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Grants and Funding: Extramural Programs (EP)

Questions and Answers from the NLM Webinar - Introduction to Career Development Awards and ESI/NI R01 Grants in Biomedical Informatics (September 22, 2011)


Questions and Answers

Q1: For the K99 awards, is it common to change institutions for the R00 phase (assuming you get an assistant professor position somewhere other than where you did your postdoc)?

A: Although it's not a requirement for a K99 awardee to change institutions for the R00 phase, the awardee is encouraged to do so. Most of NLM's K99 awardees do change institutions for their R00 phases. Top

Q2: Do I have to have a faculty position when I apply for K99?

A: No, you don't have to have a faculty position when you apply for a K99. The initial 1 -2 year K99 phase is a mentored phase and doesn't require a faculty position. Top

Q3: What do you mean by "independent position" for K22?

A: By an "independent position" we mean a tenure-track assistant professor position (or equivalent) with independence in carrying out your own research, having your own research space and research support. Other indications of an independent position may include being able to attend faculty meetings, being the responsible supervisor for graduate students and postdocs, and being eligible to apply for independent research support as the PI. Top

Q4: Are K22 awards limited strictly to those in academic (degree granting) institutions?

A: No, an applicant is eligible to apply through a non-academic institution, if the applicant and institution can meet all the requirements as set out in PAR-10-195. The institution must be able to provide the applicant with an independent research position equivalent to a tenure-track assistant professor position, and provide the required institutional/research environment support. Top

Q5: As an intramural post doc in NLM, if I get K99 award, do I have to transfer to a different institution for R00 phase?

A: Yes, you'll have to secure an independent research position, preferably a tenure-track assistant professor position (or equivalent) at an eligible extramural institution, to activate the R00 phase. You may choose to apply for independent phase position within the NIH intramural research program (IRP). However, should you accept such a position 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. Top

Q6: Upon receiving a R00 award while doing postdoc, if I get an assistant professor position in another university, does the award move with me?

A: You don't receive a R00 award. If you compete successfully, you'll receive a K99/R00 award. If you get an assistant professor position at another university that meets the requirements, the award moves with you. Top

Q7: For the K99 award, is the 5-year postdoc training limit counted till the day when the application is submitted or is it the day when the award is made?

A: From the funding opportunity announcement, PA-11-197: "no more than 5 years of postdoctoral research training at the time of application". Thus, it is till the day the application is submitted. Top

Q8: What are the present priority areas for NLM?

A: Please take a look at PAR-11-208, Section I/1. Research Objectives at // Top

Q9: There seems to be a new roster called "biomedical computing and health informatics study section" under NIH center for scientific review that floats around for multiple institutions like NIDDK. Do they also review for K99 grants for NLM? Also, in the timeline, there's a study section by NLM that does the first review. Are they always the same study section, or do they change depending on the proposed research? Who does the second review?

A: All K99 applications assigned to NLM are reviewed by an NLM study section. The members of NLM's study section, the Biomedical Library and Informatics Review Committee (BLIRC), encompass the areas of expertise needed to review most of the grant applications received by NLM. The Scientific Review Officer, who manages the BLIRC, may add ad hoc reviewers if there's a need for further expertise. The BLIRC membership is listed at // Top

Q10: How much support has NLM been committed to K99 and K22 awards?

A: We don't have a set commitment for each of our grant programs. From NLM's FY 2011 Funding Plan at //

"NLM supports as many meritorious competing grant applications as possible, across the array of grant programs it offers. General funding guidelines are established each year based on appropriated funds available. Final award decisions reflect considerations of program relevance, portfolio balance, recommendations of the NLM Board of Regents, and availability of funds."

On the average, NLM has funded about 3 new K99/R00 awards per year over the last few years. We re-launched our K22 program towards the end of FY 2010, and have not received sufficient meritorious applications at this time to establish a funding pattern. Top

Q11: Will K22, K99/R00 award recipients be considered "new investigators" when applying for their first NIH R01 support?

A: Yes, K22 and K99/R00 awardees remain eligible to be considered "new investigators" when applying for their first NIH R01 support. Top

Q12: Who is eligible?

A: The K22 award is available to individuals with health professional or research degrees and formal postdoctoral training in biomedical informatics. To apply, a candidate must have completed two years or more of postdoctoral, mentored research or have been in an independent research position for less than two years at the time the application is submitted. Top

Q13: I have an MD and am working on a PhD. Can I use this award to support me while I finish my PhD?

A: No, the award is for those who have completed their education and are starting their careers as researchers/informaticians. See Q1 above for what is meant by starting their careers. Top

Q14: I have a PhD in Computer Sciences and 2 years of postdoctoral experience in software development. Can I apply for this award?

A: No, at least 2 years of postdoctoral training in biomedical informatics is required. The K99 Pathway to Independence award might meet your needs. Top

Q15: I have a PhD in Nursing, specializing in care for the dying. Can I apply?

A: That depends. The award is available only to those who are starting careers in informatics research. See Q1 above for the meaning of starting careers. Top

Q16: I haven't been hired yet; can I still apply?

A: Yes, the unique feature of the K-22 award is that individuals may apply without an independent faculty position, while they are still in a "mentored" position. Successful postdoctoral applicants will be given up to 12 months to accept an independent, preferably tenure-track, position at a sponsoring institution before an award can be activated. For postdoctoral applicants, the sponsoring institution for a K22 award can be their current institution or a new institution. Top

Q17: I just got a faculty position in a medical school. Can I apply?

A: Candidates already in their first independent research position in a biomedical informatics field relevant to the mission and/or research priorities of NLM may apply for this award in the first or second year of this position. Top

Q18: My teaching and clinical responsibilities take up 50% of my time. Can I apply for this support to cover the rest of my salary?

A: No. Recipients of this award must devote a minimum of 75 percent effort to the proposed research program. The remaining 25 percent effort can be divided among other clinical and teaching activities only if they are consistent with the program goals, i.e. the candidate's development into a research informatician. Under unusual and pressing circumstances, an awardee may submit a written request to the awarding component, requesting a reduction in professional effort below 75 percent. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis during the award period. In no case will it be permissible to work at a rate of less than 50 percent effort. Top

Q19: What is the salary ceiling for this award?

A: An NLM K22 award will provide a salary up to $85,000 plus fringe benefits. The total salary requested must be based on a full-time, 12-month staff appointment requiring the candidate to devote a minimum of 75 percent effort to conducting informatics research, with the remaining effort being devoted to activities related to the development of a successful research career. The salary must be consistent both with the established salary structure at the institution and with salaries actually provided by the institution from its own funds to other staff members of equivalent qualifications, rank, and responsibilities in the department concerned. Top

Q20: What can I use the research and development funds for?

A: Up to $50,000 per year will be provided to cover the expenses of starting up a research program, including: (a) salaries for technical support, consultant costs, equipment, supplies; (b) travel to scientific meetings and training; (c) statistical services (including personnel and computing resources); and (d) other research-related expenses. Restrictions: Salary for mentors, secretarial and administrative assistance, etc. is NOT allowed. These funds cannot be used for tuition or course fees. Top

Q21: I work for a company now. Can I apply?

A: No, only domestic nonprofit, public or private institutions, such as medical, dental or nursing schools or other institutions of higher education may apply. Top

Q22: What is the funding rate (number of applicants versus number funded) for each type of award?

A: Success Rate for Fiscal Year 2010 for R01* (the latest year comparative data are available).

Success Rate for Fiscal Year 2010 for R01
Mechanism# Applications # AwardsSuccess Rate
NLM New RO1 74 16 21.6
NIH Total R01 21,861 3,897 17.8

NIH RePORTER provides ready access to a range of reports addressing application success rates, see //

*NLM receives a small number of K99 and K22 applications, and thus we have not provided comparative data. Top

Q23: Consumer health informatics is missing in "who's funded for K22." Was it left out by purpose?

A: Consumer Health Informatics is one of the focus areas that is a priority in the NLM extramural grant programs. Applicants are encouraged to submit career development (K22 and K99) and R01 applications that focus on research involving consumer health informatics as well as clinical informatics, public health informatics, bioinformatics and translational science informatics. Refer to // (Section I. Funding Opportunity Description) for a more detailed description of the scope of NLM's interest for basic and applied research in biomedical informatics. For questions regarding research involving consumer health informatics contact Dr. Alan VanBiervliet at Top

Q24: Investigator qualifications is one of the review criteria for the Express R01. There are many different ways to measure this, one being the number, quality, and impact of prior publications. What is the average number of publications for a successful New Investigator Express R01 applicant for a clinical researcher (MD)?

A: Investigator qualifications is one of the review criteria for NIH research grant applications. The peer reviewers are given the following questions to help guide their evaluation - "Are the Principal Investigator(s) (PI), collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, or in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise? Are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?" One way peer reviewers evaluate experience and record of accomplishment is by reviewing the information presented in the biosketches. Training, experience, and relevant publications are listed in the biosketches. Publications provide an indication that the research team can successfully disseminate the results of their research in a scholarly manner and recognition by peers in the field of the importance of the previous related research. There is no recommended scale for evaluating the number or impact of publications. The peer reviewers use their professional judgment in this area. In general, researchers in the early stages of their career would have fewer publications. One common way to compensate for a new investigator's lack of experience in an important area of a project is to involve experienced collaborators and consultants in a meaningful way on the research team. Be sure to carefully describe the roles of these collaborators and consultants, include their biosketches if they are key personnel, and include letters of commitment specific to your project if they are outside your organization.

There has been no analysis of the average number of publications for a successful New Investigator or experienced investigator for NLM. Also, there are no differential criteria applied to clinical or basic researchers. The number of publications is not the relevant factor. However, the applicant must convince the reviewers that the proposed PI and other key personal have the ability to successfully complete the project. Factors that are considered include the training, professional experience, and demonstrated performance in the areas relevant to the project. Top

Q25: What is the difference between NLM Express R01 and Parent R01?

A: Both types of applications are evaluated using the same criteria by the NLM Biomedical Library and Informatics Review Committee (BLIRC). Also there is no difference in terms of funding decision between the two. The primary differences are the NLM Express R01 is limited to $250,000 per year for up to 4 years and the Parent R01 is not limited to a specific amount. Requests for more than $500,000 per year in direct costs requires NIH preapproval. Budget requests must be well justified. Parent R01 project period can be up to 5 years. Top

Q26: Historically, do successful NLM applicants possess a research degree, clinical degree, or both?

A: NLM applicants and awardees possess both research and clinical degrees, some have both (such as MD and PhD). Also the membership of the NLM study section called the Biomedical Library and Informatics Review Committee (BLIRC) includes both clinical and basic researchers. See // for a list of the current BLIRC members. Top

Q27: With likely cuts to the NIH budget, how will this effect NLM funding and the number of new independent investigator awards?

A: The NLM and NIH are committed to supporting the research of New Investigators as an important way of strengthening the vitality of health-related research. There is no plan to modify this focus based on any reduction in the NIH budget. NLM supports as many meritorious competing grant applications as possible, across the array of grant programs it offers. However, the total number of awards made in a particular budget period is affected by the amount of money that is available. Top

Q28: Are all of the priorities on the priorities list equally weighted?

A: There is no a priori weighting of the NLM priority areas listed in the funding opportunity announcements. In addition to the Impact score assigned by the peer reviewers, the final award decisions reflect considerations of program relevance, portfolio balance, recommendations of the NLM Board of Regents, and availability of funds. See // for more information about the NLM funding plan. Top

Q29: I am an early stage investigator and I received a priority score of 39 on my R01 grant application. Why wasn't I funded?

A: An impact score of 39 places the application from an Early Stage Investigator into the pool of applications that will be considered for funding. However, NLM like other NIH Institutes receive many more meritorious applications then they have available funding. Although the peer reviewer's impact score is an important factor, final award decisions reflect considerations of impact score, program relevance, portfolio balance, recommendations of the NLM Board of Regents, and the availability of funds. Top