NIH Research Supplements to Promote Diversity

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Most Recent Funding Opportunity Announcement: PA-23-189

The NIH provides funding (referred as Diversity Supplements) to enhance the diversity of the research workforce by supporting trainees and faculty from groups that are underrepresented in research careers, or PIs who are or become disabled and need additional support for accommodation. These diversity supplements:

  • Must fall within the scope of the original NIH-supported grant project. The Principal Investigator must hold an NIH research grant (R01, P01, etc.) with remaining support, usually two years or more.
    • Check the full list of eligible Activity Codes in PA-23-189.
  • Can support investigators at many career stages including High School, Undergraduate, Post-Bacc, Graduate, Postdoctoral Fellow, or even Independent Investigators.
  • Receive only administrative review instead of peer review.
  • Provide salary support for named candidates that are citizens or non-citizen nationals of the United States or to individuals who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States (i.e., in possession of a Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551).

Definitions of Underrepresented Populations: NOT-OD-20-031

The below criteria are quoted from the Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity NOT-OD-20-031, published on Nov 22, 2019.

Some NIH Institutes have additional guidelines or defer to local institutions to define “underrepresented” — be sure to contact the relevant Program Officer (chart by Institute here) early in the application process to confirm your trainee’s eligibility.

Underrepresented Populations in the U.S. Biomedical, Clinical, Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Enterprise
In spite of tremendous advancements in scientific research, information, educational and research opportunities are not equally available to all. NIH encourages institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations to enhance the participation of individuals from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences, such as:

  1. Individuals from 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 data at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/showpub.cfm?TopID=2&SubID=27) and the report Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering).

    The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research: Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

    In addition, it is recognized that underrepresentation can vary from setting to setting; individuals from racial or ethnic groups that can be demonstrated convincingly to be underrepresented by the grantee institution should be encouraged to participate in NIH programs to enhance diversity. For more information on racial and ethnic categories and definitions, see the OMB Revisions to the Standards for Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-1997-10-30/html/97-28653.htm).
  2. Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended. See NSF data at, https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/static/data/tab7-5.pdf.
  3. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as those who meet two or more of the following criteria:
    1. Were or currently are homeless, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Definition: https://nche.ed.gov/mckinney-vento/);
    2. Were or currently are in the foster care system, as defined by the Administration for Children and Families (Definition: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/focus-areas/foster-care);
    3. Were eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program for two or more years (Definition: https://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/income-eligibility-guidelines);
    4. Have/had no parents or legal guardians who completed a bachelor’s degree (see https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018009.pdf);
    5. Were or currently are eligible for Federal Pell grants (Definition: https://www2.ed.gov/programs/fpg/eligibility.html);
    6. Received support from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as a parent or child (Definition: https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/wic-eligibility-requirements).
    7. Grew up in one of the following areas: a) a U.S. rural area, as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Health Grants Eligibility Analyzer (https://data.hrsa.gov/tools/rural-health), or b) a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-designated Low-Income and Health Professional Shortage Areas (qualifying zipcodes are included in the file). Only one of the two possibilities in #7 can be used as a criterion for the disadvantaged background definition.

      Students from low socioeconomic (SES) status backgrounds have been shown to obtain bachelor’s and advanced degrees at significantly lower rates than students from middle and high SES groups (see https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_tva.asp), and are subsequently less likely to be represented in biomedical research. For background see Department of Education data at, https://nces.ed.gov/; https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_tva.asp; https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf.
  4. Literature shows that women from the above backgrounds (categories A, B, and C) face particular challenges at the graduate level and beyond in scientific fields. (See, e.g., From the NIH: A Systems Approach to Increasing the Diversity of Biomedical Research Workforce https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008902/ ).

Women have been shown to be underrepresented in doctorate-granting research institutions at senior faculty levels in most biomedical-relevant disciplines, and may also be underrepresented at other faculty levels in some scientific disciplines (See data from the National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, special report available at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/, especially Table 9-23, describing science, engineering, and health doctorate holders employed in universities and 4-year colleges, by broad occupation, sex, years since doctorate, and faculty rank).

Upon review of NSF data, and scientific discipline or field related data, NIH encourages institutions to consider women for faculty-level, diversity-targeted programs to address faculty recruitment, appointment, retention or advancement.


Eligible NIH Parent Grants

Since they are administrative supplements, Diversity Supplements are available to Principal Investigators or Program Directors who currently hold specific types of active research grants. Eligible grants generally include R01, R21, R03, R25, DP2, P01, U01, U54, and many more (see full list of activity codes at the top of the page here: PA-23-189). However, eligibility can vary by Institute. Please refer to this chart by Institute for additional information when you are considering preparing a proposal.

Additionally, the parent award must have support remaining for a reasonable period (usually two years or more). As each institute also has varying start dates and review deadlines for Diversity Supplements, it is vital to start the process of applying early to ensure there is enough time on the parent grant. Some institutes also include guidelines on the maximum budget that can be requested based on the career stage of the individual(s) being supported.


Eligible Career Stages for Named Individuals

Supplemental awards under this announcement are limited to citizens or non-citizen nationals of the United States or to individuals who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States (i.e., in possession of a Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551). This program may not be used to provide technical support to NIH-supported investigators.

In general, the NIH encourages supplements to support candidates at the below career levels, though some Institutes/Centers may not accept applications for all career stages. Speak with the relevant Program Officer for confirmation.

  • High School Students: currently enrolled.
  • Undergraduate Students: during the summer and/or academic year. Students may be affiliated with either the applicant institution or another institution.
  • Baccalaureate and Master’s Degree Holders: while applying for admission to graduate or medical school. Expected duration is normally 1 year, but can be extended for an additional year.
  • Graduate (Predoctoral) and Health Professional Students: while pursuing professional degrees (e.g. PhD, MD, DDS, DVM, etc).
    • These supplements are not meant to provide alternate or additional funds to individuals who are already supported by NIH, NRSA, or other PHS funding mechanisms. Students supported by a T-32 / Kirschstein-NRSA may not be transferred to supplemental support prior to the completion of their expected training period.
  • Postdoctoral Fellows: in preparation for an independent career.
    • These supplements are not meant to provide alternate or additional funds to individuals who are already supported by NIH, NRSA, or other PHS funding mechanisms. Postdocs supported by a T-32 / Kirschstein-NRSA may not be transferred to supplemental support prior to the completion of their expected training period.
  • Independent Junior Faculty: either short term (3-5 months per year) or long-term (minimum 9 months / 75% effort per year). Faculty must not have received previous independent NIH funding.
  • Established Investigators Who Are or Become Disabled: for reasonable accommodations to enable completion of a currently funded research project. Support may include modifications to the working environment, specialized equipment, assistive devices, and personnel such as readers, interpreters, or assistants, as required by the nature of the disability and the requirements of the approved research.

Please note that the NIH has additional requirements related to the compensation that may be requested at each career stage, which can be found under “6. Funding Restrictions” in PA-23-189. In particular, requested salary for postdoctoral fellows may not exceed the maximum allowable NRSA stipend level at the time of appointment. This may not be sufficient to cover the minimum salary required for all postdoctoral fellows hired at the Brigham, so please plan accordingly.


Contacting Relevant Program Officers

There are two steps to confirming eligibility for a Diversity Supplement. First, you should contact the Program Officer for your current NIH grant to discuss eligibility and timing, particularly the duration of the supplement relevant to the project period of the parent grant.

Second, reach out to the Program Officer in charge of diversity supplements for your NIH Institute (chart by Institute here). They can tell you about candidate eligibility, specifics of “underrepresented” criteria, allowable career stages, submission deadlines, start / end dates, application components, and funding guidelines or limits.

Remember that Diversity Supplements are candidate-specific; you need to have identified a named individual who meets your Institute’s criteria in order to apply.


Application Requirements for Diversity Supplements

PA-23-189 provides general instructions as to the requirements for a Diversity Supplement Application, but each NIH Institute may require specific additional information (see chart by Institute).  Always confirm the deadline(s) and requirements with the relevant Program Officer for your Institute before you begin.

Most Diversity Supplements include the following:

Research Plan, including:

  • Summary or abstract of the funded parent award or project. Describe how the candidate’s proposed research activities relate to one or more aims of the parent project.
  • Plan for the candidate to interact with other individuals on the parent grant; contribute intellectually to the research; and enhance their research skills and knowledge regarding the selected area of biomedical, behavioral, clinical or social sciences science.
  • Evidence of a focus on the enhancement of the candidate’s research capability, and that the research experience is intended to provide opportunities for career development as a productive researcher.
  • Demonstrated willingness by the PD(s)/PI(s) to provide appropriate mentorship, including having developed a mentoring plan to facilitate the research and career development of the candidate.
  • Stage-appropriate opportunities for skill development.

Career Development and Mentorship Plan, including:

  • Tailored, candidate-specific career development plan including objectives and timelines to transition to next stage of their research career.
  • Detailed description of research and professional development activities to move towards short- and long-term career goals, consistent with the candidate statement.
  • Timeline and appropriate benchmarks to advance towards independent research funding (e.g. anticipated publications, grantsmanship workshops, oral presentations, grant submissions).
  • Mentor-candidate interaction plan in significant detail — must be structured, specific, and stage-appropriate, including parameters such as frequency of meetings, topics to be discussed, and metrics to monitor progress.
  • Plan to address typical barriers and challenges faced by all trainees, as well as the unique challenges that may be encountered by individuals from underrepresented groups.

Statement of Eligibility

The application should include a signed statement from the PI and an Authorized Signing Official (your RPM if in School of Medicine) establishing the eligibility of the candidate for support under this program. The statement must include:

  • Clearly presented information on citizenship
  • Information on the nature of the candidate’s disability, circumstances, background, or characteristics that confer eligibility under this program;
  • For Diversity Supplements, a convincing description of how the appointment of this specific candidate will address the issue of diversity within the national scientific workforce; and,
  • A description of any current or previous Public Health Service (PHS) research grant support the candidate has received, including start and end dates. State if the candidate has received any current or previous PHS support; if the candidate has, include the grant number and inclusive dates of support.

Candidate’s Biographical Sketch and Personal Statement

Provide a biographical sketch for each candidate proposed to be added through this supplement, or for whom additional funds are being requested through this supplement.  The personal statement of the candidate’s biographical sketch should address: Evidence of scientific achievement or interest; Any source(s) of current funding; A statement from the candidate outlining her/his research objectives and career goals.

Mentor’s & Senior/Key Personnel’s Biographical Sketches

Biosketches of mentors and other senior and key persons should provide evidence of past mentoring experience.


Submission of Diversity Supplements

There are a number of ways to submit Diversity Supplements to the NIH, which may include ASSIST or eRA Commons. The relevant Program Officer can confirm your Institute’s preferred method (chart by Institute here).

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