We recently analyzed outcomes of the NIGMS Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (referred to here as the Diversity Supplement Program or DSP), which provides investigators holding active NIGMS research grants with supplemental funds to support scholars from groups underrepresented in biomedical science. Using a public search approach, we could track a large proportion of participants—but not all—through doctoral training and into various careers. We assessed the educational and career outcomes for undergraduate, graduate student and postdoctoral participants supported by supplements between 1989 and 2006, and we encourage you to explore the report.
Highlights of the analysis include:
- At least 73% of DSP graduate students completed the Ph.D. This completion rate compares quite favorably with national figures of 50-58% Ph.D. completion in all STEM fields by students from underrepresented groups and approximately a 70% Ph.D. overall completion rate in the life sciences.
- At least 16% of DSP undergraduates earned a Ph.D. and at least 31% earned an M.D. For many undergraduates, the DSP offered a summer research experience at another institution; however, the short duration of a typical undergraduate DSP award may limit its impact on career choice.
- DSP postdocs were twice as likely as DSP graduate students to have earned their Ph.D. from an institution with substantial enrollment of students from underrepresented groups. This could indicate that the DSP offers postdocs in particular an entry—or re-entry—into research-intensive environments.
- Careers in research were the most prevalent outcome, with about 65% of all DSP-supported graduate students and postdocs achieving research careers (including academia, industry and government research). DSP participants were employed in career sectors similar to those reported for the U.S.-trained Ph.D. workforce as a whole.
At NIGMS, a DSP award requires a research plan that engages the participant and a career development plan that involves strong mentoring, but the role of the institution is limited. This offers us an opportunity to compare DSP outcomes with trainee outcomes from our institutional training programs that involve participants at similar career stages.
The results of this analysis indicate that the DSP appears to be successful at achieving its intended outcomes and contributing to a larger effort at NIGMS to promote, support and sustain the development of a highly skilled, creative and diverse biomedical research workforce.