NINDS supports five categories of Loan Repayment Program (LRP), the Clinical Research LRP (L30), the Clinical Research LRP for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds (L32), the Pediatric Research LRP (L40), the Health Disparities Research LRP (L60), and the Research in Emerging Areas Critical to Human Health (REACH) LRP (L70). Application information and instructions regarding these extramural loan repayment programs can be found on the NIH Loan Repayment Program website. NINDS will only support loan repayment applications that are focused on research that falls within the NINDS mission. NINDS-specific guidelines are summarized below.
NINDS receives a large number of loan repayment applications. Consequently, a number of prioritizations are used. The first critical factor is the reviewer ratings. The highest ratings go to applicants with a clear and on-going dedication to research. This may be evidenced by receipt of individual funding, such as career (K) awards, a long-term publication record, or a publication record appropriate for a dedicated researcher at the experience level of the applicant. In addition, higher ratings are given to applicants who demonstrate through their application an ability or potential to develop a successful career as an independent investigator. Successful applications from individuals in a mentored career stage typically have, in addition to the research description, a clear description of their training plans, a well-considered statement from the mentor about the mentorship that will be provided, and the plans, including timeline and the accomplishments required, to achieve the next career milestone (individual grant, independent position, etc.). As stated in the LRP program and policy guidance, this information is not reviewed as a research or training grant would be – the research itself is not being critiqued. What is critical is the thoughtfulness of the planning, in research, training and mentorship, which demonstrates the commitment on the part of the applicant and mentor towards achieving the goal of becoming an independent investigator.
In addition, a critical goal of the NINDS loan repayment programs is to facilitate the ability of clinician-scientists who have substantial debt to significantly devote themselves to research, at the expense of a more lucrative clinical practice. Accordingly, priority is given to neurologists and neurosurgeons, as well as physicians in other specialties conducting research within the NINDS mission. Clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists and other clinicians, including physical therapists and veterinarians, are also strongly considered, but with a lower priority than the above mentioned groups. For the Pediatric Research LRP, highest priority is given to pediatric neurologists and other clinicians conducting pediatric research. Ph.D. scientists who do not have a clinical practice are eligible and may be funded if funds are available, but have the lowest programmatic priority for these NINDS loan repayment programs. Similar programmatic priorities will apply to the REACH LRP.
The New REACH LRP
Note that, through 2021, individuals conducting basic research that does not involve human subjects were only eligible for LRP support if they were conducting pediatric research (research that was directly applicable to pediatric neurobiology or patients). Starting in 2022, all investigators conducting basic research within the NINDS mission are likely to be eligible for support through the REACH LRP, providing that their research:
- will fill an important gap in knowledge about the mechanisms or treatment of neurological disorders and diseases
- will fill an important gap in understanding basic biological processes that are critical to understand how disease alters neurological function
- will expand research or open new avenues of investigation into neurological disorders and diseases
Reviewer comments for loan repayment applications are not provided to applicants (see the NIH Loan Repayment Program website). Because of the large volume of LRP applications, we are unable to provide very much in the way of personalized feedback about an application. If an application is not funded, it is acceptable to submit a new application in a subsequent year. Because official summary statements are not generated, and thus are not made available either to applicants or reviewers, applicants are not expected to indicate how their application differs from any earlier ones they may have submitted.