Last month I told you about our small business programs, and it got me thinking that many people might not be aware of the many NIH programs that exist beyond the scope of the R01. One such program is the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA). These awards create hands-on research opportunities for faculty and students at less research-intensive institutions (less than $6M in research and training funds per year). AREA awards provide up to 3 years of renewable funding, with a maximum of $300,000 in direct costs for the entire project period.
As you can see, the popularity of this program has grown over the past several years. We received the highest number of applications to date last fiscal year.
We have been in touch with AREA-eligible institutions who have helped us hone the program. Starting with the latest review round, we now cluster AREA applications during review so that applications from AREA investigators can be reviewed together. This allows reviewers to focus on the specific goals of the program, which are distinct from the other research grants they were reviewed side-by-side with previously (R01s, R21s and R03s).
We’ve also heard your interest in getting AREA-eligible investigators onto review panels. During this past round, we had greater inclusion of AREA-eligible investigators than ever before, in part due to the Center for Scientific Review’s Early Career Reviewer Program. This program specifically targets investigators from less research-intensive institutions.
Finally, for those of you applying to the AREA program, either for the first time or for a renewal, I urge you to read the program announcement. It was recently updated with new language to emphasize and clarify the goals of the program for both applicants and reviewers. Applicants should pay special attention to the sections about including students in the research and demonstrating that you have experience supervising students. I think one of the great benefits of this program is the exposure students get to research, so be sure to highlight that in your application. Reviewers will be evaluating not only the scientific merit of your application, but also how you plan to address the program goals of exposing students to research and strengthening the research environment of your institution.