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Research Career Development (K) Award Success Rates and Future Award Prospects

NIAID’s Research Career Development (K) Awards program is meant to prepare the next generation for careers in our areas of science. Our latest analyses, completed in 2018, have shown a positive correlation between K awards and future success rates for independent NIH research awards.

We analyzed K applicant success rates, then compared how well those with and without K awards succeeded when applying for independent NIH research awards.

K Success Rates

As a starting point, we identified sets of applicants with and without K awards. Using the NIH IMPAC II database, we counted individuals who applied for one of the NIAID K programs in fiscal years (FYs) 2005, 2006, and 2007 (N=635). Those who applied more than once were counted only once.

We chose these years so there would be sufficient time for applicants to apply for an NIAID K award, have the award for up to five years, and apply for an independent NIH research (e.g., R01) award.

Table 1:  FY 2005 Through FY 2007 K Applicants

Career Development Award Type Activity Code Total K Applications K Application Awarded K Application Not Awarded Success Rate (percentage)
Specific Research K Awards K01 33 21 12 63
Specific Research K Awards K25 18 9 9 50
Clinical Training K Awards K08 249 114 135 46
Clinical Training K Awards K23 119 64 55 54
Transition K Awards K22 111 52 59 47
Transition K Awards K99* 105 10 95 9.5
Totals 635 270 365  

*Note: The K99 program started in FY 2007.

Success Rates for First Independent Awards

Using the same “K Application Awarded” and “K Application Not Awarded” groups from Table 1, we checked how many from each group successfully applied for their first R01, R01 Equivalent Grant, or other Research Project Grant (RPG) at NIH.

Our data show that those in the “K Applications Awarded” group were twice as likely to apply for NIH RPGs than those who did not previously get a K award.

Of those who applied for RPGs, those in the “K Application Awarded” group were roughly twice as likely to receive NIH RPGs (Figure 1) than those in the “K Application Not Awarded” group.

Figure 1:  NIH RPG Applications and Awards for the FY 2005 Through FY 2007 NIAID K Cohorts


K Award group outperforms No K Award group, 50 to 27 percent

These NIAID K outcomes are consistent with other research career development assessments such as the NIH K Awards Evaluation, Final Report, 2011 (PDF) and the Bol, Thijs, et. al, The Matthew Effect in Science Funding, PNAS, 2018.

After the First Independent Award

NIAID conducted a separate internal assessment of program outcomes, focusing on early NIAID-funded investigators (ENIs), defined as principal investigators who are within 10 years of receiving their first substantial, independent, competing NIAID R01-equivalent research award.

Our analysis studied a cohort of almost 1,500 ENIs who received their first R01 or R01-equivalent award from NIAID in the years 2003 through 2010. We followed the cohort through 2016 to assess their success when competing for a second independent NIH research award. 

The data showed that ENIs with a previous K award outperformed the rest of the cohort. Impressively, among the subset of ENIs with an M.D. or M.D./Ph.D., those with a previous K award were about 25 percent more likely to receive a second substantial research grant than those without a previous K award.

Learn more in Haggerty PA, Fenton MJ (2018) Outcomes of early NIH-funded investigators: Experience of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, PLoS ONE 13(9): e0199648.

For NIH-wide success rates, see the latest K award report at Success Rates on NIH RePORT. Find more data and statistics at NIH Extramural Training Mechanisms.

More Information

Learn more on the NIAID Research Career Development (K) Awards main page.

Email your questions to

She can also advise you on your eligibility for a particular K program and whether your proposed research aligns with NIAID if you send her your NIH-formatted biosketch and Specific Aims page. Learn more at Create Biosketches and Draft Specific Aims.

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