The Diversity Program Consortium – Open Competitions for Phase II

We are pleased to announce that NIH Leadership has granted clearance for the second, final phase of the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC), a national program that is part of a larger, trans-NIH effort to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce. To accomplish this goal, the DPC takes a scientific approach to evaluating training and mentoring interventions. Two components of the second phase will be open competitions: the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and the DPC Dissemination and Translation Awards (DPC-DaTA). The DPC-DaTA grants will allow sites that are not currently part of the DPC to implement sustainable training, mentoring, or research-capacity building interventions using DPC evaluation methods. NIH intends to release the DPC-DaTA FOAs in 2019.

The NRMN funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) were released on February 16, 2018. They include:

  • The Science of Mentoring and Networking (U01) (RFA-RM-18-004). Applicants may submit proposals for research projects in the following areas: 1) The Science of Mentorship, 2) Professional Networking, or 3) Navigating Critical Career Transition Points. Using randomized control trial approaches, case controls, matched pair designs, or other rigorous designs, applicants will explore their research questions and contribute to building the knowledge base to inform the scientific community about their thematic area.
  • NRMN Coordination Center (U24) (RFA-RM-18-003). One service award will be granted to develop an NRMN Coordinating Center. This Center will build upon and improve the current NRMN Administrative Core and work in conjunction with the Center for Evaluation and Coordination (CEC). It will coordinate trans-NRMN activities, and provide infrastructure and expertise surrounding data collection, storage, de-identification, and reporting.
  • NRMN Resource Center (U24) (RFA-RM-18-002). One service award will be granted for an NRMN Resource Center. This center will be analogous to the current U54 Mentorship and Networking Core and will provide a web-based mentoring tool to facilitate real-time mentor/mentee engagement. It will also oversee management of the NRMN website and serve as a platform for publicly available mentoring resources and tools.

Two components of the DPC for the second phase will be limited competitions. The Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) (U54) (NOT-RM-18-005) will allow meritorious sites to complete their BUILD experiments. Review will include a focus on site-specific and consortium-wide experiments, and emphasize sustainability and dissemination. The Center for Evaluation and Coordination (CEC) (U54) (NOT-RM-18-006) will allow for uninterrupted data collection. The review will focus on the current center’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing for improvements and course corrections. Sustainability and dissemination will be emphasized.

Contact for questions? Mercedes Rubio for NRMN inquiries, Anissa Brown for BUILD inquiries, Michael Sesma for CEC inquiries, and Alison Gammie for DPC-DaTA inquiries.

Students ‘Build’ Connections and More at Scientific Conferences

For students in the biomedical sciences, attending conferences is a chance to share ideas and research experiences with colleagues from across the country, while learning about educational and career opportunities and building identities as scientists. Outcomes from student conference attendance may also help us to learn how students build and maintain scientific identities. At conferences over the past two years, we have witnessed undergraduate trainees from the more recently-established Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) program joining colleagues from long-running NIGMS-supported grants, like Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC).

Since BUILD is a fairly new program, it’s been great to see how quickly its trainees have embraced the opportunities conferences have to offer, from simply meeting other program trainees and sharing stories about their research to making valuable networking connections. BUILD, established in 2014, is a component of the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC), which also includes the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and the Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC). The DPC is part of a broad, trans-NIH strategy to address new ways to promote diversity in the biomedical research workforce.

In recent years, BUILD trainees have been in high attendance at the NIGMS-supported Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Link to external website conference and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) Link to external website. These conferences focus on broadening participation in biomedical research and introduce students to groundbreaking scientists.

During the BUILD networking sessions at both meetings, we heard students’ stories about their research and programs. We also had the opportunity to witness an element of students developing scientific identities—trading business cards.

Many BUILD students also made presentations on their research at the 2016 SACNAS and ABRCMS meetings, and eight of them received awards for posters and oral presentations. These awards are based on a variety of criteria, including knowledge of a subject area as well as experimental design. Because the DPC’s BUILD programs introduce undergraduate students to research through hands-on lab experience, it’s great to see that students are sharing their research findings, taking part in poster sessions and being recognized for their efforts.

Students’ interactions during networking sessions and scientific presentations complement another DPC goal: providing role models and mentors to students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Because evaluating program outcomes is integral to the DPC, we are evaluating whether these kinds of interactions help students persist in science careers and develop identities as scientists. It is our hope that what we learn from DPC interventions—such as promoting conference attendance among students—can be scaled to fit a larger audience and benefit students in other training programs.

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Notes from the Diversity Program Consortium Annual Meeting

DPC Annual Meeting Program CoverAfter attending the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) Exit icon annual meeting in mid-October and learning about the progress the consortium has made and its future plans, we’re feeling energized as we begin the third year of this grant. The DPC, supported by the NIH Common Fund and managed by NIGMS, is a cooperative agreement focused on finding the best ways to improve research training and mentoring in the biomedical sciences and on engaging a more diverse field of individuals in biomedical research careers. The consortium includes three interconnected programs: Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD), the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and the Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC).

The annual meeting brought together over 100 representatives from NIH and each grantee site to discuss DPC achievements, challenges and opportunities. The agenda, organized by the CEC, included two full days of presentations and breakout sessions.

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New Tool for Building Mentor/Mentee Connections

We’re pleased to announce the launch of MyNRMN Exit icon, a free, web-based platform designed to help biomedical researchers and students across the United States connect professionally. MyNRMN is part of the National Research Mentoring Network Exit icon, which NIGMS manages for the NIH Common Fund’s Diversity Program Consortium.

MyNRMN is designed for scientists at every career level. Faculty in more senior roles and established researchers can sign up as mentors. Early career faculty can serve as mentors or be mentees, depending on their needs. Undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs can elect to be peer mentors or sign up to be mentored. The connections you form through MyNRMN might be as simple as asking a question to scheduling formal mentoring sessions.

Some of MyNRMN’s features include:

  • Browsing other registrants’ profiles to connect with people who have similar interests (as on social media sites).
  • Sharing documents and sending direct messages to your connections.
  • Creating a personalized calendar to schedule mentee/mentor meetings, and electing whether you would like to receive text message reminders.
  • Revising and improving your resume with the CV Builder tool (for mentees).

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Outcomes Analysis of the NIGMS Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA) Program

We recently analyzed the career outcomes of scholars who participated in the NIGMS IRACDA program. A goal of this program is to provide a diverse pool of postdoctoral scholars with research and professional skills needed to be successful in academic careers. The program combines a mentored postdoctoral research experience with an opportunity to develop additional academic and teaching skills, including a teaching practicum at a partner institution that enrolls a substantial number of students from underrepresented groups. Since its inception in 1999, 25 research-intensive institutions have received IRACDA awards, which have supported more than 600 scholars.

Our assessment focused on the 450 alumni who completed their training through November 2014. Important findings include:

  • IRACDA scholars are diverse: 63% are female, and 53% identify as a race/ethnicity other than white, non-Hispanic.
  • Approximately 73% of IRACDA alumni are in academic faculty positions at a range of institutions (see Figure 1).
  • Among the scholars in faculty positions, 35% are at research-intensive institutions, 25% are at primarily undergraduate institutions and the remaining percent are at associate- and master’s degree-granting institutions. In addition, 25% of the IRACDA alumni in academic positions are faculty at a designated minority-serving institution.

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