Eligibility for the NINDS K99 Award

Eligibility for the NIH K99/R00 is defined as having no more than 4 years of postdoctoral research experience. (Please note:  Continuations of the Temporary Extension of Eligibility for the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award During the COVID-19 Pandemic - NOT-OD-21-106 and NOT-OD-22-062).  To ensure a fair and transparent process for all applicants, NINDS interprets this as follows:

  • Postdoctoral research experience includes all research activities once the doctoral research is completed. This includes time spent continuing in the predoctoral research lab and/or time spent employed in any other position in which research is expected to be performed. Applicants who have completed their doctoral research, leave their dissertation institution and begin a new research position on a research project not included as part of their dissertation will be considered to be doing postdoctoral research upon leaving their dissertation institution.
  • Eligibility is measured at the official receipt date for the K99/R00 application. Currently, this occurs on February 12, June 12 and October 12. NINDS provides a 12 day grace period. [Example: Applicants who start their postdoctoral research experience any time during the month of February are eligible to apply for the February 12 receipt date ~48 months after this postdoctoral research start date. In this example, applicants who begin their postdoctoral research experience (i.e. are employed in a research position following the completion of their doctorate) on or before January 31 are not eligible for the K99 by the February 12 receipt date ~48 months later. The last receipt date they are eligible for is the prior October 12 receipt date.] This eligibility deadline cannot be circumvented by submission of an application in advance of the receipt date. [Example: an application submitted through grants.gov on January 15 for the February 12 receipt date is considered to have been submitted on February 12 for the purposes of calculating eligibility.]
  • Receipt dates for amended K99/R00 applications are March 12, July 12 and November 12. For amended (A1) applications, the eligibility window will be extended to 49 months. This is intended to avoid the situation where an applicant has submitted an application at a prior submission date and would then be eligible to submit another new application by a standard receipt date, but would be ineligible to submit a revised application by the standard amended application receipt date.
  • The clock for determining K99 eligibility is stopped when a candidate is not employed in a position that has an expectation of research activity. For example, if a candidate finishes the doctoral research and spends time traveling (is not employed), or playing in a rock band, or teaching in a position that has no expectation of research activity, the time spent in these positions does not count towards the eligibility window.
  • The clock for determining K99 eligibility is stopped for an official leave of absence. This may, but doesn’t necessarily, involve illness, parental leave or family care. However, the clock can only be stopped by a documentable, official leave of absence. Time away from work for illness, vacation or other reasons that do not require an official leave of absence, except possibly in exceedingly rare, documentable occasions, do not stop the eligibility clock.
  • Consistent with the NIH Extension Policy for Early Stage Investigator Status (ESI), NINDS will consider an extension of one year for childbirth within the 4 year K99 eligibility window. Please see the NINDS Extension Policy for Eligibility Window for Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00)(pdf, 174 KB) (pdf, 171 kb) for more information.
  • Circumstances at work that impede progress do not influence the eligibility clock. Examples of this might include lab moves, animal colony loss, equipment breakdown or other similar categories of events that cause research delays. Exceptions to this might be considered on rare occasions for catastrophic events, such as Super Storm Sandy in 2012. Applicants are strongly urged to contact the NINDS Office of Training, Career Development and Workforce Diversity if they are in doubt about their eligibility, or if they think, based on the above, they might be eligible for an extension of the eligibility window, as strictly defined by all research experience from the day after completing the requirements for the doctorate to the receipt date for the K99/R00 application, approximately 48 months later.
  • NIH has a provision to extend the K99/R00 eligibility window when there’s a significant change in research area. NINDS will consider such a request when the change in research area consists of an applicant moving from wholly outside of biomedical research into biomedical research during the postdoctoral period. For example, a theoretical mathematician who has not directed his/her activities towards a biomedical problem, but chooses to move into biomedical research during a postdoctoral period, may be considered to have undergone a change in research area that justifies an extension of the K99 eligibility window. In contrast, a change within biomedical research, for example, from yeast genetics to systems neuroscience, would not be considered a change in research area that justifies the extension of the K99 eligibility window.

To be considered for the NINDS K99, applicants must provide, in their applications, the month and year that they completed the requirements for the doctorate (i.e. their dissertation committee signed the document stating that they successfully passed the defense of their dissertation). Applications that do not contain this information will not be considered for funding. When submitted applications are found to be missing this information, applicants will be asked to supply the information prior to review.