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Pathway to Independence Award (PA-14-042)
Questions and Answers (See Table of IC-Specific Information, Requirements and Staff Contacts)
Expiration Date: January 8, 2017
Last Revised: February 4, 2014
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A. General Issues
See the NIH RePORT success rate tables for K awards: http://report.nih.gov/success_rates/index.aspx. The actual number and distribution of awards made by the NIH will depend upon the quality of the applications received, the results of the scientific peer review process, the availability of funds, and the program priorities of awarding Institutes and Centers.
See the NIH RePORT success rate tables for K awards: http://report.nih.gov/success_rates/index.aspx. Keep in mind that success rates vary by Institute and Center and by fiscal year of funding.
The Pathway to Independence Award program provides a unique opportunity for highly promising candidates to obtain two forms of support from a single NIH award. The support is interconnected and combines an initial mentored research phase (K99 phase) followed by the scientist's first independent research support (R00 phase). For additional detail, see the funding opportunity announcement listed at the top of this page.
The Pathway to Independence Award augments, but does not replace, other NIH programs that provide mentored research and career development experiences for postdoctoral and early-career investigators. Most NIH Institutes and Centers support this program as well as other research training and career development programs.
A change of sponsoring institution is permitted only when all of the terms and benefits attributable to the original award can be assured. Consultation with the applicable NIH program and grants management staff is strongly encouraged when a change of institution is being considered.
Applications may be submitted by eligible NRSA recipients. NRSA recipients selected for Pathway to Independence Award funding must terminate their NRSA support prior to receiving support from the PI Award.
No. Individuals are NOT eligible if they currently are, or have been, a recipient of an NIH career development award (e.g., K01, K07, K08, K23, K25) or any other peer-reviewed NIH or non-NIH research grant over $100,000 in direct costs per year.
We encourage inquiries concerning the Pathway to Independence Award program and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants. Prior to preparing an application, potential applicants should consult with the scientific program contact person listed in the funding opportunity announcement listed at the top of this page.
Yes. Pathway to Independence (PI) award recipients can check “Yes” in the “New Investigator” box when applying for their first NIH R01 support . This is consistent with existing policy of considering recipients of all mentored career development awards (e.g., K01, K08, K22, K23, K25, K99) as “New Investigators” when applying for their first NIH R01 support.
B. Eligibility Issues: Individual
Note: the section “1.B. Eligible Individuals” has been significantly revised and updated in the current K99/R00 announcement: (see link to the current FOA at the top of this page)
Outstanding postdoctoral candidates who have terminal clinical or research doctorates (or equivalent doctoral degrees) and who have no more than 4 years of postdoctoral research experience at the time of initial application receipt date, or subsequent resubmission(A1) are eligible. Parental leave or other well-justified leave for pressing personal or family situations of generally less than 12 months duration is not included in the 4-year eligibility limit. In addition, clinical training time with no research involvement (e.g., residency training) is not counted against the 4 year limit (see also question 4 below).
Investigators who have currently or previously held an independent research faculty or tenure-track faculty position, or its equivalent in academia, industry, or elsewhere, are not eligible.
Investigators who have more than 4 years of postdoctoral research experience at the time of initial application or subsequent resubmission(A1) are not eligible.
Investigators who currently are, or have previously been, an independent PD/PI on NIH research grants (such as R01, R03, R21, P01, or subprojects of such grants), NIH K awards, or have been a PD/PI on peer-reviewed, non-NIH research grants over $100,000 in direct costs per year, intended for faculty members, are not eligible. This includes individuals who have “inherited” an NIH research grant as a PD/PI.
Individuals that have received institutional support to apply for independent R01 or equivalent research funding as a principal investigator, are not eligible.
No. Applications requesting only the independent phase will not be accepted.
The Pathway to Independence Award is designed and intended to provide up to 5 years of continuous support consisting of mentored and independent research phase.
No. Time spent conducting postgraduate clinical training that does not involve research is not considered as part of the 4-year research training eligibility limit. Only time dedicated to research activities would count toward the 4-year limit. Therefore, applicants with postgraduate clinical training experience remain eligible and are encouraged to apply for the Pathway to Independence award. Potential applicants are encouraged to discuss time spent conducting research during their postgraduate clinical training experience with an NIH program contact person before applying.
Yes. Time spent conducting postgraduate research, whether inside or outside of the United States, is considered part of the 4-year research eligibility limit.
This means that, regardless of whether the application is New or a Resubmission (A1) application, the applicant must have fewer than 4 years of postgraduate research experience at the application due date. For example, if an applicant is within the 4 years of eligibility at the time of the initial application due date, but not within the 4 years of eligibility at the time of resubmission, he/she is no longer eligible to apply for the PI award, and may not resubmit the application.
Exceptions to the 4-year limit may be approved, e.g., where significant changes in fields of study have occurred, such as moving from physical science to life science research, or from engineering to behavioral research. Such exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require concurrence of NIH program staff of the Institute or Center (IC) most likely to be assigned the application for potential funding. IC concurrence must be obtained prior to submission, and a statement describing the circumstances must be included in the application.
The answer to this question is complicated, and applicants are encouraged to contact the Institute or Center staff for additional guidance. In general, the clock starts with the first relevant Ph.D. degree. Depending on the research training experience, some Ph.D.s may count as biomedically relevant (e.g., Biochemistry, Biophysics). However, if the first Ph.D. is in a totally unrelated field (e.g., English), the clock starts with the second, relevant Ph.D.
Yes, it does. As stated above, ALL Postdoctoral research experience counts, including time spent conducting research (or publishing research results) where you obtained your doctoral degree prior to starting an official postdoctoral position.
The Pathway to Independence Award Program is designed to help outstanding postdoctoral researchers complete needed, mentored training and transition in a timely manner to independent research careers. The intended applicant will have no more than 4 years of postdoctoral research experience, evidence of research productivity including scientific publications, and a creative idea for an independent research project. Consequently, the strongest applicants will require, and will propose, a well-conceived plan for 1–2 years of substantive mentored research training and career development that will help them become competitive candidates for tenure-track faculty positions and prepare them to launch robust, independent research programs.
Individuals in a mentored or postdoctoral position who meet the eligibility criteria, regardless of the title of their current position, are eligible to apply for this award.
Individuals who currently hold or have held a tenure-track research faculty or other professorship or their equivalent in academia, industry or elsewhere are not eligible to apply for this award. However, a clinical faculty member who does not hold an independent research faculty position may be eligible for the K99/R00 award, and should contact program staff at the relevant NIH Institute for guidance. Following clinical training or clinical fellowship training periods, clinicians often obtain a clinical faculty position that denotes independence in clinical responsibilities but not in research.
Individuals who have received institutional support to apply for independent R01 or equivalent research funding as a principal investigator are not eligible.
Questions regarding additional unique situations should be discussed with NIH program staff contacts in the funding opportunity announcement listed at the top of this page.
C. Citizenship Issues
The Pathway to Independence Award seeks to attract the best and brightest individuals conducting research in the United States, regardless of citizenship. This award should help facilitate transition to research independence here in the U.S.
Yes, it will. The PI’s visa must allow him/her to remain in the U.S. for the duration of the relevant phase (K99 or R00) of the award.
For the K99 phase of the award, the applicant institution is responsible for determining and documenting, in the K99application, that the candidate’s visa will allow him or her to remain in the U.S. long enough to complete the K99 phase of the award. For the R00 phase of the award, the U.S institution at which the R00 phase of the award will be conducted is responsible for determining and documenting, in the R00 application, that the PD/PI’s visa will allow the PD/PI to remain in the U.S. for the duration of the R00 award.
No. NIH will not intercede on behalf of non-citizens whose stay in the United States may be limited by their visa status. As a result, NIH requires the applicant institution or organization to determine and indicate, in its application, that such individuals' visas will allow them to remain in this country long enough to be productive on the project. If a grant is awarded on the basis of this information and the individual's visa does not allow for such a stay, the NIH may terminate the grant.
No. The distribution of awards will depend upon the quality of the applications received, the results of the scientific peer review process, the availability of funds and the program priorities of awarding components.
No. NIH does not anticipate that any modifications regarding citizenship eligibility will be made to NRSA-supported research training and career development programs.
D. Eligibility Issues: Institutional
Eligible organizations for the K99 phase of the Pathway to Independence Award include domestic for-profit or non-profit institutions/organizations, or public or private institutions (such as universities, colleges, hospitals and laboratories), and eligible agencies of the federal government, including NIH intramural laboratories.
Eligible organizations for the R00 phase include the types listed above except agencies of the Federal government which are eligible for the K99 phase only.
Foreign institutions are not eligible to apply to apply for either the K99 phase or the R00 phase.
Agencies of the Federal government that are ineligible to receive NIH extramural research grants including the NIH intramural research program are ineligible to apply for the R00 phase.
E. Financial Issues
Applicants should follow the budget instructions for research career development awards outlined in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide when providing information for the requested years of K99 support. The amounts provided for salary and research costs by the participating ICs are not uniform. Please see the Contact Table for IC-specific information, in the funding opportunity announcement listed at the top of this page.
In the initial K99 application, an itemized budget is not required for the R00 phase. The applicant should indicate a minimum of 9-months effort for him/herself for each project period. The exact amount of direct and indirect costs does not need to be specified, and a zero may be used as a placeholder in these sections. Total costs of $249,000 should be entered in Total Direct and Indirect Costs. Information requested on the K99 application Checklist page regarding Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rates for the requested R00 years of support may be left blank.
At the time of transition to the R00 phase, the R00 applicant institution will submit a detailed budget for each budget period of the R00 project period that reflects the direct and indirect costs at the R00 applicant institution.
No. Salary costs are restricted to the K99 PD/PI and other personnel only. Research costs are available to support research expenses of the PD/PI. No salary for mentoring can be charged to either the salary or the research cost categories.
F. Review Issues
The initial peer review will be organized by participating NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). ICs may work together to cluster the review of Pathway to Independence Award applications that involve common areas of science relevant to the missions of multiple ICs.
Candidates are strongly encouraged to include in their application: 1) a description of the relationship between the mentor’s research and the candidate’s proposed research, 2) how the candidate will gain independence from his/her mentors and separate his/her scientific research program from that of the mentor(s), and 3) a statement from the primary mentor that provides: a statement identifying the components of the proposed research that the K99 applicant can take when he/she transitions to research independence and that can be part of his/her independent (R00) phase award. For additional detail, see the funding opportunity announcement listed at the top of this page.
Yes. All NIH AIDS-related grant applications will be reviewed on an expedited AIDS cycle. Please see http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/funding/submissionschedule.htm#AIDS for details.
G. Transition to the Independent Phase Issues
No, transition from the mentored phase to the extramural independent scientist phase is not automatic. It is subject to review of the K99 awardee's research training/career development accomplishments and the evaluation of all documents submitted during application for the R00 phase. These include the tenure-track faculty job offer and the research plan to be carried out at the extramural sponsoring institution to which he or she has been recruited.
It is expected that Pathway to Independence awardees will locate a qualifying independent research position prior to completion of the mentored phase, and that transition with associated funding will be continuous in time. It is expected that the awardee will complete at least one full year of mentored training under the K99 phase before transitioning to the R00 phase, except under unusual circumstances. Individuals who expect to transition to an independent position in less time may not be appropriate for this grant mechanism and may wish to consider applying for other grant mechanisms, such as the K22, R03, R21, or R01, instead. K99 awardees who are not able to transition at the end of the K99 project period may request a No Cost Extension. Requests for administrative supplements to extend K99 phase support generally will not be considered.
See section I, below for details of the transition process.
NIH has been monitoring the progress of its K99 awardees and the extent to which they are identifying appropriate positions, transitioning to the R00 phase of the award, and subsequently applying for R01s. Early results have been positive overall, and led to a recommendation from the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) working group that studied the biomedical research workforce that the number of awards be increased, beginning in FY 2014.
I. Transition Details, NIH Pathway to Independence (PI) Award (K99/R00)
Transition from the mentored phase (K99) to the extramural independent scientist phase (R00) of the award is intended to be continuous in time. It is expected that K99 awardees will locate a qualifying independent research position prior to completion of the mentored phase, and that transition with associated funding will be continuous in time. ICs may, at their discretion, make exceptions to this time limitation when individuals have been invited for faculty job interviews but final decisions have not yet been made by the potential R00 institution or, rarely, because of unusual, extenuating circumstances.
Activating the Independent Phase of the Pathway to Independence Award (R00)
See also the full funding opportunity announcement listed at the top of this page.
The K99/R00 award is intended to facilitate the successful transition to independence. Applicants for the R00 phase are encouraged (but not required) to apply for independent positions at departments and institutions different from where they conducted their mentored research. It is important for all applicants, but especially so for applicants who intend to stay at the mentored phase institution for the independent phase, to provide a plan by which they will advance to independence.
Applicants may apply for and accept independent phase positions within the NIH intramural research program (IRP). However, the award will be terminated at the time the candidate begins their independent appointment in the IRP. The independent phase of the award will not be activated. This is because NIH intramural scientists are supported directly by NIH intramural funds and are not eligible for NIH extramural grant awards. Such outcomes are not inconsistent with the goals of the PI Award initiative.
The primary intent of this program is to develop outstanding researchers who will pursue extramural research careers related to the mission of the NIH awarding component that provided the support for the program. Applicants for the R00 phase are expected to continue research in an area relevant to the mission of the NIH awarding component that funded the K99 phase.
In order to activate the extramural independent scientist R00 phase, individuals must have been offered and accepted a tenure-track, full-time assistant professor position (or equivalent) at an eligible institution with appropriate infrastructure to support the proposed research program and a history of external research funding. Transition from the mentored phase to the extramural independent scientist phase is not automatic and is subject to an administrative review of the:
The application for the extramural independent scientist R00 phase of the award must be submitted no later than 2 months prior to the proposed activation date of the R00 award by the R00 phase grantee organization. However, to avoid potential problems in activation, applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NIH program officials as soon as plans to assume an independent position develop, and not later than 6 months prior to the termination of the K99 phase of the award to discuss plans for transition to, and the application for, the R00 phase. This is especially important if the applicant has any question about the acceptability of a specific independent position for the R00 phase of the award.
The independent phase institution will submit an application on behalf of the applicant for the R00 award using the PHS398. The R00 application must include:
The abstract and specific aims should be updated and briefly described in 2-3 pages to reflect current plans for the R00 phase. A letter from the Department or Division Chairman describing the institution's commitment to the candidate and plans for his/her career development should be submitted as well as a final evaluation statement by the K99 phase mentor, if not already provided. Applicants for the R00 phase are also encouraged to include a plan and timeline for submitting an independence research grant application in a research area relevant to the mission of the NIH awarding components.
For non-U.S. citizen/permanent residents, the applicant U.S. institution is responsible for determining and documenting in the application that the applicant investigator's visa will allow him or her to remain in this country long enough to be productive on the research project in the U.S. for the duration of the proposed independent research (R00) phase.
These materials should be sent directly to the awarding Institute or Center (IC). The original application plus one copy (preferably in PDF format) are to be mailed (or e-mailed) to the Financial or Grants Management contact person of the awarding NIH Institute or Center listed in the Notice of Award. The R00 application will be evaluated by extramural Program staff of the awarding component for completeness and responsiveness to the program.
Two additional documents are included with the R00 application. A letter from the R00 Department or Division Chairperson must be submitted that describes the R00 institution's commitment to the candidate and plans for his/her career development (see below). If not already provided, the final evaluation statement by the K99 phase mentor must also be provided.
The R00 application will be evaluated by extramural staff of the awarding component for completeness and responsiveness to the program. Applicants that are approved to transition will receive a Notice of Award. Applicants who are not approved to transition will receive written notification from the awarding component communicating the rationale for the disapproval. This letter typically will be sent within 60 days of receipt of the R00 application.
For further assistance, applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant Institute/Center for programmatic and budgetary information. See listing of IC contacts in the funding opportunity announcement listed at the top of this page).
An institutional commitment agreement will be required at the time of activation of the independent phase of the award. This agreement should satisfy the criteria described in the SF424 application under Section 7. Supplemental Instructions to the SF 424(R&R) for Preparing an Individual Research Career Development Award (CDA) Application ("K" Series) (see Environment and Institutional Commitment to the Candidate).
In addition to space, facilities, resources, and other support needed to conduct the proposed research, the sponsoring institution must provide protected research time (minimum of 75% effort) at least for the duration of the R00 award. The start-up package and other institutional support should be comparable to that given to other recently hired faculty into tenure-track or equivalent positions. Moreover, institutions may not require the use of R00 funds to offset a typical startup package. The sponsoring institution should describe the candidate's academic appointment, bearing in mind that it must be tenure-track or equivalent, and confirm that the appointment is not contingent on the transfer of the award to the institution. The independent phase institution must foster and support the awardee's ability to apply for and secure independent research grant (R01) support.
R00 phase awardees may engage in limited teaching, administrative and clinical duties as part of the 25% effort not required by this grant award, as long as such non-research duties are minimal. In cases where salary commensurate with the required 75% effort cannot reasonably be covered by the $249,000 maximum total cost R00 phase award, grantee institutions may need to supplement the candidate's salary so that the salary is consistent with salaries of individuals in comparable positions at the institution. However, such supplements may not require applicants to engage in additional responsibilities that would interfere with the required 75% effort on the PI Award. NIH staff may review start-up packages and other commitments between the institution and candidate prior to activating the independent phase of the award. NIH will not activate the independent phase if the institutional commitment is deemed inadequate.
Candidates who are not approved to transition will receive written notification from the awarding component communicating the rationale for the disapproval. This notification typically will be sent within 60 days of receipt of the R00 application.
Although the financial plans of the NIH Institute or Center provide support for this program, awards pursuant to this funding opportunity are contingent upon the availability of funds.
Termination of the K99 Award Phase
If transition from the K99 phase at an extramural institution to the R00 phase occurs at the originally scheduled end date of the K99 award, then no specific steps to terminate the K99 award are necessary. If the transition occurs prior to the scheduled end date, then a revised Notice of Award will be issued to terminate the K99 phase award. Carryover of unspent funds from a partially completed year in the K99 phase into the R00 phase will be permitted, subject to approval by the Grants Management Office of the awarding NIH Institute or Center.
Notification of Award for the Independent Phase
Applicants who are approved to transition will receive a Notice of Award reflecting the R00 grant mechanism, the dollar amount, and the new recipient organization (if applicable).
For further assistance, applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant NIH Institute/Center for programmatic and budgetary information (see "Table of IC-Specific Information, Requirements and Staff Contacts" in the funding opportunity announcement listed at the top of this page).