Extensions for Early Career Scientists Whose Career Trajectories Have Been Significantly Impacted by COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic, along with extensive mitigation measures, has adversely affected progress in many biomedical research settings. Evidence from multiple sources, including a survey NIH issued to its supported extramural research workforce last fall, indicates legitimate concerns about career trajectory for early career scientists, including those with caretaker responsibilities. An article by Dr. Erin Gibson and her colleagues argued for a “reset” with focus on early career investigators. One point I took away from this paper is that a reset does not necessarily mean for us to go “back to normal” after the pandemic is over, because that time may have favored certain investigators and disfavored others (something I reflected on in this video and this blog).

Hearing your concerns, NIH issued a Guide Notice last week detailing our approach to support early career scientists whose career trajectories may have been significantly affected by the pandemic as funding will allow). Specifically, NIH is providing an opportunity for recipients in their last year of NIH Fellowship (“F”) and NIH Career Development (“K”) awards who have been impacted by COVID-19 to request extensions. Such extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, within the existing constraints of available funding. We encourage you to read the Guide Notice and, if appropriate, reach out to NIH staff as directed.

We hope these opportunities will provide some help for some of our researchers whose careers have been adversely affected by the effects of the pandemic. If you are in the last year of an F or K award, consider whether an extension would be helpful.


  1. Here’s an idea for an easy way to help ESIs – stop rejecting applications because a single unauthorized hyperlink was included in a biosketch or ancillary document. That happened to a colleague and another person we know last week. In my colleague’s case it was his first R01 application – a clinical trial application, which is a massive undertaking under the best of circumstances. And if applications are being rejected due to one errant hyperlink, then the process becomes even more tilted in favor of established investigators and high-resource institutions, both of which can afford to pay staff to keep up with the increasingly complex and arcane application rules and regulations. A new assistant professor, just starting out, in most cases simply can’t access that level of support.

  2. Why limit this to trainees in their last year? All trainees had a year (at least) of productivity taken from them, so all will have difficulty completing their projects within the fellowship period. The NIH should extend this courtesy to all trainees who held F and K awards on or after March 2020, no matter what year they were in their fellowship.

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