Start your year off right: make sure you’re getting credit for all of your funding! As new internal funding data is being pulled, it is becoming clear that there are a lot of people that appear with less support than they should for one key reason: they are using the “Co-PI” designation on NIH applications.
Here’s a gentle reminder: the “Co-PI” designation is not recognized by NIH. When applying for NIH funding, don’t select it if you are using the SF424 (also: why are you still using the SF424?) and don’t type it in if you are using ASSIST. That designation appears for other agencies that DO use Co-PIs; NIH is not the only agency that uses the SF424 and so the SF424 is inclusive of other labels. For a little more information on how this affects internal candidacy tracks and overall university rankings, check out our previous post, “When Good Labels Go Bad.”
Instead, when applying for NIH funding, use the “PD/PI” designation for BOTH if you and another PI are both considered to be PD/PI (or if there are more than two of you, even). If someone is not sharing principal or directorial duties with you, that person should be designated as “Co-Investigator.” If you’re still not sure what your label should be, drop us a note and we’ll help you figure it out! Don’t short yourself (or your department) on support; you work hard and deserve your due credit!
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about preserving your New Investigator or Early Stage Investigator (ESI) status. But how can you be sure if you have those statuses at all? NIH calculates your qualification for ESI based on your funding and terminal degree year, while New Investigator status is solely on past funding type. You can be a New Investigator with qualifying to be ESI, but you can’t be ESI without qualifying to be a New Investigator.
To find out whether you are considered to be an ESI, you can check your status in eRA Commons. To do it, log in and go to your “Personal Profile.” Once you are there, either scroll down to or click on “Education:”
Once you are at your “Education” section, choose “Edit” (don’t choose “View”). This will reveal NIH’s record of your status as an Early Stage Investigator, or ESI:
To check your New Investigator status is a little more nuanced; to do so, choose “Status” from your top menu menu bar and find your most recent submission. If that submission did not result in the funding of a “significant” award according to NIH standards and your “New Investigator Eligibility” reads “Y”, you are still considered a New Investigator. This status is only monitored by NIH at submission:
Remember, to be considered a “New Investigator,” you cannot not yet have been awarded a substantial NIH research grant. To be an “Early Stage Investigator,” you must have both “New Investigator” status and have completed your terminal research degrees or medical residencies (whichever date is later) within the past 10 years. If you check you status and believe that NIH has misclassified your status, be sure to send an email to the Commons Help Desk for assistance.
It is important to NIH to fund more new scientists, and have created special programs and higher paylines to do it. To be a “New Investigator,” you must be an NIH research grant applicant who has not yet been awarded a substantial NIH research grant. So, if you have been a PD/PI on an R01, you are no longer considered a New Investigator. If, however, you were a PD/PI on and R21 or an R03, you ARE still New Investigator. If you’re not sure if your previous awards disqualify you from New Investigator status, take a look at the NIH list of non-disqualifying awards.
Keep in mind that multi-PI awards count as being a PD/PI (but Co-I designations do not!). If you and a colleague or two have shared PD/PI status on an R01 that was awarded, you’re not a New Investigator. If you are going to share multi-PI status on an R21, you DO retain your status. The length of your career has no bearing on your status as a New Investigator, but you may have an extra advantage if you are early enough along: there are separate paylines established for Early Stage Investigators, who are those New Investigators who have completed their terminal research degrees or medical residencies (whichever date is later) within the past 10 years.
For further clarification, head over to NIH’s FAQs for New and Early Stage Investigators. If you’re not sure how to strategize when it comes to your status, we’re here to help you figure out your options.