The human experience is vastly different for each individual. To understand this complexity, a diverse group of biomedical scientists from all walks of life are needed to bring varying perspectives and ask innovative questions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is working to achieve this goal by investing in novel research to protect and improve health and also developing the biomedical researchers who expand our knowledge.
A group of seven researchers wanted to know more about who applied for and received funding from the NIH (Ginther et al., 2011). The researchers found that many Black/African American scientists were applying for NIH funding, but their applications were 10% less likely to be funded than applications from other groups. This wake-up call spurred the NIH to action.
Experts reviewed the information collected about NIH funding and made recommendations to enhance workforce diversity.
To implement these suggestions, the NIH sought proposals from the research community that built on existing training and mentoring strategies.
The NIH prioritized measuring the impact of training, mentoring and institutional support at different stages of a biomedical researcher’s journey.
Recognizing that persistent problems exist at all career stages, the NIH requested evaluation plans from all potential projects to understand what worked and to demonstrate the impacts of programming to support a diverse group of individuals across their careers.
The NIH funded initiatives focused on training, mentoring, and developing an evaluation plan. This approach aims to recognize and strengthen pathways into biomedical careers. The result of this funding was the formation of the DPC and its three initiatives: BUilding Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD), the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), and the Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC).
BUILD serves highly diverse student bodies by expanding research training and mentoring opportunities. The NRMN provides mentorship, professional development, mentor/
mentee training and networking opportunities for students and faculty. The CEC manages the administration of consortium-wide surveys and data collection in coordination with each BUILD site.
Undergraduates in funded programs now have access to new opportunities and faculty were trained as mentors and in grant writing — but what impacts would this change have?
Working together with the NIH and other DPC initiatives, the CEC created hallmarks of student, faculty and institutional change that could be measured over time. During this first phase, students and faculty from BUILD along with mentors and mentees from NRMN would take yearly surveys to provide detailed information about activities so that impacts could be evaluated.
To track the progress of the programs, information was collected and compiled into a longitudinal study.
This allowed for comparisons to be made between groups by showing how participants have changed over time by using hallmarks for students, faculty and institutions. A key hallmark to predict whether a student would remain in a biomedical career is having a science identity–feeling like a scientist, being part of the community. When comparing students in BUILD programs to those not in the programs, it was found that BUILD students had a higher science identity score than non-BUILD individuals at the same institutions.
With Phase 1 now completed, the next five years of funding will cover Phase 2 of the project.
Two new initiatives were added: the Sponsored Programs Administration Development (SPAD) Program and the DPC Dissemination and Translation Awards (DPC DaTA). While the programs’ impacts are still being measured and the CEC continues to collect, analyze and publish on what works and why, the ultimate goal of the second phase is to build on the accomplishments from the first five years and provide opportunities for more participants moving forward.
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SPAD & DPC DaTA
The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.