NIMH Institutional Training (T32) Informational Webinar
Welcome to the NIMH T32 webinar. I'm Nikki North, and I will be managing the logistics for today's webinar. We have four speakers from our training office who will be presenting today. But before we get started, there are a few housekeeping points to review. All participants will be muted during the webinar. If you have a question, please type it into the Q&A box. If your question isn't answered during the webinar or during the Q&A, please email us so we can help you. To start off, the NIMH Director, Dr. Joshua Gordon, will say a few words.
Welcome. My name is Joshua Gordon. I'm the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Research training is an important component of our strategic plan. It helps to ensure that we have a well-trained workforce to advance our mission. I myself was supported by NIH training grants, both as a pre-doctoral student at UCSF and as a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia. Later, I was awarded a Mentored Career Development Award from NIMH that helped me during my transition to research independence. Also, as a faculty member at Columbia, I was actively involved in training pre-doctoral, post-doctoral, and resident fellows interested in mental health related research. So I appreciate the value of structured mentoring which occurs as part of an institutional training program like the T32. When you think about your program, I encourage you to consider the skill sets that current trainees will need to address future research questions in a fast moving research culture. For example, critical thinking skills, mathematical skills, and knowledge needed to conduct rigorous and reproducible science. Professional skills also are important, such as effective communication skills, leadership skills, and being able to work as part of a team when appropriate. All these kinds of skills benefit those in training. So as you formulate your plans for T32s, I urge you to think hard about what kind of a workforce we'll need to achieve the gains that we hope for in mental health research in the future.
Okay. Thank you Dr. Gordon for taking time from your busy schedule to address those points and welcoming this webinar. I'm Mark Chavez, a training officer at the NIMH Division of Translational Research, and I'm going to quickly review the organization of today's webinar. The slide gives you the order of the topics that will be covered this afternoon. As you know, today's webinar focuses on institutional training grants or T32s. First off, I'll review some information about the NIMH. Then my colleagues will give an overview of the T32 data tables, and then review each component of a T32 application before we take your questions. Okay. So we'll start first with general NIMH information. The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure. Our mission includes aspects of HIV/AIDS research, which will be highlighted on the next slide. The NIMH strategic plan for research provides a framework to accelerate the pace of scientific progress. The four objectives of this plan describe the breadth of mental health research that NIMH supports, which ranges from understanding pathophysiology to defining the trajectories of mental illness, to developing and testing new treatments and prevention strategies, all to ensure public health impact.
NIMH's strategic research priorities are a good source of information about the Internet, about the institutes, current non-AIDS scientific interests. These priorities are generally updated annually. The NIMH webpage is a good place to learn more about the institute's strategic plan for research and current strategic priorities. And the link included on this slide is where you can find this information, or you can access this page. NIMH is also committed to supporting research and research training that addresses the public health challenges presented by HIV/AIDS. The institute's HIV/AIDS program is based in the NIMH division of AIDS research. Information about this NIMH division is available on their webpage, showing on the left side of this slide. The NIMH HIV/AIDS program is guided by the Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-related research, that is coordinated by the NIH Office of AIDS Research. The link to the current Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-related research is highlighted on the right side of this slide. The AIDS high-priority research topics have been published as a notice. The NIMH Division of AIDS research is not in an active growth period for training, although applications that fill gaps are of interest.
Okay. So now, in general, we'll go over to research training areas. The NIMH supports research training in those areas which we invest in research grants. Therefore, our strategic research priorities provide information that is relevant to research training applications. Additional information is available on the web pages for each NIMH division and office. You can access this information via the link on the right side of the slide. Scroll down to a section entitled Research Areas. NIMH's research priorities change over time as new scientific discoveries are made, and as the balance of our grant portfolio shifts. For this reason, we encourage potential applicants to discuss potential training applications with us well in advance of the application deadline. Each NIMH division has one or more training program officers who are responsible for managing, research training, and career development applications. Our contact information is available on the NIMH website. The link to this page is shown here. Our contacts webpage also provides links to each division's webpage, and to the webpage for the division's training office. Each of these webpages provides additional information about the divisions and training options, priorities, and practices. We encourage you to review this information before contacting us.
Okay. In addition to the information available in the current T32 funding opportunity announcements and the NIMH information provided in the linked web table, NIMH maintains a webpage on our NSA practices and guidance. These practices apply to any T32 applications submitted to the NIMH. This page includes information related to individual development plans, instruction in the responsible conducts of research, and basic information about the pre-doctoral and post-doctoral T32 programs. There are four things we suggest you do as you begin to develop a T32 concept. First, you need to actually read the T32 funding announcement. Next, review NIMH policies and practices for T32s. Third, review the webpage for the NIH data tables and associated information. And fourth, contact us. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your plans for your T32 submission. This is true for either somebody who's submitting a T32 for the first time, or if you're coming again for a competitive renewal. Because quite often, since your last time, since you submitted a competitive renewal, policies may have changed. Now I'd like to turn the microphone over to my colleague, Nancy Desmond, a training officer in the NIMH Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science. Nancy will take you to the next section of the [inaudible].
Thank you, Mark. Now we'll talk about the T32 data tables, because these are an integral component of the training program plan. Note that administrative staff in your group can work on the data tables, well in advance of writing the narrative section. Indeed, you'll want to incorporate summaries of these data into the training program plan. Because these data provide important information about the training environment at your institution, the participating faculty, the pool of potential trainees, and other relevant information that can support your application. You currently have two options for creating the training data tables. First, you can manually complete the syllable data tables that are offered on the NIH webpage. Alternatively, you can use the NIH xTRACT system. First, let me review the syllable data tables. T32 applications have eight data tables, and some of these tables have multiple parts. We strongly encourage you to take the time to read the introduction to data tables document which is highlighted here, before you begin working on your application. This document provides an overview and important definitions. As you review the data tables webpage, you'll find links for each blank data table file, instructions, and sample data tables. You'll need to identify the specific tables required for your application. The data tables will depend on whether your application proposes pre-doctoral training, post-doctoral training, short-term training, or some combination thereof. For example, both pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training in a T32. In addition, the specific tables required will depend on whether your application is a new one or a renewal one.
You can download all of the required data tables for the type of application you're preparing, as a single file that excludes the irrelevant data tables. For example, you can now download all of the required training tables for renewal postdoctoral T32 application as a single Word document. This document will only include the tables required for renewal post-docs T32. You'll notice that I've highlighted here the heading Instructions in sample data tables file. Each instruction in sample data tables file includes a data table filled with sample data, a rationale statement, and detailed instructions for each table in that file. The adjacent columns, blank data tables file, provide links to the syllable tables in Words format. So as an example, this slide shows parts of sample data table one and the rationale and instructions for that table, which is titled Centers of Participating Departments and Interdepartmental Programs. On the right-hand side here, just below the table heading, is the rationale statement. The statement is intended to help you understand the reasoning for including this table in a T32 application. Next, are the instructions. They are organized in a step-by-step manner, working from the leftmost column to the rightmost column of the table. You may find it useful to review the instructions while you're looking at each sample data table.
At the end of the instructions for each table, you'll find suggestions on how to integrate the tabular data into the body of your T32 application. This guidance for table one is shown at the bottom of the slide, outlined in blue. And I would note that this kind of organizational steam with the rationale instructions and then the guidance for integrating the data into your application, is used for every data table instructions. The other option for preparing the required data tables is to use xTRACT. So what is xTRACT? It stands for extramural trainee reporting and career tracking. xTRACT is a module within eRA Commons that is used by applicants, grantees, and assistants, to create research training tables for inclusion in progress reports and T32 applications. xTRACT is integrated with the Commons. Because of this integration, it offers some advantages for those preparing T32 applications. First, xTRACT can pre-populate some training data for training tables by using xTrain appointment and related data that NIH already have, such as trainee names, the institution, grant numbers and subsequent awards. This means you don't have to manually enter all of that information.
Second, xTRACT also allows for manual data entry for information not available in the Commons or in xTrain. Manually entered information is stored in xTRACT, and can be reused when preparing subsequent data tables. If you choose to use xTRACT, this module will create the data tables based on the pre-populated and manually entered data. Regardless of how you create the data tables, your application will benefit from careful preparation of an accurate set of tables that provides the information that is requested. Peer reviewers devote considerable attention to evaluating the tabular information. Program staff like myself and my colleagues here today, also review the tables as part of the process we have in developing funding recommendation.
Now, we'll go on to review a very critical part of the T32 application, the Research Training Program Plan. In the following slides, the component under discussion will be highlighted to help everybody keep track of where we are during the webinar. The first section of the Research Training Program Plan is the introduction. This section applies only to re-submission and revision applications. For re-submission applications, the introduction provides a synopsis of your response to the reviewers' concerns about the original submission. The introduction here is limited to three pages. For revision applications, the limit is one page. Next, we'll review the training program sections, starting with the program plan. The program plan is the meat of the T32 application, and we'll be reviewing each components sequentially. The background section includes information that contextualizes the proposed T32 program, and the rationale for your program. For example, why is there a need for the proposed research training? It's important to explain both why the T32 program is needed in terms of the proposed research area, and also why it's needed at your institution. For example, does the program take advantage of institutional strengths? Another example that's very specific here is, if you were to propose a T32 in human genetics relevant to the NIMH, you might discuss how research training in human genetics will help address the need to identify genomic factors associated with mental illnesses, and to provide trainees with knowledge of state-of-the-art statistical and analytic tools to assess large genetic data sets. You might also make clear how such a T32 takes advantage of the research expertise of faculty at your institution.
Information from the NIH reporter on other T32 awards may be useful in this part of the application. For example, such information can help address the question of whether the proposed T32 fills the gap in NIMH's supportive research training at the particular career stage you're proposing. You can use our handy interactive T32 map, to identify NIMH-funded training programs at your institution and at other institutions throughout the United States. Clicking on a city marker on this map, provides a list of academic institutions in that specific city that have NIMH-funded T32s. An additional click on the academic institution will provide a list of the T32s there. Each T32 listing provides even more details about the award. Using NIH RePORTER, you can identify T32s funded by other institutes at the NIH, which may be relevant for some research training areas.
Now I want to talk a little bit about data tables one, two, and three, which are relevant to the background section of the T32 application. Table one provides numeric data about the department and interdepartmental programs participating in your T32. As mentioned earlier, and likely we will mention it again [laughter], is that it's important to summarize the information from each data table in the body of your application. Rather than saying, "See Table X," for example and not providing any text, we encourage you to summarize the data from a table, and thereby highlight aspects of your application. One example using table data one is that you could put a numeric summary in the background section, which will give the reviewers insight into the environment in which the proposed training will occur, including the number of participating faculty and information about the number of pre-docs and post-docs in the participating department. This information is helpful to reviewers, when they're assessing whether the proposed program has the critical mass of trainees and faculty that are needed to be effective.
Table two concisely summarizes information about the training faculty who are proposed. This information helps reviewers assess the distribution of these faculty by a number of relevant factors: faculty rank, departmental affiliation, and research area. The role or roles that are played by individual faculty on the proposed T32 is also summarized here. And you'll also notice the data on faculty's mentoring records are included, and this allows the reviewers to evaluate the experience of these faculty in facilitating the career progression of pre-docs and post-docs. Table three provides information on current federal funding and other related support. Reviewers will look at the current level of support for research training related to this T32, and assess the extent to which the proposed faculty also participate in other T32 programs. The information can be useful in assessing the quality of your institutional training environment, and in determining the number of training positions to be awarded. Note that the information required is not limited just to NIH T32 awards, but also includes other kinds of training awards. In the narrative, we suggest that you summarize the level of research training support at your institution. We would encourage you to comment on instances where the data in table three suggest that there is substantial overlap of participating faculty, between the proposed T32 and the awards that are listed in this table. For example, consider the case of pre-doctoral T32 programs. An existing T32 potentially shown in the table three, could support broad-based early stage pre-doctoral training during years one and two. The pre-doctoral T32 you might propose, could be intended to support only advanced pre-doctoral training. In this case, there is actually no overlap. It's incumbent on you as the applicant to explain these kinds of instances in the narrative, or perhaps by footnoting the table.
Now we're moving to section B, the program plan, and we'll start with program administration. Program leadership and the governance and organizational structure of the proposed program, are the major elements of this section. Typically, the training program director or directors is an established researcher in the research training area, and provides both scientific and administrative leadership to the T32, and has sufficient effort available to devote to lead the T32 program. We recommend that you include supporting evidence in this section, relevant to these points. T32 programs may have multiple PIs or co-PIs. For example, if a T32 program seeks to integrate two disciplines, there may be two program directors who represent the two disciplinary areas. The second element concerns program administration and the administrative team. A strong, well-coordinated leadership approach should be described, including the specific roles and responsibilities of those who have substantial roles in the program - for example, committee heads such as the curriculum committee or an admissions committee - and also describe the overall organizational structure for the program. Advisory committees are optional. However, some T32 programs do include an external advisory committee, whose members visit the institution every two or three years to meet with trainees and faculty. The committee then reports back to the program's leadership with their assessment of the T32.
Program faculty. A strong program has a clear match between the scientific and technical scope of the proposed training, and the expertise of the faculty. There should also be a sufficient pool of experienced faculty with grants funding, to support the number of trainees proposed in the application. Document the extent to which participating faculty have collaborated in the past. For example, collaborating by co-mentoring a trainee or by publishing together. Evidence of prior collaboration is viewed as an indicator of a strong training environment. You should include information about the record of the proposed program faculty and training individuals at the career stage you're proposing. For example, pre-doctoral level or post-doctoral level. This record includes information about the publication record of the trainee, describe plans to ensure that the preceptors are providing effective trainee mentoring. Some institutions, for example, offer workshops that foster and develop the mentoring skills of the faculty.
I wanted to speak for a moment about including more junior faculty in a T32 program. These individuals can benefit a program, although they may not have established a training track record. In such cases, T32s may propose a co-mentoring strategy where the early career faculty members paired with an established faculty member who already has the strong mentoring record. This kind of strategy can benefit both the trainee and the early career faculty, and it reduces potential reviewer concern about faculty who don't have a track record. For a program where all trainees typically have co-mentors, the plan for coordinating the mentoring activities and the selection of co-mentors should be described in this section. All applications should describe the criteria for faculty appointment to and removal from the T32, as well as how their efforts are assessed.
Now I'm moving to table four, which concerns the research support of the participating faculty. This table documents the strengths of the research environment, the availability of funds to support the trainee's research, and the appropriateness of the participating faculty in terms of their active research support. When you summarize this table in the narrative, it would be important to comment on the inclusion of faculty without research funding and to explain how the research of trainees who may work with these faculty would be supported. Only the active grants on which the faculty member is the PI or a center project PI, are to be included in table four. Do not include awards on which the faculty member has another role - for example is a collaborator or a co-PI - nor should you include listings of grants that has not yet been funded. Table five speaks to the ability of each faculty member to foster trainee productivity through the generation of publishable data, and it allows reviewers to assess the research quality and authorship priority of trainees. Authorship priority refers to whether they are the first-author or in somewhere in the middle. You want to summarize these data in the narrative of the application, including for example the average number of trainee publications, how many individuals publish as first-author, how many individuals completed training without any first-author publication resulting from their research experience. It's generally wise to discuss cases where a trainee completed training without any publications, because such situations may suggest the need for stronger trainee and mentor oversight in the future. Include only those publications that are the result of the period of training in the participating faculty member's lab, or in association with the current training program. Do not list publications that are the result of work done before the person entered the training program, or that arose from research that was begun after the program was completed. Now my colleague Chris Sarampote, a retraining officer in our Division of Translational Research, will take you through the next segment of our webinar.
Thanks, Nancy. We're now on the centerpiece of a T32 program of the proposed training. The proposed training section should outline the goals and rationale for the program, and should describe the special opportunity that is being offered. What makes your proposed program different from existing T32 programs at your institution? For example, does the program have a unique research focus, or will it engage trainees at a different level other than existing programs do? Spend some time clearly outlining the program components. For example, didactics, seminars, and workshops. Be sure to highlight any innovative components. Make it clear whether all components are required, or some are optional. Describe the process by which each trainee develops a tailored training experience based on their prior experiences, goals and career path. For example, the post-doc program including the PhDs and MDs, they find that the MD trainees benefit from more didactics. Professional and career development are integral to a strong T32, and your application should outline how these activities will be incorporated into the program. This should include plans to support the development of specific skills, such as oral and written communication, leadership, lab management and critical thinking. As well as structured career development activities, such as workshops, discussions, and individual development plans to guide and facilitate transition of trainees to the next stage of their chosen career path.
Program cohesion is an element that reviewers consider as well. They're looking for evidence here that the T32 is more than a funding stream, for trainees to work in individual labs. You should describe activities that promote group cohesion, such as regular group discussions, "works-in-progress" meeting for trainees with T32 faculty, or opportunities to practice conference or job talks. Research increasingly employs quantitative approaches. NIMH encourages T32 to provide the quantitative training needed for their trainees, to pursue cutting-edge biomedical research in the area of the proposed program. In addition, NIMH encourages T32 programs to describe how considerations related to data rigor are appropriately integrated into the overall training program. The next part of the training plan section is training program evaluation. This part will describe your plan for evaluating the quality and effectiveness of the proposed T32 program, including the metrics that we use to determine if your training program is meeting its stated goal, and how you obtain feedback from current and former trainees to help identify weaknesses and identify opportunities for program improvement. An external advisory committee can also provide helpful feedback here. Equally important is the discussion of how the results of the evaluation will be used to modify or improve aspects of the program. Please note, if you're submitting a renewal application, then it's important to discuss the results of the program evaluation, and indicate whether and how the program has been modified as a result.
Now, let's talk a bit about the trainee candidate section of the training program plan. There are a number of important considerations in crafting this section. Here, document the size and distribution of the potential applicant pool. The size and caliber of the training grant eligible applicant pool, are important metrics to highlight that there is a competitive high quality group of potential trainees of a sufficient size to support the program. Data on the caliber of current and/or potential trainees and others involved with the program, could include academic performance, previous research experience, publications, grant application submissions, and conference presentations. This section should reflect the data provided in table 6A and/or 6B. The application should also describe how the T32 will recruit and select candidates. Discuss strategies that will be used to attract and retain well-qualified trainees, and then outline the process and criteria by which candidates will be selected for the program. Who will be involved in the selection process? What criteria will be used to select trainees? And what factors are considered in determining whether it's a re-appointed trainee to the T32?
So the data in table six provide the last consecutive five years of data about applicants' entrance and their characteristics, including overall numbers of potential trainees, their sources, their credentials, and eligibility for support, and enrollment trends. This information is then summarized across all five years. This data in table six should be used in the discussion, the trainee candidate pool, and the recruitment and selection process. Specifically, part one data allows reviewers to evaluate the ability of the participating departments to recruit trainees in the depths of the applicant pool. These data are useful in assessing the full activity of the admissions process, the competitiveness of the training program, and the appropriate number of training positions to be awarded. On this slide, we see part two. The data provided in part two allows reviewers to evaluate the characteristics of the applicant pool, including overall numbers of potential trainees, their credentials, and eligibility for support, and enrollment trends. Please note that the information requested is not identical for pre-docs and post-docs on this table.
Next section is the section on the institutional environment and commitment to training. The application should describe the facilities and resources that will be used in the proposed T32 program, and discuss how the scientific environment will support and contribute to the program. It's appropriate to include information in this section about the availability of a post-doctoral office, or other offices that offer activities relevant to trainees. Applicants must indicate how the applicant organization will support the program, financially or otherwise. Institutional commitments could include supplementation of stipends, protective time for mentoring, support for student activities, space, facilities or equipment for the program, funding for program director or PI effort, support for additional trainees in the program, or any other creative ways to improve the environment for the establishment and growth of the research training program. A signed letter of support should be included in the application from the appropriate institutional leaders, describing the institution's commitment to the T32 program.
The final part of the program plan is qualifications of trainee candidates, and admissions and completions records. New applications will describe trainees who would have been eligible for appointments to the proposed T32. Renewal applications will describe the actual pull of appointed trainees. This section offers the opportunity to emphasize the ability of the program to recruit and retain high caliber trainees, and to provide data on trainee outcomes. Points to discuss could include those in the previously discussed trainee candidates section in table six. Renewal applications must also include table seven, which provides information on appointments to the T32 for each budget year of the current project period. This data permit reviewers to evaluate how the awarded training positions were in fact used.
Finally, outcomes are described to allow reviewers to assess whether trainees are successful in completing the program, with the credentials to pursue independent research careers. Data from table eight should be summarized in the section, as well as metrics related to trainee productivity such as publications and awards. In our experience, reviewers will notice critical outlier outcomes. For example, those pre-docs who don't complete or take longer than expected to complete their PhD. It's best to address outliers in the narrative, potentially by describing how the oversight structure has been modified to address potential outliers early. Here, the components of table eight provide information about the use and outcomes of training positions. You can see that the table includes terminal degree and year, initial and current position, and subsequent research funding. Note, the positions listed in table eight must be classified as predominantly research intensive, research related, further training, or other. These tables will include up to 15 years of data, with the number of years being dependent upon the length of the T32 program. Applicants and reviewers should keep in mind, that long-standing programs will have up to 15 years of training history and outcomes to report in this section. While younger programs at their first renewal may have as few as four years of data, and expectations for the quality of outcomes should reflect the reported time frame. Like here we show sample table 8A, which is for pre-doctoral outcomes. The parallel table for post-docs is table 8C.
So part two is for those individuals clearly associated with the training grant. That is those who have not been supported by this T32, but who have an identical experience to those supported. It's only applicable for renewal and revision applications. The information provided is the same as in part one of table eight. This should be included for pre-docs and post-docs, as applicable. Here, presented the examples for pre-docs. Part three should only be included for new applications, and for renewal or revision applications requesting an expansion of support. Adding a new pre-doctoral or post-doctoral component to an existing T32, for example. Provide the requested information for all students graduating from the proposed program in the last five years, who would have been eligible for the T32 appointment. Part four applies only to renewal or revision applications for pre-doctoral programs. In part four, you report two figures. First, the percentage of trainees entering 10 years ago and receiving support from this training grant at some point during graduate school, who received PhDs or equivalent research doctoral degrees. And second, the average time to degree for all trainees appointed to this training grant, completing PhDs in the last 10 years. Please remember, data from the table should be summarized in the narrative sections of the application as appropriate. Now, I will turn things over to my colleague, Dr. Lauren Hill, a training officer in the Division of Services and Intervention Research, who will take you through the final part of the webinar.
Good afternoon. We're now moving to the final section of the training program plan. The recruitment plan to enhance diversity. As I'm sure you know, institutional training programs are required to demonstrate successful efforts to recruit an outstanding and diverse trainee population. All T32 applications must provide a recruitment plan to enhance diversity, which describes past efforts and pro-active plans for the recruitment of trainees from diverse groups. For NIH programs, these groups are defined as individuals from those racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the [NSS?] to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis, as well as individuals with disabilities. For NIMH T32 pre-doctoral and post-doctoral programs, the disadvantage background category does not apply. The most common errors we see in diversity recruitment plans are; one, that training faculty aren't involved in the diversity recruitment themselves and these efforts are made only at the institutional level, and faculty should be involved in these plans. And secondly, the that there is no plan to recruit individuals with disabilities.
We know applications must also include a detailed description of experiences in recruiting individuals from underrepresented groups during the last project period, as well as plans for the proposed funding period. In renewal applications, the success of the program over the last project period in recruiting individuals from diverse background, is factored into the overall impact score. There are many resources available that are relevant to efforts, to enhance workforce diversity. We particularly call your attention to the NIH diversity in extramural program site, which discusses why diversity matters to the NIH. It also discusses building participation in the workforce. And thirdly, provides links to relevant published reports and data that you may use in support of your application. The building participation section highlighted here, includes ideas for recruitment strategies that may be useful in crafting a strong recruitment plan to enhance diversity. Some individual NIH institutes also provide information and resources on their website. We certainly encourage you to take advantage of all of these resources, or any of them that may have been useful to you.
We've completed the discussion of the training program plan. And now we'll move into another required application component: the plan for instruction in the responsible conduct of research. All applications must include a plan for training in the responsible conduct of research or RCR. This plan must address the five required components of the NIH RCR policy. That is: format, subject matter, faculty participation, duration, and frequency of instruction. The most common error we see in the RCR plan is inadequate frequency. Instruction must be undertaken at least once during each career stage, and at a frequency of no less than once every four years. Programs should incorporate refresher training as necessary into their plan, to ensure this expectation is achieved. The plan should also state how participation in RCR will be monitored. Renewal applications should describe any changes to RCR instruction that address weaknesses or deficiencies that were identified in current practices, and should name the training faculty who were involved in RCR instruction during the past project period.
The next two components of the research training program plan are not required for all applications. If you propose a multi-PI program, the multiple PDPI leadership plan must be included to describe the rationale for how the multiple PDPIs will benefit the program. A progress report is required for T32 renewal applications, to describe the accomplishments of the training program to date. It is important to provide context for the reviewers. Remind them how long the T32 program has been in existence, because there are typically many differences between a first renewal and a third renewal, for example. Detailed instructions for these sections can be found in the SF424 R&R application guide. Other attachments in the research training program plan, include the bio-sketches for participating faculty, any letters of support, and all of the required data tables. Letters of support typically are written by institutional officials. For example, deans or department heads. These letters describe the financial or in-kind support of the T32 program promised by the institution. Support for other training program, attachment should be included as appropriate. For example, [inaudible].
The current NIH appendix policy limits the kinds of materials that are allowable to; one, blank informed consent or assent form; two, blank surveys, questionnaires, and data collection instruments; or three, FOA-specific items. The T32 FOA or funding opportunity announcement, does not specify any materials to be included in the appendix. Any applications submitted will be withdrawn without review, if disallowed appendix material is included. T32 budget should be prepared using the PHS 398 budget form. A separate budget should be prepared for each budget period requested, generally for each year of support requested. The budget can include stipends, tuition, and fees, training travel, training-related expenses, and indirect cost at the rate of 8%. The budget justification is a required component that provides additional information to support the budget requests. The number of training slots requested should be justified. Information from table six can be used to help in this regard. If a post-doctoral training program is required, the stipend level requested must be justified. Justifications for post-doctoral tuition and travel funds should also be included.
Here we list some important documents and links, where you can access them on the web for your information. We encourage you to follow up, of course, with the most relevant NIMH training officer, in order to obtain feedback on a proposed T32 application. Either a new application or a renewal application. And here we list the information that you might include with your inquiry to one of us. We look forward to initiating a dialogue with you about your proposed application. So we're about to go into the question and answer phase of today's webinar. With just this final note, that we're hoping to post today's webinar and slides to our site in the coming weeks. And with that, I'll open it up for questions.
Okay. So this is Nancy, and we've received some questions from the viewers. And I would encourage anyone else who is in our viewing audience, to continue to send us questions. One question we received is, "Will the GPAs and GRE scores of potential trainees be taken into consideration?" And the answer to that question is that NIH no longer requests GRE information or MCAT scores for trainees. We only are requesting grade point averages for pre-doctoral candidates on the relevant data table. So that information is not needed, is neither needed nor required. And in part, that information is no longer required because the available evidence suggests that GRE scores are not good predictors of the outcome of the training.
Another question that we received was whether letters of support are appropriate from the trainees. And looking through the application guide and the instructions, I would say that those are not the kind of letters of support that are generally seen in a T32 application. And at least, to me, doesn't seem like those letters would carry a lot of weight with the review panel. So I would personally discourage those kinds of letters in an application. We had a question about the appendix, and I just wanted to kind of reinforce what my colleague Warren said, "This is the big change in NIH policy, that has gone into effect earlier this year." And as we understand this, and given that there's nothing in the T32 funding announcement that requests specific materials in the appendix, appendices are not allowed in a T32 application. If there is a change in the NIH policy with regard to T32 appendices, then there will be a guide notice issued to advise you of that.
We have another question regarding a section that was-- that we did not discuss in the training program plan, and that is the section on data rigor and reproducibility. And the question is whether that section is required at this time, and the answer is no. It is not required at this time. There may be particular funding announcements that would require this section. For example, if specific T32 are [inaudible] that may require this section, but the parent T32 FOA to which you would be responding and submitting an application to the NIMH, does not require this section. Although I've now said that we don't require that section, I would remind you that our director, Josh Gordon, did highlight the importance of data rigor and quantitative training in his message to all of us at the beginning of the webinar. So the topic is important. But at this point, this specific section is not required. Okay. So I think I'm going to suggest that some of my colleagues take a couple of questions. I need to actually look something up on the web, so that I can answer another question. And here are a few questions that perhaps one of my other colleagues could take, while I'm looking something up.
Okay. So I can answer one of the questions we have, and I think this is covered a bit. [inaudible] recruitment plan to enhance diversity, the responsibility of the applicant institution or the T32 program? And in some ways, I think it probably should be both. I mean it clearly is a responsibility of the T32 program, talking about the unique things that you're doing to increase the diversity of your applicant pool and the people you're bringing into the program. Though most universities do have offices that really do monitor and work on diversity issues, and I think interfacing with that type of group is something worth doing. But if you just delegate that responsibility to that group, and you're not doing anything proactively within the context of your own T32 program, you're probably going to get beat up at review. And also something programmatically, even if the application did well, we would probably want to see you send us a plan before we make any awards. I want you to send us a plan about what you're specifically doing and the unique things that you're doing, to try to increase the diversity of your applicant pool.
Okay. One other question. This comes up quite often. What should we do if, by law, we cannot get any information on disability status? Because in most places, you can't explicitly ask somebody to tell you about a disability that they choose not to disclose, and not all disabilities are something that you can just visually see. And so what we encourage people to do is create the opportunity for people to provide that information if they so choose to do, but you can't explicitly ask for it, but do create that opportunity for people to provide it if they choose to do so.
And then you can also say in your application what your institution and/or state or program's policy is. In other words, if you're prohibited or you don't ask, put the data that's there or not into some context.
Quick one here, NIH makes a distinction between what we call research-intensive and research-related careers in the T32 FOA, and in the corresponding data tables. What exactly is a research-related position? So research-related positions generally require a doctoral degree, and they may include such activities as teaching, administering research for higher education programs, science policy, or technology transfer. But they would be distinct from those folks who are actually running grants or specific studies. Another question actually relates to one of the tables, table six. Let's see. Table six asks for information on prior full-time research experience for pre-docs. What do we do if we don't have this information on the number of months, or prior full-time research experience upon entrance to the program? So there are two options for you here. One, you can obtain this information from current graduate students and explain in the narrative how you came up with the data. Or two, you can simply say you don't have the information. So that's also an option.
Or you may come up with a third option. The first option is actually something that we saw on an application the first year this information was required. Okay. So there are a couple more questions that we got. And this, I would say, this is sort of a frequent question that we often have conversations with applicants about. And that is, what is considered to be an adequate ratio between the number of participating faculty and the number of positions requested? It's one of those questions I always think sort of could be answered with the phrase, "Well, it all depends," and that's not a very useful answer to our community. So in general, and I think I will ask my colleagues for their additions after I speak, because there certainly can be a number of different perspectives. First, I think it's important to provide the justification for the number of faculty. The number of trainee spots needs to be justified, in terms of basically the breadth, the quality of the pool that you have, and the depth or the size of the pool that you have. So if you have a very small pool, then you have a pool of eight people each year at a particular career stage. That's not a very large pool. And [opting?], for example, five positions a year would seem - at least in my opinion - excessive. And I suspect the review panel would find that to be excessive also. The faculty numbers, there's kind of a yin-yang in terms of faculty numbers. If you have a lot of faculty - like in the 50, 60 faculty on a training grant - occasionally, reviewers will express concern about that. Because they'll say, "Well, how are all of these faculty really going to participate in this training program?" But on the other side of that coin, is the concern that if you only have-- if there are only 10 or 12 faculty in the training program, that that group is really not sufficient on a critical mass, or the T32 as you currently defined it. So I haven't really answered your question, I would see if my colleagues have any further thoughts.
So I know that the T32 portofolio that I oversee, there are areas - extramural research areas - where it is a relatively small number of investigators who do research in these areas. And a couple I can think of are geriatric psychiatry, and I can also think eating disorders portfolio. So these programs quite often, at a given institution, there's not going to be that many faculty who really are focusing on those research areas. So one of the obvious things is - and these are programs that we value - when a person is making the request for the number of trainees that they want to support, do make it proportional. Try to make it proportional to the people who are actually available to provide the training. And also, I think it's useful to reviewers to kind of contextualize what you're doing. I mean it's a relatively small program, but there really is a critical need for these. And so it may not look like some of the more general programs, but I think if you provide some of that rationale as to why it looks the way it looks and it's reasonable, you don't have, "Okay, we have seven really strong preceptors, but we're asking for seven slots." Well, that just wouldn't make any sense. And so this would be a smaller program. Put it within the context of what's going on in that area of science, the available preceptors and everything else. Because a lot of times, reviewers may not specifically know that if they're not in that area of science. So I think just trying to be as clear and giving a rational justification towards the number of trainees that you're taking, or requesting support for, it's just always very, very helpful to reviewers. If they have to figure it out for themselves, most likely they're not going to give you the benefit of the doubt. So the less they have to interpret, the better off you're going to be.
Yeah. The last part is really important about-- in terms of being clear about the roles that every member's going to play. So regarding the number of faculty. I think some people, some programs will put a large long list of potential faculty. Meaning that these are people who potentially people could do research, or their research offerings, but they may not be involved in the day-to-day operations or involved in activities that are applicable to all trainees. I think one way around this is to be very clear about the role that each person would play, and what they offer to the program. So that can kind of clear up some of the confusion. But the highlight, one of Nancy's original points, longer faculty lists aren't necessarily better. Not particularly if the areas of expertise start moving far-field from the actual goals of the training program. So do be careful about that.
And just to underscore the things that have-- basically, already said. So for example, Chris was talking about roles that faculty plays. Sometimes faculty maybe just lecturers at a seminar. Then that role should be defined, as opposed to people who are doing in-lab training. I think there's a lot of leeway for the ratio questions. But probably there is such a thing as too small, which is if it looks like the vast majority of trainees end up in one lab. Unless there is a real strong rationale with that.
Then that will always be a problem.
So that's too small. And then in very large programs, it's sometimes helpful to articulate how the trainees will select from a vast array of options. How will they knit together a program that includes various mentors, that are going to meet their training needs or their training goal?
So my last comment. My comment would be that I think this kind of question is the kind of thing you want to have a discussion with the most appropriate training officer, before you submit the application. Because all of our answers have been rather general, and this is the kind of question that I personally think is best addressed by looking at the specifics of the proposed program. Okay. We had a couple of other questions related to data tables. Not surprising. So data table one has a couple of questions. One of them is, "Is it really necessary to include a census of post-docs if you're only requesting pre-doctoral training support?" The instructions for the table are clear, that this information is expected. It says, "Regardless of whether this is a pre-doctoral or post-doctoral program application, include both." And I believe that the thinking on that is that post-docs contribute a lot to the training environment at an institution, and having that information is useful to the reviewers.
Another question related to table one is, "What is the definition of a participating department or inter-departmental program?" And that is a very frequently asked question. Should it include all the departments from where the faculty are based, if you will, or should it be narrowed down to the departments from which trainees would be recruited? So if someone so-- there are a couple of things I would say, with regard to this. First, each faculty member should only be listed as associated with a single department or program. Don't list the same person more than once, if there are multiple departments listed. Certainly, it's important to be clear about the-- okay, let me back up here. If your program is going to be recruiting trainees for a particular program, and if that program is an inter-departmental program, then the preceptors will come from multiple departments. But they are the faculty who are participating in this inter-departmental program, so there would be a single line of information for the inter-departmental program. And presumably, the program is also recruiting specifically. In some cases, for example, for their early stage graduate programs, there may be an umbrella graduate admissions. But NIMH doesn't generally support through the parent T32 FOA, first year graduate T32 program. So that's really not applicable here. Again, this is a place where I think speaking directly about your specific circumstance to a training officer is the best strategy. It's often easier to answer these questions specifically, than generally.
So let me see. Okay. So here's an interesting question. So there's a question about how different should the training proposed for those supported on the T32 be, from those who all the other individuals who are in, for example, the graduate program? And this is something that - certainly, I would say that in my experience - our review panels have struggled a bit with this question. And there are certainly, I would say there's a diversity of opinions among reviewers as to how that should be. So let me just give you a couple of examples of ways in which I have seen applications kind of address this question. So generally, every T32 has a scientific focus or a theme. And generally speaking, that theme will lead to the training program having activities that are really centered on that theme. So for example, there may be a required seminar course that has that scientific theme, and all of the people on the T32 are required to take that course. But yet, that course is available to other individuals at the institution. And thereby, it enhances the larger training environment, if you will, at the institution.
There often are generally other kinds of activities, the things that I call glue, that kind of promote cohesion among the training program. For example, they may have activities like works-in-progress meetings a couple of times a month, where trainees are presenting updates on their research project or they may be doing a [inaudible] talk for a conference, or for a job, seminar, things like that. Or there may be other kinds of individual group activities - perhaps a thematic retreat, things like that - that are organized specifically by the trainees and the training faculty, but those kinds of activities are adding larger value to the institutional environment. I think, in general, where reviewers are not enthusiastic about programs where it looks like what's going on-- it may not be what really is going on, but it looks like what's going on is that the T32 is simply a vehicle to pay the training. To my colleagues, do you have any other thoughts?
So the other thing also, I think sometimes with the trainees, one of the things that it can do is, what does it provide the trainees that they wouldn't otherwise have? And so there are seminar series and other things like that, but I know quite often they may not have to teach coursework. And that time they would be teaching classes to cover some of the cost, are now being covered so they can focus more exclusively on their research. And so really, what is that added value of the T32? Again, I agree with Nancy that hopefully these T32s are having a value that goes beyond the individual trainees who are supported. But for those specific trainings, what is it really providing them with that's differs from other cohorts-- their cohort that they're actually working with? And examples of that that the person could give, I think would always be helpful to reviewers.
So I just thought of something else that one might think about is-- I might think about if I were putting a T32 application together these days, and that is related to the current NIH emphasis related to enhancing data rigor and reproducibility. And I think that that is an opportunity for training programs to-- for example, even if something like a small group meeting where a research paper might be discussed, that there could be a really deep dive kind of discussion about the rigor of the data in this paper. And if one were to do, where do individuals see weaknesses in the premise or the rigor of the data? Because these are really significant topics, I believe. And as you all know, eventually, coming soon to your T32, you will be expected to have a plan for education related to data rigor and reproducibility. So now might be the time to think about how you would actually begin to invest in that.
There also remain areas of science relevant to the NIMH, where individuals are not receiving rigorous training related to experimental design, appropriate statistics, and thinking about their data analytically and quantitatively. And so those are all important things to think about, and to ensure that those who are completing your training programs are really equipped with when they leave. Very foundational skills. Other skills also could relate to things like their career transition to the next stage. There can be ways in which the training faculty could have focused efforts for the individuals in the training program on all of the steps that are needed to make a successful transition, whether that be to a research-intensive career or to other careers that make good use of the skills that one has learned in training.
Okay. So another frequently asked question. Do we have any tips for data on the applicant pool for a post-doctoral training program? Usually, post-docs apply to labs and not to programs, and so it's hard to track the applicant pool and also the applicant pool that is eligible for a T32 program. So I think this is a tough-- tougher thing for a new program. For a renewal program, one would hope that the program had initiated a strategy when they were funded to-- because they're reviewing applications for appointment to the T32, that they would have a process for announcing the program and people applying to it. So that they would have data. But for a new program, generally what at least I see is that people are querying the faculty for information about a number of inquiries they've received. Many faculty don't keep track of that information though. So certainly, there is some estimating that is probably going on there. But asking your faculty early on that you're going to need this information or their assistant to help them collect that information, could be very useful.
And sometimes, programs take a more qualitative flash descriptive approach. Where if there are similar types of post-doc programs at that institution, they may speak very broadly about how robust their post-doctoral training opportunities are at the institution. Particularly if the post-doctors in their program, may have opportunities to join other types of institution wide or inter-departmental post-doctoral enrichment program.
Okay. I answered that. Ashley, are you seeing any other questions? Is selective recruiting specific for a T32 program, expected in an umbrella program? Not quite sure what the question means. An umbrella program, the way I think about it is generally a way to recruit individuals into graduate school. And so one way - if that's the context for this question - generally the-- certainly, I wouldn't think that the-- generally, NIMH doesn't support first year graduate training in our NIMH T32s. So I'm not sure if this question is with regard to diversity recruitment, or overall recruitment. So what I would suggest is that the person who is asking this question send an email to my colleague Nikki, and we will get back to you once we have a clearer understanding of that question. I think we've answered most of the questions that we've gotten. Take one last look here. Oh, and maybe this is a question that might be-- or a point useful to mention. Someone says that they're planning to propose an external advisory committee for their T32 applications, and they want to know if they're required to include letters of support from the committee members in the application.
The answer to that question is no. Actually, we would recommend that you not name the individuals in the application. We're assuming those individuals would not be at your institution, but would be affiliated with a different institution. Rather, we would recommend that you describe the general qualifications of the committee members that you would seek, when your application is to be funded. You don't want to invite them also, and know in the back of your mind that they said yes. The reason we make this recommendation is because individuals who are named in the application are in conflict with your application, and that means that all of those individuals are automatically disqualified as potential reviewers. Okay.
So one last question. Do we need bio-sketches and other support from other faculty? Well, you certainly want bio sketches from the participating faculty. And while not required, it is really nice if the personal-- the statements that the PI makes is not their generic statements for their research grants, but actually has been tailored to reflect their passion for research training. Your reality may be and likely is different, because we recognize that all of these people are busy and often don't have multiple forms of their bio sketch. It is very good that the bio sketch be up-to-date, and not one that is two or three years old. If there are-- there may be other-- if there are other exam scenarios where you have a question about including bio-sketches, I would suggest you write to Nikki with your question and we will get back to you about other kinds necessities of other kinds, bio-sketches for other people.
Okay. Any last comments from any of my expert colleagues here? If not, I thank everyone for their attention and if you have additional questions, please sent them to Nikki, and she will make sure that we answer you. And yet again, we look forward to talking with you one on one about your applications in the future. Thank you for your participation. Have a good day.