Career Development Awards FAQs (K08/K23)

What is the difference between a K08 and K23 award from NIGMS?

At NIGMS, the only difference between these two awards is the type of research supported. The K23 is exclusively for patient-oriented research (or a combination of patient-oriented and laboratory research), while the K08 is for research that is not patient-oriented. All eligibility requirements, review criteria and budgetary limits are identical for the two awards. At NIGMS, both of these awards are intended for assistant professor-level clinician-scientists. If you have questions about your eligibility, contact one of the NIGMS program directors.

What research areas are supported by NIGMS K08/K23 awards?

NIGMS offers K08 and K23 awards in the following clinically related research areas: anesthesiology, clinical pharmacology, trauma and burn injury (including complications such as sepsis or organ failure), and wound healing.

Who can apply for a K08/K23 award?

These awards are intended to develop independent clinician-scientists, therefore, applicants must have a clinical degree and be actively involved in clinical duties. Eligible candidates may have an M.D., D.V.M., Pharm.D. or other equivalent clinical degree.

My application for permanent residency is pending. Can I apply for a K08 or K23?

Yes, you can apply for a K08 or K23 if your application for U.S. permanent residency is still pending. However, at the time of award, in order for an award to be issued, candidates must be U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals or legal permanent residents of the United States.

What are the salary and budget limits of NIGMS-supported K08 and K23s?

NIGMS requires that recipients of the K08 or K23 award devote a minimum of 75 percent effort to research and research-related activities. NIGMS provides up to $100,000 salary (plus fringe benefits) and up to $50,000 for supplies and research-related expenses. Fringe benefits are requested separately from the salary and are based on the salary requested. Your base salary is determined by your institution, not by NIGMS.

What can be covered by the $50,000 for research support?

The $50,000 for research support can be applied to supplies, animal costs, patient costs, travel to scientific meetings, equipment, technical support, statistical consultation services, tuition, etc.

Who will review my K08 or K23 application?

All NIGMS K08 and K23 applications are reviewed by study sections of the Center for Scientific Review. The majority of NIGMS K08/K23 applications are reviewed in the Surgery, Anesthesiology, and Trauma study section.

How do I designate a particular study section to review my application?

As with any application to NIH, you can include a cover letter to the Referral Office of the Center for Scientific Review suggesting both a potential funding institute or center (e.g., NIGMS) and a study section (e.g., Surgery, Anesthesiology, and Trauma).

Can I apply to NIGMS for a K08 or K23 if I do not yet have faculty status but expect it by the time the award would start?

Yes. Applicants must have secured a faculty appointment by the time the award is made, so they can apply if the appointment is pending at the time the application is submitted. This should be explained in the application and verified in the letter of support from your department chair.

My faculty position does not include any clinical duties; may I still apply for a K award from NIGMS?

No. The NIGMS K08 or K23 is designed to develop clinician-scientist investigators and one of the main purposes of these awards is to provide release time from clinical responsibilities for the awardee to devote to research and research-related activities.

What time commitment do I need to devote to my K award?

These awards require a minimum of 75 percent of full-time professional effort toward conducting research and research career development. The remaining 25 percent effort can be divided among other research, clinical and teaching activities only if these activities are consistent with the goals of the K23 award, i.e., the candidate's development into an independent clinician-scientist.

Do I need to have publications to apply for the K08 or K23?

Applicants for these K awards can have a range of previous research experience, but all are expected to demonstrate a commitment to pursuing a research career. This is typically demonstrated by having had some previous research experience and publications. While a range of previous research experience is accepted, an applicant with no publications would be seen as a poor candidate.

Who would be seen as too senior to apply for a K08 or K23?

If an individual has substantial research experience in his or her current area of research, a substantial publication record and preliminary data, s/he may be too senior for this mentored award, even if s/he is still a junior faculty member. Such individuals should consider applying for an independent-type grant mechanism such as the R01, R03 or R21.

Can I apply for an R01 grant during my K award?

Yes. In fact, awardees are encouraged to apply for independent grant support during the later years of their K awards. NIH policy allows NIH mentored career development award recipients in the final 2 years of their award to receive salary support from both their K award and an NIH research grant or subproject (see The K-award recipient must be the named principal investigator on a competing NIH research project grant (R01, R03, R15, R21, R34, etc.), or be the subproject director on a competing, multi-component research or center grant or cooperative agreement (P01, P50, U01, etc.).

Can a K08 contain a clinical trial?

Mentored career awards with patient-oriented studies, including clinical trials, should use the K23 mechanism, the Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award. However, keep in mind that the budgets on these K awards are limited to salary support and $50,000 for supplies and research-related expenses.

My salary is covered by my department, so can I use the salary money for supplies or a technician?

No. If you do not need the salary support to protect your time for your research, you should not apply for a K award.

What does NIGMS expect from a mentor on a K award?

The mentor on a K award serves to advise the candidate on both scientific and career issues and is his/her advocate at the institutional level. Since a K award often does not pay the full cost of salary and research support, the mentor, in conjunction with the department/institution, is expected to ensure that the K awardee has the protected time and the resources to complete the research project and career development plans as outlined in the funded application. The project for the K awardee should be one that will allow the candidate to distinguish his/her career from the mentor's, e.g., it cannot be one of the aims from the mentor's R01 grant. The K awardee should be free to take the project with her/him should s/he leave the institution.

Can I include a second mentor in my K application?

Yes. NIGMS encourages the inclusion of multiple mentors to provide the full range of scientific and career guidance required for your career development. It may be advisable to create an advisory or mentoring committee for this purpose.

My mentor is moving and I want to move with him/her. Is that possible?

Yes, as long as your project does not change substantially, the new institution will accept your grant and the new institution can provide an environment, resources and career development activities comparable to your current institution. You must contact your program director prior to submitting the paperwork to discuss the move and to be assured that it will, or will not, be approved.

My mentor is moving but I want to stay here. Is that possible?

Yes, as long as you can identify a new mentor, your project does not change and your department/division indicates that it will still support you. You can keep your current mentor as a long-distance co-mentor, as well. Be sure to discuss this with your program director, who will be the one to approve or disapprove the request.