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NCCIH Research Blog

High-Risk, High-Reward Program Seeks Proposals From Exceptionally Creative Scientists

January 29, 2021

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Research

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

As a longtime member of the trans-National Institutes of Health (NIH) working group that oversees the High-Risk, High-Reward Research (HRHR) program, I enthusiastically encourage creative and bold investigators to explore this NIH Common Fund program, which supports exceptionally creative scientists pursuing highly innovative research with the potential for broad impact in biomedical, behavioral, or social sciences within the NIH mission. The HRHR program catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting research proposals that, due to their inherent risk, may struggle in the traditional peer-review process despite their transformative potential. 

Since HRHR funding opportunity announcements are posted each year in the spring with application due dates usually in the fall, I encourage interested researchers to learn now about the four types of HRHR funding opportunities available for different career stages: 

  • The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award enables investigators at all career levels to pursue new research directions and develop groundbreaking, high-impact approaches to a broad topic area.
  • The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award supports especially innovative research from early-career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received a research project grant or equivalent NIH grant.
  • The NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award promotes cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches and is open to individuals and teams who propose research that could potentially create or challenge existing paradigms.
  • The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award is for exceptional junior scientists who have recently received their doctoral degree or completed their clinical residency so that they may skip postdoctoral training and move into independent research positions.

In fiscal year 2020, NIH issued 10 Pioneer awards53 New Innovator awards14 Transformative Research awards, and 13 Early Independence awards. NCCIH is proud to have supported several innovative researchers in all four funding types over the years. The HRHR program has been a great way for NCCIH to bring outstanding investigators to our portfolio and leverage some Common Fund resources. The awardees study areas highly relevant to the NCCIH mission.

If you are intrigued and would like to learn more, I welcome you to save the date for the HRHR Symposium to be held June 911, 2021. Although this meeting may need to be held virtually, the working group will strive to include interactive components and offer opportunities for NIH staff office hours and networking in addition to scientific talks and posters by current awardees.

Please join the HRHR listserv to stay up-to-date on future events and funding opportunities.

More Information
View HRHR program information
View HRHR funded projects


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