NIH: Director's Early Independence Award

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. 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.

Number of Applications
Amount of Funding

$250,000 per year, in direct costs, for a five-year period


  • Applicants are encouraged to consult with their Associate Deans for Research prior to internal submission to assure they meet eligibility criteria and their projects meet stated program objectives.
  • At the time of application, the individual either 1) within the preceding twelve months must have received a terminal doctoral degree or completed a medical residency or 2) within the following twelve months must complete all the requirements for a doctoral degree or complete a medical residency. The fellowship training 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. The time of application is the date when the application is submitted electronically to NIH through 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 one year. The individual must also not be the PD/PI of an NIH R01 or equivalent grant at the time of the award.
  • At the time of award, either 1) the Early Independence investigator must have received a Ph.D., MD, DO, DC, DDS, DVM, OD, DPM, ScD, EngD, DrPH, 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 an equivalent), or 2) an authorized official of the degree-granting or training institution must certify that all degree requirements have been met and that the receipt date of the degree (as will appear on the transcript) will be before September 30, 2020; in addition, an authorized official of the host institution must certify that the PD/PI will be eligible to conduct independent research at the institution at the time of the project start date.
    • The PD/PI's current research agenda is set through concurrence with mentors.
    • The PD/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/her research.
    • The PD/PI, according to institutional policy, cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without special waiver or exemption from the institution.
  • Level of effort: Individuals must commit at least 9.6 person-months each year (i.e., 80% effort of a 12-month appointment) to the Early Independence Award project in years 1-2 of the project period. In years 3-5, awardees may reduce effort towards the Early Independence Award project but must commit at least 9.6 person-months each year (i.e., 80% effort of a 12-month appointment) to independent research in general.

  • Research independence at the 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:

Submission Process

Step 1

For consideration as a finalist, investigators should submit the following materials as PDF e-mail attachments to no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 15, 2019:

  1. A one-page cover letter including:
    • Descriptive title of the proposed activity
    • Name, school or college, and department of the PD/PI
    • Number and title of this funding opportunity
  2. A full CV
  3. A letter of support from your chair.  The letter of support from your department chair should indicate that they are willing to provide protected time, institutional resources, and career development as required by the sponsor, and why they believe that you are qualified for the Early Independence Award. 
Step 2

Nominees will be notified of their selection by August 2, 2019.

Step 3

The final proposal must be received by the Office of Research Administration by September 6, 2019, at 5:00 pm EST.

Step 4

The final proposal must be received by the sponsor by September 13, 2019, at 5:00 pm EST.


Abstract or LOI to ORA Chosen Proposal Announced ORA Final Proposal Due Date Sponsor Submission Deadline Days Until Due
07/15/2019 08/02/2019 09/06/2019 09/13/2019 CLOSED