You’re a new parent and a scientist. Somewhere between the sticky hands, tantrums, and lack of sleep, you’re 10 years into your academic career from earning your MD and/or PhD and you haven’t made the transition to an R yet. Your circadian rhythm is messed up from dealing with night feedings and nightmares (occasionally your child’s), so you’re starting to eye 4 AM as grant-writing time to quiet your funding anxiety. Sidebar: Don’t. Even superhumans need sleep. Sound familiar?

Exhale. As it turns out, the NIH recognizes this impossible tap dance derails your career progress a bit and has offered a temporary stay of execution: the Early Stage Investigator (ESI) extension request. If you gave birth, it’s an automatic 12 months per child. Dads, partners, adoptive parents, listen up, this is for you too. More on this later. Here are step by step instructions to complete this request in under 5 minutes. If only teaching your kid to deposit feces somewhere other than their pants were this easy!

  1. Log in to eRA Commons
  2. Click on Personal Profile

  1. In the Education Section, click Edit

  1. While in the Education section, scroll down to Early Stage Investigator Status and click ESI Extension Request.

  1. Enter the number of months you’re requesting. The NIH automatically approves 12 months per each child you gave birth to during the ten-year period after your terminal degree. For example, if you had two kids, enter 24 months. If you did not give birth, you can also request an extension in the same manner, but it will be reviewed on a case by case basis. The length of time they are likely to approve for these scenarios was not clear.

  1. Answer “Yes” to: Are you requesting an extension for childbirth(s) during your initial 10 years ESI period?
  2. Select a gender answer.
  3. Indicate # of children and their birthdays.
  4. Click save and submit.
  5. Breathe sigh of relief. Convince yourself the ballpoint pen scribbled all over your laptop and keyboard by your toddler is “chic” and fire it up to start working on your next grant with a newfound sense of optimism. Commit to doing something fun with your adorable children (disaster muppets?) this weekend too.

For more information (see Section IV):

Additional Resources

Grant funding strategy: Which grants to apply for?

What the F?: Funding for Childcare Costs Now Allowable

How a Flyer Changed Our Lives

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MC Ammons says:

I am a couple of years past my ESI status experation now; however, I did not request an extension for the two children I gave birth to during my ESI stage, as my NIH PO on my K award told me that NIH would only grant an extension based on my institutional maternity leave. As my institution at the time only granted me three days for my first child and two weeks for my second, it didn’t seem worth the request. An automatic 24 month extension would have been well worthwhile.

Hope says:

Thank you for posting!  I hadn’t caught and just applied for a 24 month extension. 

CG Simmons says:

Has anyone heard about how this is being generally applied to men/women who did not themselves gave birth? My husband was just denied an extension requested based on the birth of our son and we’re wondering if that’s common. He took the 6 weeks leave provided by his institution and is a fully involved parent and partner. 

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