How does NIH describe an Early Stage Investigator (ESI)?

An ESI, or Early Stage Investigator, is a Program Director / Principal Investigator (PD/PI) who has completed their terminal research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, whichever date is later, within the past 10 years and who has not previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award. A list of NIH grants that a PD/PI can hold and still be considered an ESI can be found at https://grants.nih.gov/policy/early-investigators/list-smaller-grants. ESIs are encouraged to enter the date of their terminal research degree or the end date of their post-graduate clinical training in their eRA Commons profile to ensure their correct identification.

What are the advantages of early stage investigator (ESI) status?

ESI applications with meritorious scores will be prioritized for funding by the institute or center receiving the application.

I am an Early Stage Investigator (ESI) but this designation does not appear when I view the grant folder in the NIH Commons. How can I correct the information?

The first step in making sure that you are correctly designated is to go into your NIH Commons Profile and make sure the degree completion and/or the end of post-graduate clinical training date have been correctly entered. If the Profile screens indicate that you are an ESI, that information should be correctly assigned to any R01 or R01-equivalent (R37, RF1, R35-MIRA, RL1, DP1, DP2, DP5, U01) application that you submit. Please note that the designation does not appear on grant applications that are not considered R01 Equivalents. If you believe that your ESI status is incorrectly rendered in your grant folder, please contact the NIH eRA Service Desk at your earliest convenience. If you believe that your ESI eligibility window needs to be extended because of a lapse in your research or research training, you can request an extension using the instructions available on the Early Stage Investigator Policies page.

If, during my ESI period, I became a lead PI of an R01 due to a change of investigator action (e.g., the lead PI retired and the institution received approval from NIH that I become the lead PI) could I still be considered an ESI since I did not compete for funding?

Yes. The definition of ESI states that the individual must not have “previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award.” Therefore the individual may still qualify if all other aspects of the ESI definition are met.

I am an ESI and I am planning to submit a research grant application jointly with two other investigators. Will my ESI status ensure special consideration for our application?

A multiple PD/PI grant application will be flagged for ESI status if all Principal Investigators listed are ESIs.

Will all my research grant applications receive special consideration?

No. Only R01-equivalent applications will be identified as applications from Early Stage, or Early Established Investigators so that they can receive special consideration.

I submitted an application within my ESI eligibility window, which ends this month. If this application is not funded, I plan to submit a resubmission version of this application at the next receipt date, which will be after my eligibility expires. Will my resubmission application be ESI-eligible?

There is a 13-month period during which an investigator can submit the A1 resubmission application to retain ESI status. That is, if an original application is flagged as an ESI application and it is resubmitted as an amended application (A1) within 13 months after the submission date of the original application, it will retain its ESI status even if your eligibility period has expired. However, if the resubmission application (A1) is submitted more than 13 months after the submission date of the original application, the ESI status will be recalculated based on the submission date of the resubmission application. In addition, if you have successfully competed for a substantial NIH research award at the time of submitting the A1 resubmission, then you cannot have ESI status.