From The Vault: Soup To Nuts: The NIH Proposal Process (Part One)

[Occasionally, we like to revisit posts from days gone by that either (1) are always relevant, or (2) are the subject of recent questions received by our office.  In today’s From The Vault, we look at part one of a seven part series on The NIH proposal process.] 

Originally posted on July 10, 2013.


In the nearly two years our blog has occupied this small piece of internet real estate, we’ve touched on a variety of grants-related issues, but the assumption has been that our entire readership was familiar with the basics of submitting proposals.  Since many of our loyal followers operate outside of the grant arena, today’s post is the first in a series that examines the process of submitting a proposal to (and, we hope, receiving an award from) NIH.


When seeking funding for a particular project, it’s important to know which of the five main types of NIH awards best relates to your intended research:

1.            Regular Research (award numbers beginning with an ‘R’)
2.            Team Science (award numbers beginning with a ‘P’ or ‘U’)
3.            Fellowship Training (award numbers beginning with an ‘F’ or ‘T’)
4.            Career Development (award numbers beginning with a ‘K’)
5.            Shared Instrumentation (award numbers beginning with an ‘S’)

Grants are awarded to the institutions themselves in the name of the principal investigator, but two (Fellowship Trainings and those for Career Development) boast citizen requirements, otherwise work visas must be in place.

Regular Research

Perhaps the most widely known types of grants are those in the ‘R’ category.  While they all fall under the general heading of regular research, there are significant distinctions among them.

R01 – “Research Project Grants” are made to an institution or organization to support a discrete, specified project representing the specific interests and abilities of the investigator(s), and on behalf of one or more of the NIH Institutes and Centers.  The budget can include all appropriate costs, and can also be modular or non-modular as desired.  Periods of Performance are limited to five years, but can be renewed.

R03 – “Small Research Grants” are awarded to support small, short-term research projects that are in the more introductory phase.  Such grants are limited to a project period of two years, with no opportunity for renewal.  Institutions are limited to $100,000 in direct costs for the two-year period, with no more than $50,000 in directs being allowed in either year.  Additionally, modular budgets are permitted, unless the applicant is a foreign entity.

R15 – “Academic Research Enhancement Awards” (or AREA) support research in the behavioral or biomedical sciences that not only involves faculty but also their undergraduate students.  AREAs are awarded to institutions in health professional schools, as well as other academic entities that have not previously received substantial research grant funding.  For AREAs, project periods are limited to three years, though they are renewable, with a maximum of $300,000 in direct costs for the length of the period.  As with other R grants, both modular and non-modular budgets are permitted.