(OPEN) Limited Submission: NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards (DP5)

Please note that the internal deadline for this competition has passed. However, submission slots are still available. If you are interested in applying for this program, please contact Lauren Sisko at limsub@uga.edu.

The NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards provide an opportunity for exceptional junior scientists to accelerate their entry into an independent research career by forgoing the traditional post-doctoral training period. Though most newly graduated doctoral-level researchers would benefit by post-doctoral training, a small number of outstanding junior investigators would benefit instead by launching directly into an independent research career. For these select investigators, who have established a record of scientific innovation and research productivity and who have demonstrated unusual leadership, drive, and maturity, post-doctoral training would unnecessarily delay their entry into performing independent research. By the end of the award period, the Early Independence investigator is expected to be competitive for continued funding of his/her research program and for a permanent research-oriented position. The NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards also provide an opportunity for institutions to invigorate their research programs by bringing in the fresh perspectives of the awardees that they host.

The NIH recognizes a unique and compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social sciences research workforce. The NIH expects all of its efforts to diversify the workforce to lead to the recruitment of the most talented researchers from all groups; to improve the quality of the educational and training environment; to balance and broaden the perspective in setting research priorities; to improve the ability to recruit subjects from diverse backgrounds into clinical research protocols; and to improve the Nation’s capacity to address and eliminate health disparities.  Applicant institutions are always encouraged to consider talented researchers from diverse backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research, including underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities and women for participation in all NIH-funded research opportunities.

The open date (earliest submission date) is August 22, 2017.

Please read the full program announcement before preparing your internal application.

Award Amount

  • Upper $1,250,000 USD

The NIH Common Fund intends to commit approximately $4,000,000 to support approximately 10 awards in FY 2018, contingent upon availability of funds and receipt of a sufficient number of meritorious applications. Future year amounts will depend on annual appropriations and satisfactory progress.

Awards will be for up to $250,000 in direct costs per year, plus applicable Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs

The project period is limited to five years.


Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for support.

Only single PD/PI applications will be accepted. Applications with multiple PDs/PIs will not be accepted. Only the PD/PI may be listed as a Senior/Key Person and provide a Biographical Sketch.

Time window for eligibility: Given the focus on early research independence, the date of receipt of the terminal doctoral degree or completion of clinical residency of the PD/PI must be between June 1, 2016 and September 30, 2018. The clinical fellowship period is NOT included in the clinical residency or equivalent training period. The date of degree receipt is that which appears on the official transcript for the degree. In addition, at the time of application, the PD/PI must not have served as a post-doctoral fellow following a previous doctoral degree for more than twelve months.

At the time of award, either 1) the Early Independence investigator must have received a PhD, MD, DO, DC, DDS, DVM, OD, DPM, ScD, EngD, Dr PH, DNSc, ND (Doctor of Naturopathy), PharmD, DSW, PsyD, or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited domestic or foreign institution (it is the responsibility of the sponsoring institution to determine if a foreign doctoral degree is equivalent), or 2) an authorized official of the degree-granting institution must certify that all degree requirements have been met and that the date of degree receipt as appearing on the transcript will be before September 30, 2018.

Level of effort: Individuals must commit at least 9.6 person-months (i.e., 80% effort of a 12 month appointment) during the first two years of the project period to research supported by the Early Independence Award. In the final three years of the project period, awardees may reduce effort toward the Early Independence Award, but the total effort towards independent research must remain at least 9.6 person-months (i.e., 80% effort of a 12 month appointment).

Research independence at time of application: Individuals are eligible only if they, at the time of application submission, do not have research independence. Lack of research independence is defined functionally rather than by position title. Eligible individuals must have all the following characteristics:

  • The PD’s/PI’s current research agenda is set through concurrence with mentors.
  • The PD’s/PI’s research is funded primarily through support to other investigators (mentored fellowships such as NIH F31 or F32 Fellowships or NSF Graduate Research Fellowships do not preclude eligibility).
  • The PD/PI does not have any space assigned directly by the institution for the conduct of his or her research.
  • The PD/PI, according to institutional policy, cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without special waiver or exemption from the institution.

Though PD/PI must not be functionally independent at the time of application submission, they may become functionally independent prior to time of award and still retain eligibility for the award.

Prospective PDs/PIs should contact appropriate Institutional leaders to seek an appointment in an independent research position. Alternatively, Institutions may actively recruit eligible junior scientists to apply for support through this program. In either event, the Institution will be expected to provide substantial support for the junior scientist as detailed below. To foster independence, it may behoove PDs/PIs to be hosted by institutions other than the ones at which they trained.

Limitation Details

Only up to two applications per institution are allowed. If you are interested in submitting for this program, you must send an internal application to limsub@uga.edu according to the required instructions below.

Internal Applications must include the following:

  • A cover page listing
    • The name of this funding opportunity and title of your proposal
    • Candidate name, position, email, and home institution name
    • The receipt date of the candidate’s terminal degree (must be between June 1, 2016 and September 30, 2018)
    • Research project collaborator names, positions, and institutions
    • Name, position, affiliation, email of nominator (below)
  • A letter of support from the nominator (such as UGA department head or research mentor) that confirms the following:
    • that the candidate has the maturity, creativity, and scientific independence to bypass traditional post-doctoral training
    • that the candidate currently does not have research independence (as defined in the Eligibility section above)
    • that the UGA department, school, college, center, or institute (unit) agrees to appoint the candidate in a position in which the candidate will be able to devote at least 9.6 person-months (80% effort) to conducting independent research during the project period, with at least the first two years being devoted entirely to the Early Independence Award project
    • that the unit will provide dedicated laboratory space and equipment for the conduct of the candidate’s research project (NIH reviewers will take into account the institutional commitment when rating applications)
  • A (maximum two-page) research proposal summary that includes the project title, overall goal, and methodology
  • Candidate’s curriculum vitae
  • A statement (one paragraph) by the candidate that explains why they should be one of UGA’s two nominees (i.e., why you feel you are the most competitive for this program)

Internal Submission Instructions

The above internal application materials should be submitted via email as a single .PDF file to limsub@uga.edu by the internal deadline listed above.


Please submit questions regarding the internal competition to Lauren Sisko at limsub@uga.edu.

For questions directly related to this program, please contact the following program officer:

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