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Faculty Encouraged to Apply for R15s Before Eligibility Ends

Since 2014, the UT Office of Research and Engagement has made a concerted effort to increase funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). UT faculty have relied heavily on NIH’s Academic Research Enhancement Award (better known as the R15) research funding mechanism. However, the university’s eligibility to apply for these awards may end this spring.

The R15 program’s purpose is to stimulate research in educational institutions, like UT, that provide baccalaureate and advanced degrees in biomedical fields, but that have not been major recipients of NIH support. R15 awards are intended to support small-scale research projects proposed by faculty members, to expose undergraduate and graduate students to meritorious research projects, and to strengthen the research environment of the applicant institution.

Over the past four years, UT successfully increased its NIH funding (driven by a 250+ increase in R15 awards). As a result, UT is likely to exceed the R15 eligibility criteria, having received more than $6 million in NIH funding per year for the past several years.

The R15 program publishes a list of ineligible institutions every year during the spring semester. ORE anticipates that the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the UT Institute of Agriculture (which NIH considers to be one institution) will be added to the ineligible institutions list in spring 2019. At this time, ineligibility is tentative because NIH uses a complex calculation that includes many transient factors and is not final until the list is published.

R15 eligibility is determined at the time of proposal submission. ORE strongly encourages UT researchers considering an R15 proposal to submit their applications before the October 25, 2018 deadline. Depending on when NIH publishes the next version of the ineligible institutions list, UT researchers may also be able to submit their application before the February 25, 2019 deadline.

If UT is added to the list of ineligible institutions, it will likely remain ineligible at least through Fiscal Year 2021. UT researchers will still be able to pursue traditional NIH award mechanisms. Current R15 awardees planning to renew their awards after UT’s R15 eligibility ends will need to leverage their R15 grants to pursue larger awards from NIH, such as the R01 Research Project Grant Program.