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!
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.