Metamorphosis Cocoon Close Up

Changes to NIH R15 mechanism are coming

Mike Lauer addresses an audience as part of a panel discussion.
NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Mike Lauer (right), says changes are coming to the R15 program, but reaffirms NIH’s commitment to the funding mechanism.

With their focus on engaging students in meaningful research experiences, National Institutes of Health’s Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA, R15) are a popular mechanism for Miami University principal investigators. These grants are designed for institutions receiving less than $6 million per year in NIH support (currently the case at Miami) and emphasize enhancing the research environment at eligible schools.

I attended an NIH Regional Seminar in mid-October. Held semi-annually, these seminars clarify federal regulations and policies and highlight current areas of special interest or concern. The R15 grant mechanism was highlighted in the plenary session presented by Mike Lauer, the NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research. Lauer hinted at upcoming changes to the R15 program, but emphasized that the NIH commitment to the R15 program will remain the same.

One change that Lauer made clear is that the current practice of the NIH maintaining a list of institutions ineligible for AREA grants will be discontinued. It will become an institution’s responsibility to affirm eligibility based on the level of NIH funding over the last 7 years. OARS will be developing a template letter to cover this requirement.

In spring 2018, the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) issued a specific call (PAR-18-714) for R15 proposals with an emphasis on providing biomedical research experiences primarily for undergraduate students. While graduate students shouldn’t be excluded, they are not the focus of this call.

In a seminar breakout session on R15 grants, the presenter, Tracy Waldeck, Director of the Office of Extramural Policy and Review (OPER) for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stated that other NIH institutes and centers will be signing on to participate in this call. The current call lists all the institutes and centers that have signed on to participate, some as recently as October 31. Waldeck also alluded to an upcoming announcement about changes to the AREA grant program. OARS is monitoring the situation and will share news as it becomes available.


Written by Amy Hurley Cooper, Assistant Director of Proposal Development, Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship, Miami University.

Cocoon photo via Max Pixel, used under Creative Commons license. Photo of Mike Lauer by Ernie Branson and Rich McManus for the NIH, public domain.

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