(CLOSED) NIH Director's Early Independence Award (DP5 - Clinical Trial Optional) (NIH RFA-RM-22-021)

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

The NIH Director's Early Independence Award provides 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 from post-doctoral training, a small number of outstanding junior investigators are capable of directly launching an independent research career. The Early Independence Award is intended for these select junior investigators, who have already established a record of scientific innovation and research productivity and have demonstrated unusual scientific vision and maturity. Typical post-doctoral training would unnecessarily delay their entry into independent research. The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award also provides an opportunity for institutions to invigorate their research programs by bringing in fresh scientific perspectives of the awardees they host.

To be eligible, investigators, at the time of application, must have received their most recent doctoral degree or completed clinical training within the previous fifteen months or expect to do so within the following twelve months. To be consistent with the NIH definition of Early Stage Investigators, eligible clinical training includes clinical residency and clinical fellowship.

NIH staff will conduct a site visit to assess the PD/PI's progress and to ensure that they are receiving the institutional resources and support outlined in the application. By the end of the award period, Early Independence Award investigators are expected to be competitive for continued funding of their research program through other NIH funding activities and for permanent research-oriented positions.

In order to support the most innovative and impactful research, the NIH recognizes the need to foster a diverse research workforce across the nation. Applications to this award program should reflect the full diversity of potential PDs/PIs, applicant institutions, and research areas relevant to the broad mission of NIH. Talented researchers from diverse backgrounds (see Notice of NIH's Interest in Diversity, NOT-OD-20-031), including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and women, are strongly encouraged to work with their institutions to develop applications for this Funding Opportunity Announcement. As outstanding research is conducted at a broad spectrum of institutions, it benefits the national scientific enterprise for NIH to support exceptionally innovative and impactful science that represents this breadth. Therefore, this Funding Opportunity Announcement encourages applications from the full range of eligible institutions, including minority-serving institutions, those that may be less research-intensive, and from all domestic geographic locations. Applications are welcome in all research areas broadly relevant to the mission of NIH. These areas include, but are not limited to, the behavioral, medical, natural, social, applied, and formal sciences. Research may be basic, translational, or clinical. The primary requirements are that the research be highly innovative and have the potential for unusually broad impact.

Prospective applicants are invited to a pre-application webinar on June 22, 2022, from 1:00-2:30 PM EDT. NIH staff will discuss the initiative and answer questions about the application and review process. Questions for the webinar should be submitted ahead of time to EarlyIndependence@od.nih.gov by 11:59 PM local time on June 20, 2022. Additional questions may be taken during the webinar if time allows. Register for the webinar and join on Webex. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the Early Independence Award website.

The NIH Director's Early Independence Award is part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program funded through the NIH Common Fund, which supports cross-cutting programs that are expected to have exceptionally high impact. All Common Fund initiatives invite investigators to develop bold, innovative, and often risky approaches to address problems that may seem intractable or to seize new opportunities that offer the potential for rapid progress.

Eligibility Details

  • The receipt date of the terminal doctoral degree or end of post-graduate clinical training of the PD/PI must be between June 1, 2021, and September 30, 2023. Must be in non-independent research position at time of application
  • 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 their research.
  • The PD/PI, according to institutional policy, cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without a special waiver or exemption from the institution.
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Sep 02, 2022
OSVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Interested applicants should send the following documents in sequence in one PDF no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

Cover Page must include:

  • Descriptive project title
  • Name(s), of the PD(s)/PI(s)
  • Names of other key personnel
  • Participating institution(s)

Two-page summary to include:

  • Research Objectives: State your research topic and overall approach. Why is this area of research significant? What impact will your research have if successful? What are the major conceptual or technical innovations you are introducing into this research area?
  • Institutional Support: How will the institutional support, including the assurance of research independence, facilitate the accomplishment of your research objectives?
  • Early Independence Rationale: How will your scientific and technical background, research accomplishments, leadership/mentorship attributes, and scientific vision be leveraged to accomplish the research objectives?

Letter of Recommendation:

  • Letter of Recommendation from the Department Chair/Director

Formatting Guidelines:

  • Font/size: Times New Roman (12 pt.)
  • Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
  • Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)
To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OSVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Monday, June 13, 2022 - 4:00pm
For help or questions: 

Questions concerning the limited submissions process may be submitted to limitedsubs@psu.edu.

Patty Ssentongo (College of Medicine); Ashley Kuzmik (Nursing)