Clarifying NIH’s Approach to Granting ESI Extensions


There has been a lot of focus on early stage investigator (ESI) extension requests in the community recently. And we certainly understand why.

The experience of the COVID-19 public health emergency has brought into sharp focus that the effects of the pandemic on careers and life in general may continue for years to come. This fact has led us to revisit our approach to granting ESI extension requests. In doing so, we would like to clarify an FAQ that stated that NIH will not approve ESI extensions that are requested during a previous extension period.  We understand that life does not happen sequentially, thus the FAQ have been revised to allow those who are already on an extension to request an additional extension should circumstances require.

Consistent with the directives of the 21st Century Cures Act, the Next Generation Researchers policy requires NIH institutes and centers to prioritize awards that will fund ESIs. The policy intends to provide investigators with opportunities for earlier research independence while enhancing workforce diversity. Recognizing that some researchers may have lapses in their research or research training or have experienced periods of less than full-time effort, since the inception of the policy NIH has considered requests to extend the ESI status period. Reasons such extension requests may be granted include: childbirth, medical concerns, disability, family care responsibilities, natural disasters, and active duty military service. Individuals have always been allowed to be granted more than one extension request, should circumstances warrant.

We want these policies to work and are committed to providing our early career investigators with as much support as possible, especially during these trying times.

If you have questions about ESI extension requests, including previous requests for extensions during an extension period, please send them to Questions about COVID flexibilities should be sent to


    1. Gregory,

      I am trying to find out the same. For what I gathered so far, it looks like NIH thinks that the RF1 grants could not and cannot be affected by the COVID-19.
      So practically you and I were supposed to keep working and spending $ although our lab and any bench research was totally shut down for more than 8-10 months!
      This is an example of partial flexibility towards scientists who have worked so hard to get funded. It feels like a punishment.
      I call on the NIH director (Dr. Collins) to intervene and solve this unpleasant and unfair situation of which we are the victims.


  1. What about K99 elegibility extension? It does not apply to people who had babies in the middle of the pandemic?

  2. What about RF1 grants?
    Why they would not be included in the policy of COVID-19-Related Flexibilities ?

  3. I would like to follow up to the message from Dr. Brewer.

    Any chance for extension of RF1 grants due to Covid restrictions on work?
    Why would this type of funding be penalized twice? one by Covid, and one by the no flexibility for an extension.

  4. What about K awards? Why should a prior extension (due to illness, childbirth, etc.) cancel out the covid extension?

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