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University of Wisconsin–Madison

NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards (DP5) 2022

To:Chairs and Administrators; Departments in the Biological, Physical and Social Sciences; Associate Deans for Research; College/School Research Administrators
From:Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Education
Date:May 07, 2021
Subject:NIH Director's Early Independence Awards (DP5) 2022


Deadline for Internal Review:June 15, 2021

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.  The Early Independence Award is intended for these select junior investigators who have already established a record of scientific innovation and research productivity and 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 million to support approximately 10 awards in FY 2022. The number of awards is contingent upon availability of funds and receipt of a sufficient number of meritorious applications.


Time window for eligibility: 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, 2020 and September 30, 2022. 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. The PD/PI must not have served as a post-doctoral fellow for more than twelve months before June 1, 2020.

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, DrPH, 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, 2022.  An authorized official of the host institution must certify that the PD/PI will be able 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) to the Early Independence Award project in years 1-2 of the project period. In years 3-5, awardees may reduce effort towards the Early Independence Award project but must commit at least 9.6 person-months each year (i.e., 80% effort of a 12-month appointment) to independent research in general.

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:

  • The PD/PI’s current research agenda is set through concurrence with mentors.
  • The PD/PI’s research is funded primarily through support to other investigators (mentored fellowships such as NIH F31 or F32 Fellowships or NSF Graduate Research Fellowships do not preclude eligibility).
  • The PD/PI does not have any space assigned directly by the institution for the conduct of his/her research.
  • The PD/PI, according to institutional policy, cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without special waiver or exemption from the institution.

Though PDs/PIs must not be functionally independent at the time of application submission, they may become functionally independent prior to time of award and still retain eligibility for the award.

In order to support the most innovative and impactful research, the NIH recognizes the need to foster a diverse research workforce across the nation. Applications to this award program should reflect the full diversity of potential PDs/PIs, applicant institutions, and research areas relevant to the broad mission of NIH. Talented researchers from diverse backgrounds (see NOT-OD-20-031), including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and women, are strongly encouraged to work with their institutions to develop applications for this Funding Opportunity Announcement. As outstanding research is conducted at a broad spectrum of institutions, it benefits the national scientific enterprise for NIH to support exceptionally innovative and impactful science that represents this breadth. Therefore, this Funding Opportunity Announcement encourages applications from the full range of eligible institutions, including those serving primarily underserved groups, those that may be less research-intensive, and from all domestic geographic locations. Applications are welcome in all research areas broadly relevant to the mission of NIH. These areas include, but are not limited to, the behavioral, medical, natural, social, applied, and formal sciences. Research may be basic, translational, or clinical. The primary requirements are that the research be highly innovative and have the potential for unusually broad impact.

UW-Madison is allowed to submit 2 applications


Internal Competition Application Instructions

Applications for Internal Review

To submit your application, please email a single PDF to

Please include the following information:

  • Cover Sheet including name, contact information, title of project
  • CV
  • Based on the information contained in Part 2, Section IV, #2 of the NIH FOA, please submit a document of no more than 4 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.


Sponsor Deadlines

Applications are due to NIH by September 03, 2021.