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NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training (T32)


Background

The NIH recognizes a unique and compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social sciences research workforce. The NIH expects efforts to diversify the workforce to lead to:

  • the recruitment of the most talented researchers from all groups;

  • an improvement in the quality of the educational and training environment;

  • a balanced perspective in the determination of research priorities;

  • an improved capacity to recruit subjects from diverse backgrounds into clinical research protocols; and

  • an improved capacity to address and eliminate health disparities.

Accordingly, the NIH continues to encourage institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations and to increase their efforts to recruit qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds who are currently underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences.

For the purposes of the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training, individuals from diverse backgrounds include:

  1. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis (see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/showpub.cfm?TopID=2&SubID=27 );

  2. Individuals with disabilities who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; and

  3. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who are defined as:

    1. Individuals who come from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds. These thresholds are based on family size, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index; and adjusted by the Secretary for use in all health professions programs. The Secretary periodically publishes these income levels at http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/index.shtml . For individuals from low income backgrounds, the institution must be able to demonstrate that such candidates have qualified for Federal disadvantaged assistance or they have received any of the following student loans: Health Professional Student Loans (HPSL), Loans for Disadvantaged Student Program, or they have received scholarships from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Scholarship for Individuals with Exceptional Financial Need.

    2. Individuals who come from a social, cultural, or educational environment such as that found in certain rural or inner-city environments that have demonstrably and recently directly inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career.

      Under extraordinary circumstances the PHS may, at its discretion, consider an individual beyond the undergraduate level to be from a disadvantaged background (C1 and C2). Such decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, based on appropriate documentation.

Recent data help characterize the demographics of those in training who may enter the biomedical research workforce.  In 2006, 11.2% of the U.S. citizen recipients of life sciences doctorates self-identified as American Indian and Alaska Native, Black, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or of multiple races (see Table 8, 2006 Survey of Earned Doctorates, at http://www.norc.org/Pages/default.aspx ).  In all science fields, 1.2% of doctorate recipients in 2006 self-identified as disabled (Table F-15, National Science Foundation, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2009, NSF 09-305, at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/ ).

The NIMH research workforce is increasingly multidisciplinary and thus it can be reasonably expected to draw from those receiving training in a variety of scientific disciplines. Exemplars of these disciplines are those U.S. citizens receiving doctorates in neuroscience, human and animal genetics, clinical psychology and social work.  In 2006, the percentage of U.S. citizens receiving doctorates in these four disciplines who identified as American Indian and Alaska Native, Black, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or of multiple races was 11.7% in human and animal genetics, 14.9% in neuroscience, 17.9% in clinical psychology, and 27.8% in social work (see Appendix Table A-2 (revised June 2008), 2006 Survey of Earned Doctorates at http://www.norc.org/SED.htm ).

Program Details

The NIMH has a long-standing commitment to increasing the diversity of its research workforce. This commitment is exemplified by the programs supported by the Institute and by the reports [An Investment in America’s Future: Racial/Ethnic Diversity in Mental Health Research Careers (2001) and Investing in the Future (2008)] and associated recommendations issued by two workgroups of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC).  In 2008, the NAMHC Workgroup on Research Training recommended that the NIMH develop a program for well-qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds so that they may be supported on an existing NIMH-funded T32, even when all the positions awarded to the T32 have been filled.  This program is expected to help retain individuals in the training pipeline and to provide these individuals with mentored research training in a strong institutional training program. In addition, this program will encourage NIMH-supported institutional training programs to expand their recruiting efforts and increase the number of individuals from diverse backgrounds who are trained in their programs. In the long term, this initiative will help ensure that a diverse research workforce is available and equipped with the skills, tools, and interdisciplinary perspectives needed to solve the pressing research agenda of the Institute.

Under this program, the NIMH will administratively award an additional position, designated specifically for a named trainee from a diverse background (either predoctoral or postdoctoral), to an existing T32 award. Assuming satisfactory progress by the selected trainee, this supplemental position will remain a part of the T32 for the duration of the named individual’s participation in the training program generally no more than two years unless unusual circumstances arise during the trainee’s participation in the training program.1 When the named individual’s training on the T32 ends, the funds for his/her position will be removed from the grant.

To ensure an appropriate training experience, only predoctoral positions will be awarded to T32s exclusively supporting predoctoral training; only postdoctoral positions will be awarded to postdoctoral training programs. Programs that support both pre- and postdoctoral training may apply to support either a pre- or postdoctoral trainee.

Individuals supported under this program must meet all administrative requirements for any trainee supported by a National Research Service Award (e.g., citizenship/permanent residency requirements, payback obligation) and all the requirements for prior training, experience, and commitment to research expected of any other trainee in the particular T32 program that proposes to support them. Predoctoral candidates must be at the dissertation stage of graduate training.

Only one supplemental diversity pre- or postdoctoral position will be awarded at any time to a T32. Once a trainee has completed training and is no longer supported on the supplemental slot, the T32 program director may apply for an additional position for a different, eligible individual.

The purpose of the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training is to increase the opportunities available for well-qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds to be supported on NIMH-funded T32 programs. NIMH expects that all funded T32s currently support and train individuals from diverse backgrounds as part of their existing, funded institutional training program. Applications to the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training are encouraged from those T32 programs with a strong track record of recruiting, training and retaining individuals from diverse backgrounds in the research workforce. If an individual from a diverse background has already been appointed to an NIMH-funded T32 traineeship, it is inappropriate for the PI to submit an application for that individual’s support via the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training merely to increase the total number of positions available in the institutional training program.

Application Procedure

The application consists of the following items:

  1. A face page  signed by the authorized organizational representative;
  2. An itemized breakdown of costs for trainee stipend (including level for a postdoctoral trainee), tuition and fees (if appropriate), trainee travel, and trainee-related expenses. The supplemental instructions  for preparing Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) applications may provide helpful guidance on allowable costs.
  3. A budget justification that includes the rationale for the proposed duration of training support1 and, for postdoctoral candidates only, the date (mm/dd/yy) the terminal degree was obtained.
  4. A statement by the Training Program Director assuring that the candidate meets NRSA eligibility requirements and qualifies as an individual from a diverse background.  In addition, the Training Program Director will describe: a) the program’s prior success in recruiting and retaining individuals from diverse backgrounds as trainees and the outcomes of these training efforts; b) plans for filling the awarded trainee positions in the current budget period; and c) how the candidate is likely to contribute to the outcomes of efforts to diversify the workforce that are articulated in the Background above.
  5. A description of the process by which the candidate was identified and selected;
  6. A statement of the training plan for the candidate prepared jointly by the Training Program Director and the research mentor and its intended duration;
  7. The NIH Biographical Sketch of the candidate;
  8. A brief description of the candidate’s research plan and the relationship of the proposed research/training goals to the mission of the NIMH. This description should be prepared jointly by the research mentor and the candidate; and
  9. A brief statement by the candidate describing his or her prior research experience, research career goals, and how his or her research career goals intersect with the mission and strategic priorities of the NIMH.

Items 4 through 6 together may not exceed 3 pages in length. Items 8 and 9 together may not exceed 3 pages in length.

An application to the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training is intended to document: 1) the track record of the institutional training program in recruiting, training, and retaining individuals from diverse backgrounds; 2) the suitability of the candidate for a position in the particular training program including evidence that the candidate has appropriate academic qualifications for, and interest in, research training in the scientific domain of the institutional training program; 3) the alignment of the proposed research and training plan with the mission and program priorities of the NIMH; and 4) the commitment of the Training Program Director and research mentor to guide the candidate, oversee his/her mentored training, and facilitate his/her successful transition to the next career stage. Therefore, it is expected that the application will reflect the individual needs of the candidate who is being nominated for support.  General descriptions of the selection process and research plan taken verbatim from the funded T32 application are not appropriate.

Submit applications to NIMH electronically. The Training Program Director is responsible for submitting the administrative supplement application. He/She should log into the NIMH Administrative Supplement website (https://wwwapps.nimh.nih.gov/ssf ) using his/her eRA Commons ID and password. Applications should be submitted as “Institutional Training” when prompted for the Supplement Type.

Award Process

Applications to the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training will be accepted until April 1 of each year for consideration for funding during that fiscal year, although earlier submission is strongly encouraged. All applications should be preceded by consultation with NIMH program staff to discuss the application process and determine availability of funds.

NIMH program staff will evaluate each application based upon the following criteria: 1) the record of the training program in training individuals from diverse backgrounds; 2) the merit of the proposed research/training plan; 3) the candidate’s potential for a research career conducting NIMH-relevant research; and 4) program priorities including the linkage of the proposed research/training plan to the mission and strategic priorities of the Institute; The duration of support will depend upon 1) the number of years remaining in the T32 project period; 2) remaining NRSA eligibility of the proposed trainee; 3) the usual duration of pre- or postdoctoral training on the parent T32 program; and 4) the availability of funds.

After review by NIMH staff, the training grant Program Director will be notified in writing of the funding decision. A supplemental Notice of Grant Award will be issued as soon as possible thereafter, and the additional position will be administered in a manner identical to all other positions on the institutional training grant.

Reporting Requirements

Progress for trainees supported via the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training must be reported as for all other trainees in a separate continuation application each year. Continuation funds for a NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training award should not be requested in the budget pages for the parent T32 continuation application. Instead, a separate budget page only for the trainee supported by the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training award should be included with the continuation application for the parent T32 continuation application.

All individuals supported by the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training must be included in the required tables and form pages for renewal (Type 2) and continuation (Type 5) applications.

Program Assessment

Based on recommendations from the NAMHC 2008 Workgroup on Research Training, the NIMH is committed to developing evidence-based research training programs.  The NIMH will closely monitor the outcomes of this new program and will assess its effectiveness at increasing the diversity of the cohort of individuals in NIMH-supported research training programs and, with time, the diversity of our research workforce.


1 No position will be awarded for a period of time that exceeds the current approved funding period for the T32 grant, e.g., if only 2 years remain in the current project period, any supplement may be awarded only for 2 years. In these situations, requests to extend the NIMH Program to Enhance Diversity in Institutional Training award after the parent T32 has been successfully renewed are encouraged.