NIH Early Career Funding
Posted on June 20, 2011
Mark Chavez (bio) provides essential information about the F, T, and K early research career funding mechanisms.
Q: What NIH funding is available before I get my terminal degree?
A: Most of the awards available before you get your PhD or MD are T or F awards. For these awards, the grants go to institutions and training directors. Those schools or directors give out the funds through applications and programs developed at the schools.
Q: What are the T awards?
A: The T-series awards go to training directors who use the funds to find and train early-career researchers at undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. Some of the T-series grants are focused on minority researchers, like the T34 U-STAR program, which supports promising undergraduate students.
Q: What are the F awards?
The F-series awards are individual fellowships available for predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers. Like the T awards, these fellowships are offered to institutions, which then competitively distribute the fellowship money to promising scholars. Some of the F-series grants are focused on minority researchers, such as certain lines of the F31, and others are focused on particular areas of specialty, such as MD-PhD researchers, or areas of study, such as nursing research.
Adapted from PhD- and MD-track funding charts developed by NIAID.
Q: What funding support is available to me after I get my terminal degree?
A: After you have your terminal degree, you qualify for research grants in the R series, as well as specialized training and early-career grants such as the T32, F32, or K awards.
Q: What are the K awards?
A: The K-series awards are individual research grants. Unlike the other T or the F awards described above, individuals can apply directly to an Institute for a K award. These grants are designed to emphasize mentoring and training as well as research.
The K-series awards are particularly useful for clinical researchers, whose career training has necessarily had to focus on skills and information not related to research. Because the K awards provide less indirect support than other funding mechanisms, some institutions do not push early career researchers toward these awards. The take-away message here: if you think the K might be important for your career, go for it.
Q: What is the duration of a K award?
A: Three to five years.
Q: What is the amount of research effort required for a K award?
A: Seventy-five percent is the minimum research effort for these awards.
Q: Are the awards renewable?
A: No, the K is a one-time award.
Q: What are the K awards designed to do?
A: The K-series grants like the K01 are designed to provide intense research career training over a three to five year period. They emphasize mentoring and training opportunities, and they're supposed to move researchers into research independence (e.g., receiving an R01). For this reason, both the research component and the career development component should show a clear outline of how the K award will lead to future studies and success.
Q: What criteria are used when I apply for a K award?
The review criteria include information about the candidate, research plan, career development plan, mentor(s), and institutional commitment.
- Candidate: This includes your background, your previous training, your publications, and your letter of recommendation. If there are areas where you feel that you're lacking, you might want to talk to the program officer in charge of your award area. You can present your particular issue, for example, having only a few publications, and what your plan is to address the issue.
- Research Plan: This is a general outline of your research project -- why it is important, how it will serve as a good platform for a subsequent R01 application, and how you plan to complete it. Be sure to outline how your mentor or institutional advantages will help you complete the project as proposed.
- Career Development Plan: Detailed plan about how the proposed project fits into your career trajectory. Be sure to explain how your plans will contribute to the scientific needs of your community.
- Mentor(s): Identify mentors who are strong in the proposed research area and have a good track record as mentors and outline the kinds of support they can provide for you (space, equipment, materials, coaching, publication assistance).
- Institutional Commitment: The organization you work for needs to describe its commitment to you, particularly what resources are available to you because of your affiliation.
Q: What are the eligibility requirements for the K awards?
The following criteria are true for all K awards (e.g., K01, K08, K22, K23, K25):
By the time you receive the award, you must be a citizen of the United States, a non-citizen national of the United States, or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence. People with temporary or student visas are not eligible.
If you've been a PI on a research grant (R01), program project (P01), another K award, or a similar grant, you aren't eligible for one of these Ks.
You're still eligible for one of these grants if you've received an NIH Small Grant (R03), an Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21), a Dissertation Award (R36), or an SBIR/STTR (R41, R42, R43, R44).
Some Institutes use the K01 award to support a particular kind of career training such as training in a new field or having a career hiatus because of family responsibilities. Some K01s are specifically designed to promote diversity among researchers or in particular fields (e.g., aging populations). The K Kiosk
has a full list of the current K01 awards and their requirements.
The K22 is designed as a bridge for particular Institutes, so the eligibility specifics vary slightly based on the Institute involved. The NIMH K22, for example, requires applicants to have several years of experience in the NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs and is designed to cover the transition from an NIH research appointment into a faculty appointment at a university or research institute. You can find a full list of K22s and their requirements at the K Kiosk
K08, K23, and K25 Eligibility
The K08 requires a clinical doctoral degree (e.g., an MD or a PhD in a clinical discipline like clinical psychology), and the K23 requires a health professional doctoral degree (e.g., an MD or a PhD in a clinical discipline like speech-language pathology). The K25 requires an advanced degree in quantitative science or engineering. You can find more information about these awards at the K Kiosk
As usual, these grants are open to citizens and non-citizen nationals of the United States as well as lawful permanent residents. However, this series also gives funding to non-U.S. citizens if the organization responsible for sponsoring the project certifies that the researcher can remain in the county long enough to transition into independence or the R00 phase of the award.
You're not eligible for the K99/R00 series if you currently or previously held a research faculty or similar position in academia, industry, or elsewhere. You can find more information about the K99/R00 award at the K Kiosk
Adapted from a presentation at the 2006 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA. Updated May 2011.
This is a summary of three NIH research training mechanisms, not a comprehensive list. For a full list of current funding awards, see the NIH Research Training & Research Career Development pages.