The NIH Director's Pioneer Award supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose highly innovative approaches to addressing major challenges in the biomedical or behavioral sciences towards the goal of enhancing human health. The NIH recognizes a unique and compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical and behavioral research workforce and expects its efforts to lead to the recruitment of the most talented researchers from all groups. Thus, this Funding Opportunity Announcement encourages applications from talented researchers from diverse backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical/behavioral research, including underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and women. Applications proposing research on any topic within the broad mission of NIH are welcome.
Emphases are on the qualities of the investigator and the innovativeness and potential impact of the proposed research. Preliminary data and detailed experimental plans are not requested. To be considered pioneering, the proposed research must reflect substantially different ideas from those being pursued in the investigator’s current research program or elsewhere. The Pioneer Award is not intended to expand a current research program into the area of the proposed project. While the research direction may rely on the applicant’s prior work and expertise as its foundation, it cannot be an obvious extension or scale-up of a current research enterprise which may be competitive as a new or renewal R01 application. Rather, the proposed project must reflect a fundamental new insight into the potential solution of a problem, which may develop from exceptionally innovative approaches and/or radically unconventional hypotheses. Applications for projects that are extensions of ongoing research should not be submitted.
Pioneer awardees are required to commit the major portion (more than 6 person-months or at least 51%) to activities supported by the Pioneer Award research project in the first three years of the project period. Effort expended toward teaching, administrative, or clinical duties should not be included in this calculation. Awardees will be allowed to reduce effort to at least 4 person-months (33%) and at least 3 person-months (25%) in the fourth and fifth years, respectively, to help them transition to other sources of support, since Pioneer Awards cannot be renewed. Applicants with current research commitments equal to 6 person-months or more must adjust their effort on existing grants during the award to devote the required minimum effort to the Pioneer Award project. Applicants who will not be able to meet this requirement should not submit applications.
The NIH Director's Pioneer Award is part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program funded through the NIH Common Fund, which supports cross-cutting programs that are expected to have exceptionally high impact. All Common Fund initiatives invite investigators to develop bold, innovative, and often risky approaches to address problems that may seem intractable or to seize new opportunities that offer the potential for rapid progress.