One of the most frequent questions I get as the training officer at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is, “Should I apply for a K award or skip straight to an R?”
There are many things to consider before applying for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Career Development Award (or K award), and I encourage potential applicants to discuss the options with their mentors, colleagues, department chairs, and university officials. Here are a few points to discuss:
- Competition limited to similar career stage
- Opportunity for additional training and mentorship
- Protects 75% of your time
- Establishes track record of funding
- Opportunity to collect critical preliminary data to support independent research line
- Research funding limited
- Significant institutional support required (with small indirect cost %)
- Requires 75% of your time
- May be difficult to find qualified mentors
At NCCIH, we feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages most of the time, and we encourage early career investigators to apply for a K award.
If you decide “to K,” NCCIH currently supports five types of K awards, which are described on the NCCIH Training Web page, with links to each funding opportunity announcement (FOA). We offer the K99/R00 for postdoctoral students looking to transition to independence, three K awards (K01, K08, and K23) for early career investigators with either nonclinical or clinical/health-professional doctoral degrees pursuing basic or clinical research, and the K24 for midcareer investigators interested in mentoring new/early-stage investigators in clinical patient-oriented research. The NIH Research Training Web page also describes these K awards, along with several others supported by other NIH Institutes and Centers, in the “Career Development Kiosk,” and provides FAQs on career development awards. As described in a previous blog, all K awards are now issued as two different FOAs—one that requires a clinical trial, and one that does not allow independent clinical trials.
If you are considering applying for a K award, I encourage you to read the FOAs carefully and view the “Table of IC-Specific Information, Requirements, and Staff Contacts” available in the FOAs to get more information about NCCIH’s priorities for each mechanism. You can also contact me at email@example.com for advice on which K to choose and to discuss the fit of your science with NCCIH research priorities.