New and Early-Stage Investigators

Below are sources of information to learn about NIH definitions, policies, and grant awards available to Early-Stage and New Investigators; NIH training on the grants process; and FAQs.


Early-Stage Investigator
An Early-Stage Investigator (ESI) is a New Investigator who has completed his/her terminal research degree or medical residency (or the equivalent and whichever date is later) within the past 10 years and has not yet been awarded a substantial, competing NIH research grant.

New Investigator
In general, a Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) is considered a New Investigator if he/she has not previously competed successfully as a PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award other than for early-stage or small research grants or certain training, infrastructure, and career awards.

NIH Definitions, Policies, and Awards
View NIH definitions of Early-Stage and New Investigators, related policies, and information about the Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) and New Innovator Awards.


NIH Regional Grants Seminars
Each year, NIH sponsors two Regional Seminars on Program Funding and Grants to help demystify the application and review process, clarify Federal regulations and policies, and highlight current areas of special interest or concern. The Seminars are for grants administrators, researchers new to NIH, and graduate students.

NIH Tips for Applicants exit disclaimer
In "NIH Tips for Applicants," NIH reviewers and staff provide insights on improving one's chances of obtaining a grant. This video was created by NIH's Center for Scientific Review.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I have never applied for NIH funding. What do I need to know to start the process?

A: NIH Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) are regularly posted in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts, and you can subscribe. All funding applications submitted to NIH must be submitted in response to a Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO).

In addition, investigators are encouraged to contact BRP Program Directors for advice on grants-related issues from pre-submission through the end of an NCI grant. Investigators may also wish to subscribe to receive periodic updates from BRP on funding opportunities, research resources, and career and training opportunities.

Q: What is the difference between a Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00), an NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and other NIH grant mechanisms?

A: The Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) facilitates early-stage basic scientists to make a timely transition from a mentored postdoctoral research position to a stable independent research position earlier than is currently the normal transition time. Learn more about the K99/R00 award. The Pathway to Independence Award will provide up to five years of support consisting of two phases. The initial phase will provide 1-2 years of mentored support for highly promising, postdoctoral research scientists. This phase will be followed by up to 3 years of independent support contingent on securing an independent research position. Award recipients will be expected to compete successfully for independent R01 support from the NIH during the career transition award period. The PI Award is limited to postdoctoral trainees who propose research relevant to the mission of one or more of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers.

The NIH Director's New Innovator Award (DP2) (RFA-RM-13-007) addresses two important goals: stimulating highly innovative research and supporting promising new investigators. Applicants must meet the definition of an Early-Stage Investigator (ESI). A table comparing the New Innovator Award to other grant mechanisms, including the Pioneer Award, Transformative R01s, and the Early Independence Award is available.

Q: I have been the director of a sub-project (but not the PI) on a multi-component NIH Program Project (P01) or Cancer Center Support Grant for an NCI-Designated Cancer Centers (P30) grant. Can I still be considered a New Investigator?

A: Yes. Only those who have previously competed successfully as PIs for a significant independent NIH research grant are excluded from consideration as New Investigators. View the NIH definition of a New Investigator.

Q: I was assigned to lead a Research Project Grant (R01) as the PI during a non-competing year of the grant because the previous PI became disabled. Can I still be considered a New Investigator?

A: Yes. Only those who have previously competed successfully as PIs on a significant independent NIH research grant are excluded from consideration as New Investigators.

Q: How can I tell if NIH considers me an Early-Stage Investigator (ESI)?

A: A PD/PI who qualifies as a New Investigator is considered an ESI if he/she is within 10 years of completing his/her terminal research degree or is within 10 years of completing medical residency (or the equivalent).

View more Frequently Asked Questions About the NIH New and Early-Stage Investigator Policies

For any unanswered questions, contact BRP staff.

Last Updated
June 22, 2023