NIH Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) Programs (R15)

Program Description

The NIH R15 grant program mechanism 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. The goals of the R15 program are to support meritorious research, expose students to research, and strengthen the research environment of the institution.

NIH has made major changes to its R15 program that affect UWM. NIH has split the R15 into two programs:

  • Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) for Undergraduate-Focused Institutions
    AREA grants support small-scale research grants at institutions that do not receive substantial funding from the NIH, with an emphasis on providing biomedical research experiences primarily for undergraduate students and enhancing the research environment at these applicant institutions. AREA targets undergraduate-focused institutions that are not Health Professional or Graduate Schools.

    “Undergraduate Focused Institutions” are institutions or academic components within the institution that has a greater undergraduate student enrollment than its graduate student enrollment. Although AREA is undergraduate-focused, that does not preclude Principal Investigators from including graduate students in the project (or budget).

  • Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) for Health Professional Schools and Graduate Schools
    REAP grants specifically support eligible health professional schools and graduate schools to provide research experiences to undergraduate and/or graduate students pursuing biomedical or behavioral research. The REAP will enable qualified scientists to receive support for small-scale research projects.

    For the purposes of this program, health professional schools and colleges are accredited institutions that provide education and training leading to a health professional degree.

New Institution Eligibility Rules

NIH will no longer publish a list of institutions ineligible to apply for R15 programs. Instead, NIH requires each institution to determine its eligibility based on current and previous NIH funding levels over the past seven years and student program enrollment. Therefore, UWM must continually determine and its eligibility for R15 programs.

UWM Eligibility for AREA and REAP Programs:

The Office of Sponsored Programs has reviewed UWM’s NIH funding over the past seven years and determined that UWM is eligible as an institution to apply for both the AREA and REAP programs. UWM must certify its institutional eligibility in every R15 application by including a signed letter from the Provost.

UWM School/College and Principal Investigator Eligibility

AREA and REAP target different pools of faculty. As shown in the following table, Principal Investigators with a primary appointment in the following UWM Schools/Colleges may apply to AREA or REAP:

PI Primary School/College Appointment and Program Eligibility

UWM School/College AREA REAP
Architecture and Urban Planning X  
Bader School of Welfare X  
Education X  
Engineering & Applied Science X  
Freshwater Sciences   X
General Studies X  
Health Sciences   X
Information Studies X  
Letters and Science X  
Lubar School of Business X  
Nursing   X
Peck School of the Arts X  
Zilber Public Health   X

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. See the NIH Research Enhancement Award FAQs for more information.

NOTE: The PD(s)/PI(s) for an AREA or REAP grant may not be the PD(s)/PI(s) of an active NIH research grant, including another AREA or REAP grant, although he or she may be one of the Key Personnel for an active NIH grant held by another PD/PI.

AREA/REAP Application Information

  • The required institutional letter is on file with the UWM Office of Sponsored Programs for use in applications submitted to AREA/REAP solicitations. Contact your Pre-Award Specialist.
  • Fewer NIH institutes and centers are participating in the AREA program; review the current list before developing your application.
  • An AREA grant is permitted to have a subcontract to a non-AREA-eligible institution. However, applicants should keep the goals of the AREA program in mind when preparing the application, which include strengthening the research environment of eligible institutions and exposing students from eligible institutions to research. The majority of the research must be directed by the PD(s)/PI(s) at the grantee institution.
  • For assistance with developing your AREA or REAP application, contact Michelle Schoenecker in Research Development Services at