Independent Scientist Awards (K02) allow investigators time off from teaching or clinical duties to allow them to concentrate efforts on advancing their research career.
One review concern arises with applicants who are full-time researchers. Because the K02 enables an investigator to concentrate on building his or her research career, full-time researchers can do so without further support. These investigators must provide justification by identifying career development activities that are not possible through regular research grant funding. In contrast, an investigator in a conventional academic position or who has clinical or administrative duties can identify how it allows time off from other duties and so facilitates advancing a research career.
Typical activities during a K02 include developing collaborative relationships with other investigators and laboratories and acquiring skills or additional training. The release from teaching, clinical or administrative responsibilities also allows the possibility of extended visits to other research sites to develop collaborations or learn particular techniques.
The K02 provides money for salary, but does not provide funds to conduct research; these funds must be provided by another research grant. The K02 requires the individual to have a research grant (e.g., an R01) to cover these costs before it is awarded.
A K02 candidate is expected to have had prior success in obtaining independent (R01-type) funding, but not be a senior investigator, indicating the time is unnecessary. The K02 allows the investigator to concentrate on building his or her research career. A typical transition constitutes a move from an R01 to multiple R01s, or from an R01 to a full-time research role.
The K02 does not require a training component and does not require a mentor. However, the candidate can choose coursework as part of the career development plan. This award allows highly promising individuals the protected time to establish themselves as leaders in their own field. The application is judged by how promising the applicant is, the need for the time, and what the candidate intends to do with the time.