Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Should new investigators apply for NIH Challenge Grants (RC1)?

I am looking more into the NIH Challenge Grant (RC1) opportunities that are part of the US stimulus bill. The specific question in my mind right now is: "Does it make sense for new investigators (like me) to apply for RC1 grants?" The reasons I ask are (a) because winning an RC1 removes the "new investigator" status from a PI, and (b) there is no "new investigator" preference in RC1 reviews.

The NIH has a specific definition for "new investigator", which is any investigator who has not been PI on any PHS-supported project other than a "small" one, such as a K-award or R-21 grant. New investigators get many benefits in review of R01 grants, including:
  • Instructions to the study section to go easy on the new investigators (again, see the link from the Center for Scientific Review).
  • Center-specific practices to increase paylines and grant duration for new investigators. For example, the NCI in the past extended the payline from the 11th percentile to the 16th percentile. The NHGRI was not as specific, but they also increased the payline and also strive to support new investigators for 5 years.
These new investigator benefits are a big deal, and I am counting on them in any hope I have of getting an R01 in the next couple years. According to the RFA for the Challenge Grants:

New PIs and Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) are invited to apply for Recovery Act Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research. Because the awards made under this program are substantial competing NIH research grants, recipients will not be considered New PIs or ESIs when they apply for NIH research grants in the future.

Thus, if I were to win a two-year RC1, I would no longer be considered a "new investigator" for future R01 applications
. This is a serious issue to consider. Two years of funding would be great, but five years of funding would be much better. Furthermore, this rule, combined with other language in the RFA makes me wonder whether new investigators will be frowned upon overall in the review process?

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this issue? I am heavily leaning towards not applying for RC1. But I also know that I'm biased by the fact that I just submitted a couple grant applications (to other agencies) and the thought of doing another one in the next three weeks is really not appealing!

SJK Note added 8:06 PM: Another negative is that there are no resubmissions of RC1s, since it is a one-time program.

SJK Note 4/2/09: Friendfeed comments.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.