K awards for research career development
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers a series of career development awards that invest in the next generation of scientists. These awards are available to postdocs and junior faculty, and some are even available to senior level researchers who are new to a field of study. The K-series awards are integrated with NIH institute/center programs.
What is a K award?
K-series awards are designed specifically to foster the research and academic development of outstanding scientists and enable them to expand their potential and make important scientific contributions. These awards typically provide up to five years of funding for training, research, and 75% of salary.
What’s different about a K award?
K awards are unique because they are designed to develop the candidate’s potential and move into an independent research career with their own R01. While you still need to have a strong research idea that will significantly impact future understanding and treatment of health and disease, you also need to convey to the reviewers your qualifications as a candidate specifically. This includes a robust career development and mentoring plan. And you need to explicitly describe how the award will grow your research skills and potential contributions.
Do I need a mentor?
Applying for a K award is a collaboration between you and your mentor, and the qualifications and statement by your mentor are part of the review criteria. Here are some tips for establishing a productive relationship:
- Form a mentoring committee
- Review and discuss your draft specific aims with your mentor and committee
- Discuss your career development plan with your mentor and committee
- Request strong letters of reference
- Request that your committee review your application
How to know which K award is right for you?
There are many types of K award mechanisms that are specific to different applicants and research interests. To find the one that’s best for you, visit the NIH’s K Kiosk.
Thinking about applying?
- Start planning 8-12 months in advance of submission
- Select a mentor
- Freshen up your CV and have your mentor review
- Make sure your publication record is competitive
- Decide which type of K award and to which institute you want to apply
- Talk to your program officer about your idea