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Frequently Asked Questions
Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA)
Last Revised: November 3, 2014

  A. Planning the 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 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. Does the R15 target postdoctoral trainees or health professional residents?
    While one of the goals of the AREA Program is to expose students to research, an AREA grant is a research award, not a training or fellowship award. Applications should not include training plans that describe coursework, seminars, and workshops. The application should focus on plans to expose students to hands-on meritorious research and the role of students in conducting hand-on meritorious research.
  4. Should I include a collaborator or consultant?
    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.
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  B. Writing the application

  1. 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 will participate in. The application should also convey how the project will stimulate students’ interest in biomedical or behavioral science.
    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.
  2. What if specific students are not identified at the time of 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.
  3. What type of student activities would be considered appropriate involvement in accordance with the AREA mission?

    The AREA program aims to involve students in research in a way that is intellectually stimulating, experience-driven, and significant to the research. Students may be involved in participation in the design of experiments and controls, collection and analysis of data, execution and troubleshooting of experiments, presentation at meetings, drafting journal articles, collaborative interactions, participation in lab meetings to discuss results and future experiments, etc.

  4. My students have generated preliminary data and helped design experiments. Where can I indicate this in my application?

    This type of student involvement should be described in the Research Strategy attachment of the Research Plan form. 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 and/or graduate 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.

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  C. Structuring and logistics of the application

  1. Do Modular Grant guidelines apply to AREA applications?

    It depends upon the total amount of direct costs requested for all years of the award. Because AREA grants are multi-year funded (MYF) awards, the entire budget, for all years of the award, must be requested in the first budget year.  

    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).
  2. What should I put down on my application as a start date?

    There are 3 cycles per fiscal year. As indicated below the earliest project start date depends on when you submit your application. For more information, please visit the Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications website.


    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



  3. Does the R15 target postdoctoral trainees or health professional residents?
    No, one goal of the R15 is to expose students to research opportunities. Postdoctoral researchers or health professional (e.g., medical, dental, veterinary) residents are not targeted by the R15.
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  D. Eligibility

  1. When multiple PD/PIs are proposed, must all PD/PIs and all institutions involved be AREA-eligible?
    Yes, each PD/PI must have an appointment at an AREA-eligible institution. In addition, each PD/PI may not be the PD/PI of an active NIH grant at the time of award of an AREA grant.
  2. Can I have a collaborator who is at an ineligible institution?
    It is acceptable to have an ineligible collaborator, consultant, or subcontractor from the perspective of eligibility. 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 providing research opportunities to students, having 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 so they consider a career in biomedical/behavioral science, availability of well-qualified students and evidence students have or are likely to pursue biomedical careers. For a Multiple PI structure, all PIs must be eligible.
  3. Can a PD/PI, or one PD/PI if multiple PD/PIs are proposed, have an active NIH research grant?
    No, each PD/PI must not have an active NIH research grant at the time of award. If Multiple PD/PIs are proposed, each of the PD/PIs may not have an active NIH research grant at the time of award.
  4. 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.
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  E. NIH Review of the application

  1. Where can 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. The CSR website also has descriptions of the scientific areas covered by each study section at http://www.csr.nih.gov/review/irgdesc.htmSince Special Emphasis Panels (SEPs) are assembled for a specific meeting, there are not rosters of standing panels. Rosters for all recent CSR SEPs are available at http://public.csr.nih.gov/StudySections/SpecialEmphasis/Pages/default.aspx. Note that SEPs are used to review many types of applications, and most SEPs listed are not assembled for the review of R15s.
  2. Do reviewers use unique criteria for AREA applications?

    The goals of the AREA program are incorporated into the R15 standard NIH review criteria for investigator-initiated research grant applications. These criteria were implemented starting with the parent Program Announcement PA-12-006. You can view the R15 review guidelines at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/peer/r_awards/R15_Guide_for_reviewers.pdf.

  3. 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. If the former, they 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. 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.
  4. 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.
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  F. Grant award and management

  1. Can AREA grantees apply for supplemental funds?
    An AREA 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 IC 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Can an AREA grant be transferred to another institution?
    AREA grants can only be transferred to another AREA 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.

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This page last updated on November 3, 2014 
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