NIH Issues New Policies for Early and Mid-Career Investigators

On August 31, 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released new policy guidance supporting the Next Generation Researchers Initiative. The goals of the initiative are to help investigators establish and maintain independent research programs at an earlier age; stabilize the biomedical research workforce; and enhance diversity. The policy directs institutes and centers to prioritize funding for qualifying, meritorious applications from Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) and Early Established Investigators (EEIs). NIH adopted this approach after it abandoned plans announced earlier this year to institute a grant support index (GSI). The GSI would have effectively limited the amount of funding that an individual investigator could receive so that NIH’s resources could be more evenly distributed across the research community.

The new policy defines Early Stage Investigators (ESI) as those who have completed their research degrees within the last ten years and have not held a substantial NIH research award, such as an R01. Early Established Investigators (EEI) are defined as individuals who are received their first substantial NIH award within the past 10 years. To be eligible for prioritized funding, EEIs must be supported by only one active award or else must be at risk for losing all NIH research support without a successful competing grant application. Each Institute and centers will develop its own strategies for implementing the new policy. The Office of the Director will centrally track an updated census of ESI and EEI grantees and develop metrics to assess the outcomes of the policy.

The NGRI program is set to begin in the current fiscal year (FY 2017) with the goal of providing grant support to an additional 200 researchers in each category compared with the number funded in FY 2016. The expected cost is $210 million for the first year with an additional $210 million added in each of the next four years to achieve a steady state cost of approximately $1.1 billion per year.

For more information on the new policy and links to related information, see the NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative webpage.