July 31, 2009
Seeding National Mentoring Networks to Enhance Diversity of the Mental Health Research Workforce
Nancy L. Desmond, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Research Training and Career Development
Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science
The goal of this initiative is to enable the conceptualization, planning, and piloting of prototypes for national infrastructures to mentor individuals from diverse backgrounds who are conducting research relevant to the mission of the NIMH.
The NIMH has a long-standing commitment to increasing the diversity of its research workforce. This commitment is exemplified by the research training and career development programs supported by the Institute. In 2008, the National Advisory Mental Health Council Workgroup on Research Training considered past efforts supported by the NIMH to increase workforce diversity. The Workgroup acknowledged the critical role that effective mentoring plays in an individual’s successful progression along his or her chosen career path and emphasized the need for the NIMH to expand existing and/or initiate new mentoring networks for individuals from diverse backgrounds.
To address this need, the goal of this initiative is to establish a program to stimulate the development of innovative prototypes for national networks to mentor individuals from diverse backgrounds during their mentored training and through the transition to receipt of their first independent research grant. Each mentoring network will have a focused scientific theme. It is expected that these mental health research-focused mentoring networks will facilitate successful transitions between career stages—e.g., from graduate student to postdoctoral scholar—and will enhance the professional development of the participants. Multiple prototype mentoring networks will be piloted as a result of this opportunity, and potentially effective strategies will be identified for further development. We anticipate that sustained efforts will lead to greater diversity of the research workforce and to multiple mentoring networks that can be interlinked as a mentoring collaboratory.