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New & Early Stage Investigators

A New Investigator (NI) is an NIH research grant applicant who has not yet competed successfully for a substantial, competing NIH research grant. For a complete list of NIH grants that do not disqualify a PD/PI from being considered a New Investigator, see the NIH Definition of New Investigator.

An Early Stage Investigator (ESI) is a new investigator who has completed his or her terminal research degree or medical residency—whichever date is later—within the past 10 years and has not yet competed successfully for a substantial, competing NIH research grant.

How Are New Investigators (NIs) and Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) Identified?

Software within the eRA Commons will check first for New Investigator (NI) status based on the individual’s previous award history. For individuals identified as NIs, the software will calculate the ten-year window of Early Stage Investigator (ESI) status based on the date of the terminal research degree or the residency end date entered in the investigator’s Profile. To ensure that NIH recognizes your ESI status, you must update your eRA Commons profile to reflect the date of completion of your terminal research degree or the end of your residency.

Note: NIH will consider a request to extend the period of your ESI status if there has been a lapse in your post-degree training. Principal investigators can submit a request for an ESI extension via an ESI Extension Request link found in the Education section of the PI's Personal Profile in eRA Commons. For step-by-step instructions, see the ESI Extension Request online help or watch the video tutorial ESI Status Extension Request on the eRA Videos page.

What Benefits Are Conveyed With New Investigator (NI) or Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Status?

Peer Review – For both New Investigator (NI) and Early Stage Investigator (ESI) applications, peer reviewers are instructed to focus more on the proposed approach than on the track record, and to expect less preliminary data than would be provided by established investigators. Institute staff members pay special attention to applications from NI and ESI investigators as well.

NIH no longer has a program for rapid turnaround for NI applications. Per the updated NIH Policy for Review and Resubmission of New Investigator R01 Applications, NI R01 applications will be reviewed on the same timeline as other applications submitted to the same NOFO. NI R01 applications will be clustered together for review within a meeting.

NIs and ESIs are strongly encouraged to contact their program director to discuss the decision of when to resubmit a revised application.

Differential payline (for ESIs) – Each year, the NIDDK sets a percentile “payline” for R01 applications based on available funds and the volume of applications. The payline for ESI applications is typically more generous than the regular payline for established investigators (see NIDDK Funding Policy). While NIDDK often makes administrative reductions in grant duration, applications from ESIs that fall within the payline are usually awarded the full requested duration.

Consideration for NIH High Priority, Short-Term Project Award (R56) – Although you cannot apply for this grant activity, NIDDK can choose to award a one- or two-year R56 grant to an R01 application scored outside the payline. These provide support for an investigator to collect key preliminary data in order to submit an improved revised R01 application, but you should understand that NIDDK has only enough funds to make very few of these awards.

Mentoring workshops – NIDDK regularly holds workshops for recently funded new investigators. In addition, when NIs or ESIs receive their first grant they are encouraged to maintain contact with their Program Official who can be an excellent resource during this critical stage of your research career.

First Competitive Renewal of R01 Applications From Former NIDDK ESIs – NIDDK seeks to encourage the stable integration of early career researchers into the scientific research workforce. In support of this, the nominal payline for first competitive renewal applications for R01 awards to researchers who were ESIs when they competed for the initial NIDDK Type 1 R01 award is typically more generous than the regular payline for established investigators (see NIDDK Funding Policy). Only one award per eligible investigator may be considered for this special payline. If a special payline award is made to an eligible investigator any other eligible applications from that investigator will be considered for funding based on the standard nominal payline.

For information

Visit the NIH New and Early Stage Investigator Policies page, or view NIDDK Research Programs and Contacts for your scientific area of interest.

Last Reviewed November 2023