It is a much remarked fact that the age to first award of substantial independent funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been steadily increasing, such that "new investigators" are now, on average, in their early 40s before they get their first major research award (typically an R01). To this end the NIH put into place some new rules to help weight the review process in favor of meritorious new investigators. This lead to much hand wringing and foul crying because it meant that very established and experienced scientists could claim NI status just for not having had an R01.
For example, one might be a Research Associate Professor within the lab of a Greybeard or Bluehair and be made PI on a "new" grant, even though the work was to be done within the lab of the aforementioned senior faculty member. (As usual, I defer to the expert commentary of M'Learn'd Colleagues Drugmonkey & PhysioProf for more cogent discussion of these issues.)
To help out the poor unwashed masses of junior scientists a bit more, the NIH then brought in the Early Stage Investigator policy, which weights in favour of scientists who are less than 10 years from the completion of their terminal degree (PhD or MD).
here lies the rub, my friends, I am just a year out from that ESI cut off. It will be ten years next August that I graduated from my Alma Mater with my PhD (although, like most scientists I count the date of my successful defence and the great moment when my PhD advisor (a man who looked strikingly like Bill Murray) left the conference room where my committee had debated my performace and said, "Congratulations Dr. Brooks" with an enormous grin on his face. I admit, I burst into tears and gave him a hug).
So, given that the clock is well and truly ticking here, my current plan is to apply for an R21 this fall, and an R01 next year. Both should fall under the NI and ESI categories, because even if the R21 is funded it is not counted as a major award for determining NI status.There are two deadlines I can aim for with the R01 in 2013 to maintain the ESI status: February 5th and June 5th. Can I submit in February and then significantly re-write and submit as a new grant in June? Then if (when?) the February submission ricochets out without review, I have a bit of time to take any comments and tweak a new submission for June?
Now, I've worked on many, many, many grants over the last four years since I left the lab. I've contributed to old and new format R, U and P mechanism awards. But - I've never actually had to write a "whole" grant myself. and it needs to be a palpable hit to count if I'm to get my (assumed) resubmission in in time.
I won't be writing alone - I have a very good team of experts I work with and we'll craft this together, but the ideas, and the bulk of the work will be mine. They'll contribute some technical portions and language but that's all. It's going to be a busy few months I think...I'm debating cancelling our Christmas vacation to the UK...