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University of Wisconsin–Madison

NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards (DP5) 2020

To:Chairs and Administrators; Departments in the Biological and Social Sciences; Associate Deans for Research; College/School Research Administrators
From:Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Education
Date:April 26, 2019
Subject:NIH Director's Early Independence Awards (DP5) 2020 RFA-RM-19-008


Deadline for Internal Review:July 10, 2019

Project Description

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 launching 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. 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.

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.

Amount per Award: Awards will be for up to $250,000 in direct costs per year, plus applicable Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs.
Duration of Award: 5 Years
Number of Awards:  The NIH Common Fund intends to commit approximately $4,000,000 to support approximately 10 awards in FY 2020, contingent upon availability of funds and receipt of a sufficient number of meritorious applications.


To be eligible, the investigator, at the time of application, must have received the 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 updated NIH definition of Early Stage Investigators, eligible clinical training includes clinical residency and clinical fellowship. For full eligibility requirements, see Section III. Eligibility Information. By the end of the award period, the Early Independence Award investigator is expected to be competitive for continued funding of his/her research program through other NIH funding activities and for a permanent research-oriented position.

In order to support the most innovative and impactful research, the NIH recognizes the need to promote a diverse research workforce. Applications to this award program should reflect the full diversity of potential applicants, applicant institutions, and research topic areas. Applications from talented researchers with diverse backgrounds underrepresented in research, including underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and women are strongly encouraged to apply to this Funding Opportunity Announcement. Outstanding research is conducted at a broad spectrum of institutions. In seeking to support the highest quality research, this Funding Opportunity Announcement encourages applications from the full range of eligible institutions, including those that may serve primarily underrepresented groups, those that may be less research-intensive, and from all domestic geographic locations. Applications are welcome in all research topics that have the potential ultimately to have a substantial impact on human health. In addition to the nominal biomedical sciences, these include, but are not limited to, relevant research topics in the behavioral, social, applied, and formal sciences. The potential for impact on human health may be near term (clinical or translational research) or long term (basic research). The paramount features of the research proposed must be innovation and magnitude of potential impact.

UW-Madison is allowed to submit 2 applications


Internal Competition Application Instructions

Applications for Internal Review

To submit your application, follow this link:

Please include the following information:

  • Cover Sheet
  • Based on the information contained in the NIH FOA, please submit a document of no more than 8 pages summarizing;
    1. Details of the position to which the Early Independence Investigator will be appointed.
    2. Specific Aims, Hypotheses and Research Strategy.
    3.  Institutional resources commitment (college and/or department levels).
    4.  Institutional career development commitment.  Specify institutional mentors and the role that he/she will play if an Early Independence Award is made.
      Please see Part 2, Section IV, #2 of the FOA for specific details of these sections.

Sponsor Deadlines

Applications are due to NIH by September 13, 2019.