In these days in which having Early Stage Investigator or in some cases New Investigator status gets you an automatic bump on the payline, policy minutia becomes acutely interesting. I’ve run across one such today, thanks to Comrade PhysioProf.

Now, you might think that the moment your Notice of Grant Award is issued, your ESI/NI status evaporates. I would certainly have assumed that. So if you happen to have two fundable grant scores in the same round you could get the ESI bump on one and then be SOL on the other. This would be very unhilarious if you had one score which was only going to be funded because of the ESI consideration and one that was good enough to sneak under the regular payline and the latter happened to fund first. Oh, can you imagine the screaming???

But I digress. A query at writedit’s blog pointed to this FAQ entry at the NIH website.

What happens if an NI/ESI submits two different R01 applications, and NIH decides to fund the first application before the second application is reviewed?

NI and ESI status for an application is calculated based on investigator status on the date each application is submitted to Therefore, if the investigator submits a second R01 application before losing NI or ESI status, then the second application retains the NI or ESI status.

The commenter is hoping that this means his or her application retains the NI/ESI status after the first one is funded. Not quite the same thing, is it? And it is not just semantics. NI/ESI status is meaningful at the review stage, CSR has been grouping them recently and encouraging the reviewers to take note of the status for some time. So it does make a difference whether an application is designated at review or not. And this doesn’t mean that this carries over into when the funding decision is made. As the commenter found out.

Yeah, I did point this to the PO and he said he confirmed with the director of his extramural office that it’s not when you submit the grant, but when you get funding.

So, no disconnect here. At first I was wondering if perhaps the IC in question had a policy that was slightly stricter than the overall NIH but I don’t think this is true. I think there is a real and meaningful difference in policy that affects review and policy that affects funding in this case.