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NIGMS Funding for Investigators with Substantial Unrestricted Research Support


Because research funds are limited and many outstanding biomedical scientists are deserving of support, NIGMS believes that, to sustain the research enterprise and maximize opportunities for significant scientific advances, it is essential to have a diverse research portfolio with a wide array of investigators and topics. Awarding R01s and other research grants to investigators with substantial levels of long-term, unrestricted research funding requires careful consideration, because these researchers already have resources from other agencies or organizations that support overall research programs rather than individual projects. Although moderate levels of additional research funding to such well-supported investigators can in some instances produce significant returns on NIGMS’ investment, these investments need to be carefully managed to ensure that the Institute’s research portfolio is optimally diversified and that it can support as many talented and productive research groups as possible.

In advising potential applicants and making funding decisions, NIGMS staff carefully considers each investigator’s overall research support, including institutional support.


Investigators with substantial, long-term, unrestricted research support may generally hold no more than one NIGMS research grant. For the purposes of these guidelines, investigators with substantial, long-term, unrestricted support (“unrestricted investigators”) would have at least $400,000 in unrestricted support (direct costs per year excluding the principal investigator’s salary and direct support of widely shared institutional resources, such as NMR facilities) that extends at least 2 years beyond the onset of funding the NIGMS grant. As in all cases, if NIGMS funding of a grant to an investigator with substantial, long-term, unrestricted support would result in total direct costs from all sources exceeding $750,000, National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council approval would be required through the standard process.


Effective for applications submitted on or after January 2, 2016:

  • An unrestricted investigator with no other significant research support may be awarded one new or renewal NIGMS project-based research grant (R01 or R35).
  • Except in rare, well-justified situations within the sole discretion of NIGMS (such as highly unique scientific opportunities or research in areas that NIGMS considers to be of very high priority that would otherwise not be supported), an unrestricted investigator with additional significant research support (NIH or other grant) will not be awarded a new NIGMS research grant, consistent with NIGMS’ $750,000 policy.
  • If an NIGMS-funded investigator who has two or more NIGMS research grants becomes an unrestricted investigator, the investigator will be expected to renew no more than one of the existing NIGMS grants. At the time the earliest competing continuation application is due, the investigator will need to choose which grant(s) to terminate.
  • Funded participation in an NIGMS program project grant (P01), center grant (e.g., P41, P50, U54) or multi-PI R01 will usually be counted as an unrestricted investigator’s NIGMS research grant support. In rare, well-justified situations within the sole discretion of NIGMS (such as highly unique scientific opportunities or research in areas that NIGMS considers to be of very high priority that would otherwise not be supported), such support may be permitted in addition to one NIGMS R01or R35. An unrestricted investigator who participates in one of these grants as an associate member but derives no support from the grant would still be eligible to hold another NIGMS research grant.
  • The following types of grants are not counted for the purposes of these guidelines: training grants, support for educational and diversity-enhancing programs, resource grants, conference grants, SBIR/STTR and clinical trial grants. Unrestricted investigators may be PIs on these types of awards without having it count as their one NIGMS research grant.
  • An investigator whose unrestricted research support is being phased out within 2 years of the funding date will be considered as not having unrestricted research support. Normal budgetary scrutiny, including the NIGMS $750,000 policy, will still apply.

In keeping with federal grants administration statutes, regulations and policies, unrestricted investigators under consideration to receive new or continuing support from NIGMS must provide a detailed, accurate accounting of all their research support, including unrestricted support. When reporting other support, investigators should describe their other research projects in sufficient detail that NIGMS staff and Council members can determine the differences between the proposed NIGMS project and research supported by other sources. Investigators are encouraged to explain any appearance of overlapping research goals and should report the time commitment to each existing project.


Unrestricted research support is monetary support from any agency, organization or institution that is not project-based and may be used to conduct research on a broad topic at the discretion of the principal investigator. Investigators with unrestricted research support include but are not limited to Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, holders of endowed chairs that fund an undefined research project or projects, recipients of unrestricted gifts designed to support research, and staff at scientific institutes that provide long-term research funding (not including start-up funds). Such support is defined as unrestricted if it extends for at least 2 years from the time of funding the NIGMS grant.

An unrestricted investigator is an investigator with unrestricted research support.

Substantial research support is $400,000 or more per year in direct costs excluding the principal investigator’s salary and direct support of widely shared institutional resources.

Long-term refers to research support that extends at least 2 years from the time an NIGMS grant would be awarded.

This page last reviewed on October 30, 2015