Assistant Clinical Investigator
An Assistant Clinical Investigator (ACI) (1 and 2) is a NIH employee on a time-limited appointment and selected through a selective merit-based national search. The position is intended for clinicians whose abilities and focus in research would make them candidates for an independent research career path. Thus, this position aims to provide clinical investigators with advanced mentoring, independent resources, and added time to expand their scientific talents, knowledge, and research as they prepare to be competitive to apply for a tenure-track position at NIH or elsewhere. A key component to the Assistant Clinical Investigator is a robust mentoring plan, which should be developed by the IC from the beginning, when selecting for the position. All Assistant Clinical Investigators require NIH clinical credentialing. The ACI must be involved at least 20% of their time in direct patient-related activities.
Assistant Clinical Investigators enter these positions following completion of clinical research experience as Clinical Fellows or beyond (i.e., some form of postdoctoral training or equivalent). This training may have occurred inside or outside of NIH. Although there are no formal criteria for the length of postdoctoral training, training must be sufficient to allow for an evaluation of the scientist’s potential for independent work.
The Assistant Clinical Investigator position represents a commitment by an Institute or Center (IC) of independent resources, including salary, operating budget, personnel, and space. Appointments as an ACI are for three years, with two possible 1-year extensions, for a maximum of five years as an ACI. The use of resources allocated to an ACI must be reviewed.
Assistant Clinical Investigator 2 is a designation for ACIs who, based on their clinical specialty and credentials, require salaries above Executive Level IV. ACI-2 appointments should be rare. The ACI-2 designation is reserved for individuals who not only fulfill the definition above, but also possess the following HHS-required criteria:
- Evidence of recognition as a national or international expert in the field, such as: specific experience (e.g., board certification); invited manuscripts, presentations and/or consultations, receipt of honors and awards or other recognition for noteworthy performance of contributions to the field
- Evidence of original clinical, scientific, or scholarly contributions of major significance in the field (e.g., grand rounds presentations)
- Evidence of leadership in the field (e.g., attending physician or chief resident, member of institutional committee such as IRB)
- Special knowledge and skills of benefit to the IC or NIH (e.g., high programmatic demand at NIH for the medical specialty).
An Assistant Clinical Investigator (1 and 2) is a Full-Time Equivalent Employment (FTE) position.
An IC-based (not DDIR-approved) search process is required when selecting an Assistant Clinical Investigator, as well as a review and approval of the selectee by both the IC's Scientific Director (SD) and the Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR).
Assistant Clinical Investigator 1 appointments are made using Title 42(g). Assistant Clinical Investigator 2 term appointments are made using Title 5/Title 38. The position of ACI-2 must first go through the Title 5 exhaustion process, established through the Office of Human Resources (OHR). If a suitable candidate is selected, then the normal set of ACI approvals, including that of the DDIR, are required. If a suitable candidate is not selected through the Title 5 exhaustion process, as certified by OHR and approved by the NIH Principal Deputy Director, then the recruitment of a Title 42(f) candidate can continue. All Assistant Clinical Investigator 2 appointments are made following peer review and recommendation by the Title 42(f) Peer Review Committee (T42FPRC) and approval by the DDIR. This committee is often chaired by the DDIR.
Depending on salary level and other pay components proposed, review and approval is required from both the IC Title 42 Standing Committee and the NIH Clinical Compensation Panel (NCCP). Please consult the Title 42 Pay Model for additional information.
For Assistant Clinical Investigators that require clinical credentialing, an additional approval must be received from the Director, CC (or delegate) after recommendation by the Clinical Center (CC) Credentials Committee and the Medical Executive Committee (MEC). For further information, please contact the Office of Credentialing Services, Clinical Center (OCS/CC) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-496-5937.
Check Sheets / Checklists
There is currently no Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR) -approved check sheet or checklist for the Assistant Clinical Investigator designation. Below is an approval memo regarding the addition of the Assistant Clinical Investigator designation.
- Assistant Clinical Investigator-1 Appointment Check Sheet
- Assistant Clinical Investigator-2 or Assistant Clinical Investigator-HS Appointment Check Sheet
- Assistant Clinical Investigator Approval Memo
Individual ICs may have additional requirements, check sheets, and/or checklists. Please contact your Administrative Officer (AO) or HR Specialist for additional guidance.
Intramural scientists at the NIH, as is true for all scientists, should be committed to the responsible use of scientific tools and methods to seek new knowledge. While the general principles of scientific methodologies are universal, their detailed application may differ in various scientific disciplines and circumstances. All research staff in the Intramural Research Program should maintain exemplary standards of intellectual honesty in formulating, conducting, presenting, and reviewing research, as befits the leadership role of the NIH.
Within the NIH IRP, the ethical conduct of researchers is governed by the following three disciplines:
Ethics information may also be available through your specific IC. Please contact your Ethics Counselor for additional guidance.
Pay / Compensation
Pay and compensation for Assistant Clinical Investigators is contingent on the specific appointment mechanism.
Pay and compensation for Title 42 appointed Assistant Clinical Investigators is based on the Title 42 Pay Model. Depending on salary level and other pay components proposed, review and approval is required from both the IC Title 42 Standing Committee and the NCCP.
Recruitment Process / Appointment Mechanisms
Recruitment of an Assistant Clinical Investigator 1 is made via Title 42(g) while Assistant Clinical Investigator 2s are generally made via Title 42(f). Both require a competitive national search that has been approved by the SD. Appointments must be approved by the DDIR and are made for three years, with two possible 1-year extensions. This time will allow the Assistant Clinical Investigator to establish himself or herself as a competitive candidate to apply for a tenure-track position at NIH or elsewhere.
Additionally, the position of ACI-2 must first go through the Title 5 exhaustion process, established through the Office of Human Resources (OHR). Please consult the Title 5 exhaustion requirements identified in the Approvals (Process) section above for additional information.
For information regarding appointment mechanisms, please visit:
Assistant Clinical Investigator appointments are generally made via a Title 42(g), time-limited, renewable appointment for three years, with two possible 1-year extensions. The appointment and resources allocated should be documented in a letter of agreement filed with the DDIR, along with the candidate's CV and required mentoring plan.
The Assistant Clinical Investigator position is granted independent resources (salary, operating budget, personnel, and space) by their Institute. The amount of research support, however, must depend on the quality of science as determined by the Lab/Branch Chief, Scientific Director, and/or Clinical Director. Based on these and other reviews (assessing the productivity and quality of work), resources may be adjusted up or down by the IC.
Assistant Clinical Investigator appointments may be terminated before their expiration date for cause (e.g., personal or scientific misconduct), unsatisfactory performance, or administrative reasons, including but not limited to, programmatic changes and/or budgetary considerations. Terminations should be communicated to the Assistant Clinical Investigator at least 12 months before the Not to Exceed date. IC’s are required to notify the DDIR of all terminations and resignations. A decision not to renew the ACI appointment does not constitute a termination. However, sufficient notice should be given to the ACI (1 or 2) according to the policies stipulated by their appointment mechanism (e.g., Title 42(g), Title 5-term, Title 42(f)).
This page was last updated on Thursday, July 13, 2023