University of Southern California


RFA-RM-18-010: NIH Director’s Early Independence Award (DP5 – Clinical Trial Optional)

Slots:                                                     2                             

Internal Deadline:                           Contact the Office of Research if interested.

LOI:                                                        August 27, 2018

External Deadline:                          September 27, 2018, by 5:00 PM local time

Award Information:                        Type:  Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 10

Anticipated Amount: $4,000,000 total

Submission Process:                     PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Office of Research Application Portal:


Materials to submit:


Link to Award:                        

Who May Serve as PI:                    Only single PD/PI applications are allowed. Applications with multiple PDs/PIs will not be accepted. Only the PD/PI may be listed as a Senior/Key Person and provide a Biographical Sketch.

Given the focus on early research independence, the receipt date of the terminal doctoral degree or end of post-graduate clinical training of the PD/PI must be between June 1, 2017 and September 30, 2019. The degree receipt date is that which appears on the official transcript for the degree. The end of post-graduate clinical training includes residency and fellowship periods. At the time of application, the PD/PI must not have served as a post-doctoral fellow following a previous (not the most recent) doctoral degree for more than twelve months.
At the time of award, either 1) the Early Independence investigator must have received a PhD, MD, DO, DC, DDS, DVM, OD, DPM, ScD, EngD, Dr PH, DNSc, ND (Doctor of Naturopathy), PharmD, DSW, PsyD, or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited domestic or foreign institution (it is the responsibility of the sponsoring institution to determine if a foreign doctoral degree is equivalent), or 2) an authorized official of the degree-granting or training institution must certify that all degree requirements have been met and that the receipt date of the degree (as will appear on the transcript) will be before September 30, 2019; in addition, an authorized official of the host institution must certify that the PD/PI will be eligible to conduct independent research at the institution at the time of the project start date.


Level of effort: Individuals must commit at least 9.6 person-months each year (i.e., 80% effort of a 12-month appointment) during the first two years of the project period to research supported by the Early Independence Award. In the final three years of the project period, awardees may reduce effort toward the Early Independence Award project, but the total effort towards independent research in general must remain at least 9.6 person-months each year (i.e., 80% effort of a 12-month appointment).


Research independence at time of application: Individuals are eligible only if they, at the time of application submission, do not have research independence. Lack of research independence is defined functionally rather than by position title. Eligible individuals must have all the following characteristics:

Though the PD/PI must not be functionally independent at the time of application submission, s/he may become functionally independent prior to time of award and still retain eligibility for the award.

Prospective PDs/PIs should contact appropriate institutional leaders to seek an appointment in an independent research position. Alternatively, institutions may actively recruit eligible junior scientists to apply for support through this program. In either event, the institution will be expected to provide substantial support for the junior scientist as detailed below. To foster independence, it may behoove PDs/PIs to be hosted by institutions other than the ones at which they trained.


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 would benefit from skipping such training and launching essentially directly into an independent research career. For those select junior investigators who already have established a record of scientific innovation and research productivity and who have demonstrated unusual scientific vision and maturity, typical post-doctoral training would unnecessarily delay their entry into independent research. Also, importantly, the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award provides an opportunity for institutions to invigorate their research programs by bringing in the fresh scientific perspectives of the awardees that they host.

The NIH recognizes a compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social sciences research workforce. The NIH expects its efforts towards diversifying the workforce to lead to the recruitment of the most talented researchers from all groups; to improve the quality of the educational and training environment; to balance and broaden the perspective in setting research priorities; to improve the ability to recruit subjects from diverse backgrounds into clinical research protocols; and to improve the Nation’s capacity to address and eliminate health disparities.  Applicant institutions are always encouraged to consider talented researchers from diverse backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research, including underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and women for participation in all NIH-funded research opportunities.

Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for updates and other announcements.