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Frequently Asked Questions
Research Enhancement Award (R15)
Last Revised: July 22, 2019

  A. General R15 Questions

  1. What are the goals of the R15 program?

    The goals of the R15 are to:

    • support meritorious research,
    • expose students to research, and
    • strengthen the research environment of the institution. 
  2. Which institutions does the R15 program target?

    The R15 supports small-scale research projects at educational institutions that provide baccalaureate or advanced degrees for a significant number of the Nation’s research scientists but that have not been major recipients of NIH support.

    Beginning with due dates on/after February 25, 2019, the R15 will include two programs.

    1. Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) for Undergraduate-Focused Institutions
    2. Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) for Health Professional Schools and Graduate Schools 
  3. What is meant by “undergraduate focused institution”?
    This is an institution or academic component within the institution that has a greater undergraduate student enrollment than its graduate student enrollment. Eligible institutions could be small Colleges or universities in which the undergraduate student enrollment is larger than the graduate enrollment. "Undergraduate-focused institution" includes a large number and variety of institution types. At a minimum they must award a bachelors in biomedical sciences, but they could also award advanced degrees.
  4. My initial application was submitted to the R15 parent opportunity. Can I submit my Resubmission/Renewal/Revision application using a non-parent opportunity.

    Yes, Resubmission/Renewal/Revision applications can be submitted to non-Parent R15 PA/PAR opportunities as long as the applicant organization and the PI meet the eligibility criteria of the new FOA.

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  B. R15 Organization Eligibility

  1. What organizations are eligible to apply for R15 AREA and REAP funding?

    Each funding opportunity announcement includes detailed eligibility information that supersedes any general information listed here. 

    Organization eligibility for the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program for undergraduate-focused institutions

    • The applicant institution must be an accredited public or non-profit private school that grants baccalaureate degrees in biomedical sciences. 
    • Undergraduate enrollment must be greater than the graduate enrollment.
    • At the time of application submission, all the non-health professional components of the institution together have not received support from the NIH totaling more than $6 million per year (in both direct and F&A/indirect costs) in 4 of the last 7 fiscal years. Note that all activity codes are included in this calculation except the following: C06, S10, and all activity codes starting with a G.
    • A signed letter is required from the Provost or similar official with institution-wide responsibility verifying the eligibility of the applicant institution at the time of application submission.

    Organization eligibility for the Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) program for health professional schools and graduate schools

    • The applicant organization must be an accredited public or non-profit private school that grants baccalaureate or advanced degrees in health professions or advanced degrees in biomedical and behavioral sciences. 
    • At the time of application submission, the applicant institution may not have received support from the NIH totaling more than $6 million per year (in both direct and F&A/indirect costs) in 4 of the last 7 fiscal years. Note that all activity codes are included in this calculation except the following: C06, S10, and all activity codes starting with a G.
    • A signed letter is required from the Provost or similar official with institution-wide responsibility verifying the eligibility of the applicant institution at the time of application submission.

  2. How do I decide whether to apply to the REAP or AREA R15 opportunities? Is eligibility determined by the student population or the institution?

    Student population is a consideration for eligibility of the AREA funding opportunity announcements (FOAs), but the faculty’s primary appointment is the first consideration to determine whether one applies for REAP vs. AREA.  Faculty with a primary appointment in a Health Professional School is only eligible for the REAP FOAs.  Likewise, faculty with a primary appointment in a non-Health Professional or Graduate School is only eligible for the AREA FOAs.


    The next step is to determine organizational eligibility using the unique set of instructions for your correct FOA.  This includes financial eligibility, and (only for AREA) student enrollment.


    Also be sure to select the FOA with the correct clinical trials designation (e.g., Clinical Trial Not Allowed, Clinical Trial Required).


    See R15 Eligibility Decision Tree.

  3. Are the AREA and REAP programs meant to be mutually exclusive?

    Yes.  Each program targets a different pool of faculty. REAP targets faculty at Health Profesional Schools or Graduate Schools and AREA targets undergraduate-focused institutions that are not Health Professional  or Graduate Schools.

    A given institution could have faculty that would be eligible for each program, but the same set of faculty would not be eligible for both programs based on their primary departmental appointment.

  4. Can an institution theoretically have both R15 awards (REAP and AREA)?

    Yes, if the university in total has no more than $6M in NIH funding in 4 of the last 7 years, then Health Professional School faculty could have a REAP and faculty with primary appointments in non-HPS could have an AREA.  The REAP and AREA FOAs would serve different faculty at this university. 


    For example, for faculty with a primary appointment in the College of Nursing, REAP is their only option.  They then calculate organizational eligibility on a university-wide basis.  If the university is under the $6M limit requirement in 4 of the last 7 years, then the PI can apply for the REAP FOAs.


    Regardless of financial eligibility and calculation, the fact that the faculty has a primary appointment in a HPS makes them ineligible for AREA.  All types of Health Professional Schools are not eligible to apply for the AREA FOAs.


    For faculty with a primary appointment in the College of Arts and Sciences, where the undergraduate enrollment is greater than the graduate enrollment, and all non-HPS colleges and schools at the university have under the $6M limit requirement in 4 of the last 7 years, then the PI can apply for the AREA FOAs.
  5. Is there a limit to the number of either award type that an institution can have (e.g., more than one REAP and/or AREA)?

    There is no a limit to the number of either award type that an institution can have.  However, once an institution reaches more than $6M in any NIH funding in 4 of the last 7 years, then they will be ineligible for R15s. There is no limit on the number of grants to an institution otherwise.

  6. What is meant by the wording in the REAP FOA: “a College is a stand-alone entity and not a component of a university system.”?

    For REAP, a College is itself a self-contained institution and is not affiliated with a university system.  A college that is part of a larger institution may be eligible for REAP if (1) they are a health professional or graduate school as defined by the FOA and NIH glossary, and (2) if the entire institution has received no more than $6 million per year of NIH support (total costs) in 4 of the last 7 years.


  7. My institution has 3 campuses which are in different locations. When considering total NIH funding for REAP, do I calculate the total NIH funding across all 3 campuses, or just the campus where I work?

    If the campuses are part of a single institution that confers degrees under the same name, then the calculation should include all campuses.

  8. My research program has a strong focus on undergraduates, am I eligible to apply for AREA
    Having a strong focus on undergraduates is not sufficient to meet the eligibility criteria of the AREA FOA.
  9. Should subawards be included in the calculation for organization eligibility?
    NIH issues awards to a recipient institution, who then enters into subawards with other entities. Funds issued as subawards to other entities where the R15 applicant organization is the primary recipient do count, as these funds have been awarded to the recipient on a Notice of Award. Subawards in which the applicant is the subaward recipient should not be counted. The award is not made directly to the institution and can be changed or cut out by the primary recipient.
  10. Does NIH still maintain a list of ineligible institutions to help determine if my institution is eligible for an R15 award?

    No. NIH no longer maintains a list of ineligible institutions. Instead, institutions are responsible for determining their own eligibility. At the time of application submission, a signed letter is  required from the Provost or similar official with institution-wide responsibility verifying the eligibility of the applicant institution.

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  C. R15 PD/PI s and Collaborators

  1. Can a PD/PI, or one PD/PI if multiple PD/PIs are proposed, have an active NIH research grant?

    PD/PIs on R15 applications cannot be the PD/PI or multiple PD/PI of any active NIH research grant at the time of the award. Although the R15 is intended to be the PI's only NIH research grant, it does not preclude the PD/PI from receiving other NIH research grants after the R15 is awarded. Additionally, the PD/PI can work on another PD/PI's grant as a collaborator or other key personnel at the time the R15 is awarded.

  2. When multiple PD/PIs are proposed, must all PD/PIs involved and their institutions be R15-eligible?
    Yes, each PD/PI must have an appointment at an R15-eligible institution and must not be the PD/PI of any other NIH research grant.
  3. Can I serve as a collaborator on an NIH grant at the time my R15 is awarded?
    While the R15 is intended to support small scale projects, an individual could serve as a collaborator, consultant, or subcontractor on an NIH grant at the time they are awarded an R15 as a PI. However, at the time the R15 is awarded, an individual could not be a Multiple PI on another research-related grant.
  4. Can a PD/PI have more than 1 active R15 award?
    No. The PD/PI may not be awarded more than one R15 grant at a time.
  5. Can I have a collaborator who is at an ineligible institution?
    It is acceptable to have a R15-ineligible collaborator, consultant, or subcontractor. Collaborators add needed skills to a project.   If you do not have the appropriate expertise for your proposed Research Plan or access to needed equipment, facilities, reagents, or other resources, adding a collaborator or consultant can help you fill these gaps.
    However, as the role of that ineligible collaborator is developed, it is important from the perspective of merit to keep the goals and unique review criteria of the R15 in mind. These include:
    • Availability of research opportunities to students
    • Potential to have a substantial effect on the institution/academic component in terms of strengthening the research environment and exposing students to research
    • The PI’s experience supervising students in research
    • Evidence the project can stimulate the interests of students to consider a career in biomedical/behavioral science, availability of well-qualified students and evidence students have or are likely to pursue biomedical careers.
  6. Is there a cap on funds requested for collaborators or a Co-Investigator at a R15 ineligible institution?

    There are no unique budget restrictions for R15 grants.  With a clear justification, funds can be requested for personnel at any level of effort.  

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  D. Preparing and Submitting an R15 Application

  1. Where can I get help preparing my application?

    It is helpful to be proactive, talk to program staff and talk to successful applicants. In addition, many NIH Institutes publish guides and tips on their Web sites, some of which are listed here http://grants.nih.gov/grants/grant_tips.htm.

    Additional useful resources include:

    Also, your school probably has an Office of Sponsored Programs or Office of Research Development that can assist you with developing your application.

  2. Whom should I contact regarding questions about Institute/Center (IC) research interests?

    The Funding Opportunity Announcement is a great starting point and Section VII includes Scientific/Research contacts for each participating Institute/Center (IC).

    The AREA grant research objectives supported by each IC may be found at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/area_grant_objectives.htm.

    Contact information for representatives of each IC may be found at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/parent_R15.html
  3. Should I include a collaborator or consultant?
    Collaborators add needed skills to a project. If you do not have the appropriate expertise for your proposed Research Plan or access to needed equipment, facilities, reagents, or other resources, adding a collaborator or consultant can help you fill these gaps.
  4. My students have generated preliminary data and helped design experiments. Where can I indicate this in my application?

    You can describe this in the Research Strategy attachment of the Research Plan form and will count towards the 12-page limit. 

    This could include descriptions of how past students have participated in research activities like experimental planning, execution and analysis, how past students have contributed to data generation, and how future students will be involved in similar activities. The Biographical Sketch should specify if peer-reviewed publications or other research products have involved undergraduate students
  5. I would like to include a timeline that reflects my research plan and students’ academic year schedules. Under which section of the application can I include the timeline?

    This information should be included in the Research Strategy attachment of the Research Plan form and will count towards the 12-page limit.

  6. Do I need to identify specific students in the application?

    If it is not possible to name specific students in the application, then in the budget justification, an applicant should identify the number and level (for example, sophomore) of students. The applicant can describe the criteria that will be used to select students. For example, applicants might propose to choose from among those students who have completed particular classes or who are pursuing specific majors.

  7. What information should the application include about the plans to include students?

    The application should focus on plans to expose students to hands-on meritorious research and what activities undergraduate and/or graduate students (depending on opportunity) will participate in. The application should also convey how the project will stimulate students’ interest in biomedical sciences.

    Since the R15 is a research grant, not a training or fellowship award, it should not include training or mentoring plans like professional development activities, coursework, seminars, etc.

  8. What should I put as my start date?

    There are 3 cycles per fiscal year. The earliest project start date depends on when you submit your application.


    Cycle 1

    Cycle 2

    Cycle 3

    Scientific Merit Review

    June - July

    October – November

    February – March

    Advisory Council Round

    August or October



    Earliest Project Start Date

    September or December



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  E. R15 Budgets

  1. Do Modular Grant guidelines apply to this FOA?

    It depends upon the total amount of direct costs requested for all years of the award.   

    If you are requesting $250,000 or less in direct costs for the entire (1, 2, or 3-year) budget period, use the PHS398 Modular Budget format.  If you are requesting $250,001 - $300,000 in direct costs for the entire budget period, use the R&R Budget format.  Please note that the budget amounts used to determine whether the PHS398 Modular Budget form or R&R Budget form should be used exclude the indirect costs on subcontracts (consortium F&A).

    R15 grants are multi-year funded (MYF) awards, so the entire budget, for all years of the award, must be requested in the first budget year.

  2. Can I include a subaward in my budget request?

    Yes.  There are no specific restrictions in what is requested in a budget, and applicants have a lot of leeway.  However, keep these R15 criteria in mind: student involvement in primary research, improvement of the R15-eligible institution, and impact on the R15-eligible investigator.  Dollars diverted to a subaward need to be well justified. 

  3. Do I need to request student salaries in my budget?

    Students must be compensated for their participation in the lab's research. Salaries can be requested for students in the R15 budget or other resources at the university can be used to pay them for their participation. For the AREA program, undergraduate students must comprise the majority of the research team, but NIH appreciates that undergraduates are entry level wage earners, and there may not be a 1:1 correlation between the composition of the research team and the budget. This means student compensation of any type should be stated explicitly in your budget justification.

  4. Is there a fixed stipend for undergraduate students for their work in the summer or a minimum hourly wage?

    Stipends are payments made to individuals under fellowship or trainnig awards. NIH does not fund fixed stipends forr undergraduates on R15 awards.

    Applicants should describe student compensation explicitly. Although there is no set stipend for undergraduates in this program, students within the institution should be treated equitably. Undergraduate students who are compensated from the R15 grant or other institutional funds should receive at least the national minimum wage. Compensation through course credit hours towards graduation is allowable, but must be justified. If universities/colleges provide room and board for summer research students, details must be provided in the application.

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  F. Review Process

  1. What type of group will review my R15?
    R15s may be reviewed either in a standing study section (http://public.csr.nih.gov/StudySections/Standing/Pages/default.aspx) that also reviews other mechanisms like R01, R21, and R03 or in a Special Emphasis Panel assembled for one review meeting. For each review cycle, CSR scientific review officers and Integrated Review Group chiefs decide which option will provide the most appropriate expertise for the current group of R15 applications.

    In a standing study section, applications are clustered separately from other mechanisms; i.e., R15 are considered relative only to other R15s for streamlining and R15s are discussed one after another. 
  2. Where do I find the study section rosters?
    Rosters of the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) study sections are available at http://www.csr.nih.gov/Committees/rosterindex.asp

    Since Special Emphasis Panels (SEPs) are assembled for a specific meeting, there are no rosters of standing panels. Rosters are posted 30 days prior to a meeting and available on the CSR website or from your NIH Commons account, which lists information pertaining to your application.

    The CSR website also has descriptions of the scientific areas covered by each study section at http://www.csr.nih.gov/review/irgdesc.htm
  3. Can I request a study section in the Assignment Request Form?
    You can request up to 3 study sections in your Assignment Request Form. You should also describe the expertise needed to review the application. You can list up to five types of expertise using 40 characters for each type. Scientific Review Officers and their Integrated Review Group chiefs decide whether review in a study section or a Special Emphasis Panel will bring the most appropriate expertise for R15s reviewed each cycle. However, the expertise terms and study section request are still helpful in referring applications to the appropriate Integrated Review Group.
  4. Do reviewers use unique criteria for applications submitted in response to R15 opportunities?

    Yes, the criteria are detailed in "Section V, Application Review Information" of each Funding Opportunity Announcement.

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  G. Grant award and management

  1. What reports are required?
    A Progress Report is required and is due annually on or before the anniversary of the budget/project period start date of the award. NIH will send an email notification to the PD/PI two months before the anniversary of the award requesting that the progress report be submitted electronically. See http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/myf.htm or NOT-OD-11-010 for more information.
  2. Can a R15 grant be transferred to another institution?
    R15 grants can only be transferred to another R15-eligible institution. However, there are many other factors that must be considered in the geographic relocation of a grant. If you are considering such a transfer, please contact your Program Officer early in the relocation process.
  3. Can R15 grantees apply for supplemental funds?
    A R15 grantee may be eligible for an administrative supplement to improve the diversity of the research workforce by supporting and recruiting students from groups that have been shown to be underrepresented. Because policies may vary among NIH Institute and Centers (IC), the grantee must check with the awarding institute before submitting an application for a supplement. There must be at least one year remaining on the AREA grant at the time the supplement is awarded and only one supplement at a time is allowed.

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