How Are New Investigators (NIs) and Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) Defined?
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.
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.
In addition, NIH has a program for rapid turnaround for NI and ESI applications, this gives NIs and ESIs the opportunity to revise and resubmit their applications more quickly. While this rapid turnaround may be appropriate for those applications that need only improved writing, inclusion of missing detail, or other minor changes, it may not be the most efficient path to success for those applications that may benefit from a more thoughtful and thorough revision to address the reviewers’ concerns. NIs and ESIs are strongly encouraged to contact their program director to discuss the decision of when to resubmit a revised application. Remember, NIH now only allows only one resubmission (amended application) — if an application is not funded after it is amended the first time it cannot be resubmitted. NIs and ESIs need to think about their resubmission strategy carefully.
Differential payline (for ESIs) – Each year, the NIDDK sets a percentile “payline” for R01 applications based on available funds and the volume of applications. For FY 2012 and now again in FY2013, the payline for ESI applications was/is five percentile points more generous than the regular payline for established investigators (see NIDDK Funding Policy FY 2013). 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.