RC NIH awards now eligible for Diversity and Re-entry supplements

Jan 12 2010 Published by under NIH, Underrepresented Groups

A Notice from the NIH indicates that RC1, RC2, RC3 and RC4 awards are eligible for supplementation under the programs designed to enhance Diversity and Re-Entry in the biomedical research staff of the US. These mechanism will be added to a long list (R00, R01 (or RL1), R10, R18, R22, R24, R35, R37, R41, R42, R43, R44, DP1, DP2, P01 (or PL1), P20, P30, P40, P41, P50, P51, P60, U01 (or UL1), U10, U19, U41, U42, U54) of eligible research grants.
These programs permit the PI of a research award to apply for an administrative supplement to support the participation of a scientist from underrepresented groups (including disabled) or returning from an "interruption due to family or other responsibilities" on their project. The Diversity supplement is broadly applied from the high school level on up to research faculty. Criteria are given as:

"For the purpose of this announcement, institutions are encouraged to identify candidates who will increase diversity on a national or institutional basis. The strength of an institution's description and justification for the appointment of an identified candidate will be judged along with all other aspects of the proposed experience".

Criteria for the Re-Entry supplement are give as:

Candidates: Candidates must have a doctoral degree, such as M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D., O.D., D.V.M., or equivalent; and must have been in a postdoctoral or faculty position at the time they left active research. All candidates must be planning a career in biomedical or behavioral research. Candidates who have begun the re-entry process through a fellowship, traineeship, or similar mechanism are not eligible for this program. Awards will be limited to citizens or non-citizen nationals of the United States or to individuals who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence (i.e., in possession of an Alien Registration Receipt Card) at the time of application.
The following guidelines will generally be applied with discretion by the individual NIH ICs. In general, the duration of the career interruption should be for at least one year and no more than eight years. Examples of qualifying interruptions would include a complete or partial hiatus from research activities for child rearing; an incapacitating illness or injury of the candidate, spouse, partner, or a member of the immediate family; relocation to accommodate a spouse, partner, or other close family member; pursuit of non-research endeavors that would permit earlier retirement of debt incurred in obtaining a doctoral degree; and military service. The program is not intended to support additional graduate training and is not intended to support career changes from non-research to research careers for individuals without prior research training. Generally, the candidate should be in complete or partial hiatus from research activities at the time of application, and should not be engaged in full-time paid research activities. Preference will be given to candidates with a complete hiatus from research activities.

I like these programs. They are administrative reviews meaning that you can send them in whenever you want, they are reviewed rapidly and funding can be provided within 6 months. Staff are a huge cost to research awards, so oftentimes the PI who identifies a scientific trainee (or is approached by one) simply cannot provide support. These mechanisms help out with that while at the same time enhancing diversity and ameliorating the effects of stepping off the career for child bearing/rearing purposes.
I also mention this for both the younger PIs and any trainees that might be eligible. These can be great boons to both labs and training scientists. It is well to be aware of these options for supporting research activities.

7 responses so far

  • pinus says:

    hmmm, didn't know that R00's could get these supplements...

  • Since learning about the minority supplement, for somewhat selfish reasons, I've wondered if first-generation college graduates would ever be considered an under-represented minority.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I have seen many institutions start to embrace the category of first-generation college graduate as a class worthy of special consideration. Sometimes this is formally enshrined into their affirmative action / diversity policy language so, yes, I imagine an argument could be made.
    A very quick Google identifies similar language in at least one NIH Guide announcement but this is older...
    A 2009 paper on college attrition based on parental education level is available here:

  • Namnezia says:

    I have mixed feelings about these supplements. As a minority, I understand your point about this being a win-win situation for both mentor and trainee, however I'm not sure this is the case, especially for the trainee. Let me give you a couple of examples. I recently interviewed a postdoc candidate for my lab who is a minority. This would have been his third postdoc position. Based on his CV he was supported in graduate school with a fellowship slated towards underrepresented minorities and during his first postdoc, in a fairly prestigious lab, under a minority supplement. During his postdoc, he basically did the same behavioral testing he was doing as a graduate student, despite the huge potential to learn new techniques in his new lab. When I asked him about this, he said that his PI had hired him to do behavior and did not want him learning anything else. A bad situation in my view. What is worse is that to me it was obvious that the reason he was admitted in to the lab was because he could essentially be supported on a supplement, with no intent from the part of the PI to offer further training opportunities (as for example is required with an NRSA award). In his second postdoc, he again was hired to do behavioral testing, this time under a regular grant. When the grant ended (a year or so later) the PI let him go. When I asked this second PI about this, and after talking to the candidate, it was clear that although he had done two postdocs he really had very little training and a very narrow scope. I think the reason is that because of these supplements, someone who might not have an independent drive, may easily make it up the ranks, but at the end find himself in the end with limited job prospects in the field he has been in for over 10 years. I'm not saying this candidate wouldn't have ended up the same way without the extra supplements but it makes you think.
    In my second example, several minority students have been admitted into our graduate program and once again supported by supplements. In at least a couple of cases, its been clear that the PI of the lab they ended up in, would not have taken them in without the supplement. A good thing, right? But, as in my first example, they found themselves in an environment where the PI is not invested in their training and ended up either dropping out or painfully changing labs after 3 years.
    So what do you think? Do you think that these supplements should have a strong training component in which the PI is accountable? Do they have this? If so, how can its effectiveness be improved so as to prevent trainees from being dragged along while receiving little training? Maybe the awarding of the supplement should take into account the PI's prior training history?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    it was clear that although he had done two postdocs he really had very little training and a very narrow scope. I think the reason is that because of these supplements,
    In at least a couple of cases, its been clear that the PI of the lab they ended up in, would not have taken them in without the supplement. A good thing, right? But, as in my first example, they found themselves in an environment where the PI is not invested in their training
    pshaw. All of the limitations you describe have to do with the mentor/mentee relationship and nothing to do with the source of support. There are many, many ways of funding training scientists in which the PI has no meaningful contingencies (other than the usual self-motivated ones) to provide "good" training.
    So providing these opportunities does not inevitably hurt the trainee and there are many, many other situations in which these bad training dyads result without any supplement being involved.
    Thus, providing the opportunity for more scientific support and training options that would not otherwise be possible provides a nonzero chance for good training dyads. That's a good thing.

  • Alex says:

    Do faculty treat students or postdocs worse when they come with their own funding from some source other than a minority fellowship? I've never seen much evidence of it in my anecdotal observations. If anything, the student or postdoc might get a bit more independence, which should be used an opportunity to learn those new techniques, not as an opportunity to coast on previously-acquired skills like in the anecdote above.
    Is there data on this?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I would again submit to you that it has everything to do with the particulars of the mentor/mentee relationship. No matter the source of funding, if you have good agreement on respective roles, things go well. If you do not have good agreement with respect to postdoctoral independence vs working on "the PIs grant" well....not good. Funding source is irrelevant for general predictions.

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