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Career Development Programs (K-Series)

NIMH is committed to research training and career development that prepares individuals to conduct innovative research in areas of program relevance that will advance the mission of the Institute. We welcome your questions. Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the most appropriate NIMH Research Training Officer to obtain feedback on program priorities, the relevance of the proposed research to the Institute, and other issues such as eligibility issues. Awardees should direct programmatic questions to the responsible Program Officer and grants management questions to their Grants Specialist. Both individuals’ contact information is available in the PI’s eRA Commons account.


Career Transition Awards (K99/R00 and K22)

PA-14-042 : NIH Pathway to Independence (PI) Award (K99/R00)
PAR-12-201 : NIMH Career Transition Award for Tenure-Track and Tenured Intramural Investigators (K22)

NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00)

The NIH Pathway to Independence Award offers an opportunity for highly promising postdoctoral scientists to receive both mentored and independent research support from the same award. This award provides 1-2 years for mentored training and job search (K99 phase) followed by up to three years of independent research support (R00 phase).

Eligibility. Although postdoctoral scientists are eligible to apply so long as they have no more than four years of postdoctoral experience, NIMH strongly encourages potential K99/R00 applicants to apply as soon as they have developed a conceptual framework for their independent research program and have accumulated preliminary data to document general feasibility of the proposed research program. It is not recommended that applicants defer application until the end of the eligibility window should they be strong candidates prior to this time. Given that the K99 phase is intended for mentored career development, a well-justified and feasible set of mentored career development goals for the K99 phase that complements the applicant’s current skill set is an expected component of the application. Applications lacking a well-reasoned set of mentored career development goals generally do not receive favorable reviews.

Only under exceptional circumstances will the NIMH consider waiving the 4-year eligibility window for K99 applicants. Please contact the appropriate NIMH Training Program Officer with the rationale for the requested waiver well in advance of the receipt deadline so that Program staff can respond before this deadline. Waivers will not be considered after an application has been submitted.

NIH policies pertaining to citizenship, eligibility (individual and institutional), and review issues, as well as the steps required for transitioning from the K99 to the R00 phase, may be found in the current funding announcement and the New Investigators web site .

Mentored Phase (K99) Expectations. K99 awardees must spend at least one year in the K99 phase in order to accomplish the research and career development goals of this mentored phase. If a K99 applicant accepts a job offer prior to the issuance of the K99 Notice of Award, the NIMH will not make an award.

Transitioning from the K99 Phase to the R00 Phase. Transition from the K99 phase to the R00 phase is not automatic and is subject to NIMH administrative review of the K99 awardee’s accomplishments during the K99 phase and the materials submitted in support of the R00 phase application (including the faculty job offer). The R00 phase award is contingent on securing an independent, tenure-track, assistant professor (or equivalent) faculty position. The faculty position may not be contingent upon receipt of an R00 award.

K99 awardees are strongly encouraged to contact their Program Officer as they begin to interview for tenure-track faculty positions and to provide regular status updates on their job search. Such communication will allow staff to provide appropriate technical assistance during the job search and negotiation. K99 awardees are expected to notify their Program Officer upon receipt of any tenure-track faculty job offer (and prior to acceptance of an offer) so that the Program Officer may address questions concerning NIMH’s expectations for transition to the R00 phase. Individuals should allow three months for NIMH review of R00 phase applications. R00 applications submitted after July 15th annually will generally not be reviewed until the next fiscal year (after October 1st).

Independent Investigator Phase (R00) Expectations. Award recipients are expected to apply for independent R01 support from the NIMH during the R00 award period.

NIMH Career Transition Award for Tenure-Track and Tenured Intramural Investigators (K22)

The intent of the NIMH Career Transition (K22) Program is to assist tenure-track and tenured investigators in the NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs (DIRP) who aim to transition to independent research positions in the extramural community where they intend to continue already successful biomedical research careers as independent scientists. Eligibility is limited to investigators who have held their intramural position for at least five years.

The NIMH K22 program is a two phase program. Phase 1 provides up to 18 months of support during which time the PI continues to conduct research in the NIMH DIRP while seeking a research position at a domestic academic institution and negotiating a competitive start-up package to support his/her independent research program. Regular communication with the responsible NIMH Program Officer is strongly encouraged during Phase 1 so that this individual may provide technical assistance regarding the requirements for a Phase 2 award and completion of the Phase 2 application. Phase 2 of the K22 award provides up to three years of support to conduct research as an independent scientist at an extramural institution to which the individual has been recruited, been offered and has accepted a research position.

Transition to Phase 2 is not automatic and is subject to administrative review of the application submitted by the academic institution to which the PI has been recruited (see Section V1.4. of PAR-12-201  for requirements for the Phase 2 application). NIMH K22 award recipients are expected to apply for NIH or other independent research grant support during the second year of the extramural phase (Phase 2) of the K22 award.

The Phase 2 application must be submitted at least three months before the desired effective date to allow the necessary time for staff review. Applications submitted after July 15th annually will generally not be reviewed until the next fiscal year (after October 1st). The assigned NIMH program officer will review the Phase 2 application and make a recommendation concerning award. The Institute’s decision is not subject to appeal.


Mentored Career Development Awards (K01, K08, and K23)

PA-14-044 : Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01)
PA-14-046 : Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08)
PA-14-049 : Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)

NIMH uses the K01, K08, and K23 mentored career development award programs to provide an opportunity for early-stage investigators who need additional mentored research experience to develop their independent research careers.

Eligibility. Eligibility for the K01, K08 and K23 is limited to individuals with no more than 6 years of postdoctoral experience at the time of application (either the initial or resubmission application). Clinical training, i.e. internship, residency, and/or fellowship, is not considered a period of postdoctoral experience unless there is a research component of ≥ 50% effort in any year.

The NIMH will consider waiving this eligibility limitation on a case-by-case basis with strong justification. Requests to extend the mentored K eligibility period will be considered for reasons that can include medical concerns, disability, family care responsibilities, extended periods of clinical training, natural disasters, and active military service. Extensions related to periods of part-time status normally will be prorated to reflect the actual time away from research and normally will be considered only when the appointment is reduced by 50% or more for a sustained period of time. Potential applicants must contact the appropriate NIMH Training Program Officer with the rationale for the requested waiver well in advance of the receipt deadline so that Program staff can respond before the receipt deadline. Waivers will not be considered after an application has been submitted.

The above eligibility limitation is effective with applications due on February 12, 2013 and thereafter. NIMH will accept otherwise eligible resubmissions (i.e., -A1) of K01, K08 and K23 applications where the initial (-A0) application was made prior to the February 12, 2013 deadline, in accordance with the NIH policy that a resubmission must be made no more than 37 months after the date of the receipt of the initial application (NOT-OD-10-140 ).

Duration of Support. The NIMH will generally limit support to no more than 4 years. The requested duration of support should be appropriately justified, taking into consideration prior research experience and the proposed mentored career development goals that are essential for developing an independent, NIMH-funded research program. The NIMH may fund a mentored K award for less than the IRG-recommended duration if the justification for the requested duration is not sufficient. The NIMH will consider waiving the limitation on support duration with very strong justification. Please contact the appropriate NIMH Training Program Officer with the rationale for the requested waiver well in advance of the receipt deadline so that Program staff can respond before the receipt deadline.

Expectations. An application must include a strong and credible plan for the candidate’s transition to research independence and evidence of significant institutional commitment to the continued development of the K01, K08 or K23 candidate as an independent researcher at the applicant institution. Applicants are expected to plan to apply for independent research support during the later years of their mentored career award.


Mid-Career Awards (K02 and K24)

PA-14-045 : Independent Scientist Award (K02)
PA-14-047 : Mid-Career Investigator Award in Patient-Oriented Research (K24)

NIMH considers early to mid-career faculty eligible for the K02 award. Tenure-track, tenured or equivalent investigators who are at the assistant to associate professor level may be appropriate candidates for a K02 award. Applicants for a K02 award must have demonstrated independent research accomplishments at the time of application but not yet be considered well-established in the research area of the application. K24 applicants are typically mid-career faculty at the associate professor level. A tenured full professor would be viewed as beyond the stage of eligibility for either a K02 or K24 award. NIMH will not accept new or resubmission applications from full professors.

Only investigators with active, peer-reviewed, independent research support from the NIMH at the time of submission may apply for a K02 or K24 award from NIMH. For the purpose of this policy, NIMH defines investigators with active, peer-reviewed, independent research support from the NIMH as one of the named PIs, at the time of review, on an active R01, R37, P01, P20, P30, P50, UM1, U01, U10, U19, or U54 grant. Investigators who are subproject investigators on NIMH P or U series grants, or who are principal investigators on a subcontract of any other grant mechanism, are not eligible.

At the time of the K02 or K24 award, the K02 or K24 project period should overlap by at least two years with the qualifying NIMH research project grant support (excluding any period of no-cost extension). If the K02 or K24 project period will exceed the project period of funded, independent research grant support, the candidate should provide a plan for continued independent research support in the K02 or K24 application.

The K02 and K24 award programs are available for one, five-year term (see NOT-MH-12-013 ). A K02 or K24 award may be funded for up to five years so long as the qualifying research project grant remains active and excluding any period of no-cost extension. If support for the qualifying NIMH research project grant lapses during the K02 or K24 project period, the K02 or K24 support may be continued for one year after the lapse in funding to allow for resubmission of the qualifying research application. If the resubmission is unsuccessful, NIMH may terminate the K02 or K24 award at that time.

Scientists who hold a position with committed salary support for research or whose primary responsibility is administrative must demonstrate a compelling need for a K02 or K24 award.


NIMH Career Development Award Policies

Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research is an integral component of any career development program. Successful completion of such instruction is required during Year 01 of any NIMH career development award. Instructional details must be reported in the Year 02 Progress Report. Full details about this policy can be found in the NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-10-019 .

Effort on Career Development Awards

Each program requires recipients to devote a defined, minimum percentage of full-time professional effort to research and career development activities during the award period. See NOT-OD-04-056  for the NIH policy concerning determination of full-time professional effort and NOT-OD-09-036  for the NIH policy on temporary reduction in percent effort and reduction in appointment status from full-time to part-time during a K award. See the NIMH table for information on minimum effort requirements for each K program.

Allowable Amounts for Salary and Research-Related Expenses

Most career development award programs provide support for salary, fringe benefits, and research-related costs. The NIMH will support a salary allowance that is commensurate with the actual level of effort, up to the allowable cap for that program, based on a full-time, 12-month position. The salary must be consistent with both the established salary structure at the institution and salaries actually provided by the grantee institution from its own funds and/or non-federal funds to other staff members of equivalent qualifications, rank, and responsibilities in the applicable department. Fringe benefits are requested separately from salary and must be based on the salary requested in the application. Research-related costs are permitted for many programs, must be well justified, and may not exceed the specified cap. See the NIMH table for information on caps for salary and research-related expenses for each K program.

Individual Mentored Career Development Support after Institutional Mentored Career Development Support

The institutional mentored career development programs, e.g., the K12 program and the K12 component of the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, typically support individuals for 2-3 years, which may not be enough time for an individual to transition to research independence. As a result, if an applicant were initially supported by an institutional mentored career development program, the NIMH will consider allowing such an individual to receive, in aggregate, up to six years of mentored K support from a combination of institutional and individual mentored career development awards. The total period of mentored support is expected to provide sufficient time for transition to research independence. An applicant is expected to justify the need for additional mentored K support in his/her individual mentored K application. All other eligibility conditions described above for individual mentored career development awards still apply.

Research Effort during the Last Two Years of Individual Mentored Career Development Support

NIMH mentored career award recipients are expected to apply for independent research support during the later years of the mentored career award. During the last two years of mentored K support (K01, K08, K23), NIH policy (NOT-OD-08-065)  permits award recipients to reduce the level of effort required for their career development award to no less than 6 person-months (i.e., 50%) and replace that effort with effort as a PI on a peer-reviewed research award or as a project leader on a competing multi-project award from NIH or any Federal agency, if programmatic policy of the other agency allows such an arrangement, and provided that the PI remains in a mentored situation. This NIH policy permits those mentored K award recipients who are ready to compete for research grants to continue to benefit from the period of protected time offered by the mentored career development award. Note that the total level of research commitment must remain at 9 person-months or more for the duration of the mentored K award. This policy does not apply to K99 awardees.

Change of Institution

NIMH will consider transfers from one institution to another, with prior approval of the responsible Program Officer. However, NIMH will consider transfer from one institution to another for K99 awards only when the K99 PI and his/her mentor are transferring to the same institution. No transfer will be allowed for any award: with less than six months remaining in the project period at the time the change of institution application is submitted; during a period of administrative extension; or that has terminated.

Early consultation with NIMH staff is critical for timely transfer of the grant to the new institution. Potential transfer applicants should contact the NIMH Program Officer named in the eRA Commons for guidance prior to submitting the change of institution application.

A change of institution application must be submitted in response to PA-14-078  by the authorized organizational representative at the new institution. The instructions in this funding announcement should be followed. This application must be submitted at least three months before the desired effective date to allow the necessary time for staff review. Applications requesting a change of institution that are submitted after July 15th annually will generally not be reviewed until the next fiscal year (after October 1st).

Transfer of career awards to another institution may be approved, without peer review, under the following circumstances. The Program Officer will assess the degree to which the goals of the original, peer-reviewed application will be met at the new institution. Critical among these considerations will be the continued capacity to carry out full-time research; the potential to contribute significantly to the scientific field of study as evidenced by research productivity; clear and high likelihood that the new environment will contribute to scientific development and productivity; scientific and technical merit of the research plan and its consistency with the career development plan; the new mentor's research and mentoring qualifications in the scientific area of study (if applicable); and the strength of the institutional environment and commitment. After consideration, the Program Officer will recommend either approval or disapproval of the requested transfer to the NIMH Grants Management Specialist.


Guidance for NIMH Mentored K Applicants Proposing Clinical Trials

The following guidance is for individuals developing NIMH mentored research career development award (K99/R00, K01, K08, K23) applications in the area of intervention development and testing, including research on the effectiveness of therapeutic, preventive and services interventions.  It is important that mentored career development applicants conducting intervention research develop their research plans to be consistent with the NIMH emphasis on an experimental therapeutics approach to intervention development and testing.  In this approach, throughout all phases of intervention development and testing (i.e., from the development of novel interventions through effectiveness testing) projects should be designed to assess the relationship between underlying disease processes and the mechanisms of action through which an intervention produces therapeutic change.  As part of this approach, applications must include an examination of a hypothesized mechanism of action or proximal target based on evidence of disease processes and a clear hypothesis about how an intervention directed at changing that mechanism or proximal target could lead to improvement of a clinical endpoint or endpoints (e.g., symptom, symptom cluster), as well as address issues of safety and tolerability.  For a more complete description of abovementioned approaches, applicants are strongly encouraged to review the associated NIMH funding opportunity announcements listed below.

The structure and budgetary constraints associated with a mentored career development award will limit the scope of the research that can be achieved.  Applicants will need to address the feasibility of completing their project within these constraints.  Potential approaches may include:

  1. Studies testing whether a novel intervention engages and alters the hypothesized mechanism of action or proximal target. The specific activities and milestones appropriate for the mentored career development award application focusing on target engagement and evaluation will depend on the type of intervention under study and its stage of development.  Applicants should consider assessing target engagement and change using multiple units of analysis (e.g., genetic, neural circuits, physiology, behavior, self-report, etc.).  Determining which units of analysis to use will depend on the scientific hypothesis proposed, and scientific feasibility.
  2. Studies using a phased approach where phase 1 would support the testing and validating of the intervention’s mechanism of action (i.e., target identification and engagement), followed by additional studies relating the mechanism of action to functional or clinical effects (phase 2).  Applicants that do not propose assessment of a mechanism of action and its engagement as part of the research protocol will be viewed as non-compliant with the new NIMH intervention development requirements.  For a more complete description of this phased intervention development approach for a mentored career development award please refer to the NIMH R21/33 Exploratory Trials of Novel Interventions of Mental Disorders announcement .
  3. Pilot Studies of novel interventions, where there is already evidence of target engagement, for an evaluation of feasibility and acceptability of the intervention in a patient population, as well an evaluation of the relationship between change in the targeted mechanism and change in functional or clinical status.  For a more complete description of this intervention approach for a mentored career development award please refer to the NIMH R33 Exploratory Clinical Trials of Novel Interventions for Mental Disorders announcement .
  4. Research on the effectiveness of therapeutic, preventive, and services interventions (e.g., in broader target populations or community settings), including pilot studies that evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of approaches, as a pre-requisite to a larger-scale study, should be designed to explicitly address and re-confirm whether the intervention targets and associated change mechanisms identified under more controlled, efficacy conditions are operative in the effectiveness context. For a more complete description of this experimental approach please refer to NIMH R34 Pilot Effectiveness Studies and Services Research Grant announcement .

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consult with NIMH staff early in the process of developing an application see Agency Contacts.  Such early contact will provide an opportunity to ascertain NIMH policies and guidelines as well as to discuss how to develop an appropriate project timeline.