to NIH Early Stage Investigator?

  6. My ESI end date is 2020/10. Does this mean that my ESI status ends on October 1st or at the end of October? If I submit my R01 application for the October 5th deadline in late September, would my application still be flagged as ESI?

      1. Hello, I wanted to clarify your answer above. My terminal degree was granted in August 2011. Is it correct that my ESI status would end *at the end of* August 2021? In other words, my ESI status would be valid for the whole month of August 2021. Thank you very much.

  7. Hello, does being a PI on a joint grant between nsf and nih such as Joint DMS/NIGMS Initiative to Support Research at the Interface of the Biological and Mathematical Sciences affect EIS? Many thanks.

  8. Just to clarify, if you are awarded a R01 level grant from the DoD and all other criteria are met, do you still have ESI status if you apply for an R01.

    1. NIH no longer recognizes CO-PI as a role. If you mean Multiple PI, then yes the ESI status of BOTH PIs will be relevant as to whether the R01 is flagged as R01 or not. Both PIs need to be ESIs in order for the application to be ESI flagged.

      1. Hi,

        Just wanted to ask two questions:

        1. I completed medical residency in 2012 and hematology/oncology fellowship in 2015. Dose my ESI Status expire in 2022 or 2025.
        2. If I submit a multiPI R01 with a senior scientist who is not an ESI, is the application not ESI flagged?

        Thank you.

        1. 1. 2025. As noted on the FAQs page, the time period for determining ESI status begins after completing one’s post-graduate clinical training.

          2. Correct. A multiple PD/PI R01 application will be flagged as an ESI application only if all the listed PD/PIs have ESI status at the time of submission.

  9. HI,
    I wanted to know the about one thing:
    Can we keep subcontract portion in ESI grant ?
    before submitting ESI proposal whether we need to submit letter for study section?
    Where I can find the check list for ESI proposals?

    1. ESIs can apply for a COVID-based extension as long as they are eligible (i.e. still within their 10 year ESI eligibility window). They can apply at any point, even after the effects of COVID have no longer impacted their research capacities.

  10. If an application is submitted when ESI status is active, but the application cycle due date and subsequent review is after the ESI status has ended, will the application retain the ESI flag for review?

    1. Application will still retain ESI status. It essentially is decided by whether the PI was ESI at time of submission.

  11. Would an ESI status be recognized (Eg, are there benefits to applying as an ESI?) specifically on an MPI R01 grant application, when one PI is an ESI, and the other PI is not? Or is the ESI only possible as a single/solo PI?

  12. Hi, I am offered to be a PI on a U01 admin supplement (I am a co-I on the U01). Would that affect my ESI status?

  13. If ESI status is determined automatically in ERA Commons and non-NIH agencies also use it (e.g. SAMHSA); will being PD/PI on a SAMHSA services grant interfere with ESI status in ERA commons?

    1. Awards by non-NIH organizations do not count when calculating ESI eligibility. 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.

  14. We have 2 different applications which are marked as ESI at the time of submission. For the first application (Application A) I would not need the ESI 10 percent advantage. However, this (Application A) is still under consideration and is not awarded (very good perecentile score, council approval pending). For the second application (Application B), the percentile score is 24 and is within the NHLBI fundable range for ESI (council meeting pending).

    Would I be considered as an ESI for my application B since my application A has not been funded yet?

    1. As long as that first award (Application A) has not been granted (that Notice of Award has not been released), you would be considered an ESI on all other applications (Application B).

  15. IF you are involved in an RO1 application as a MPI do you lose your ESI status once the proposal is submitted?

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