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Support for researchers from diverse backgrounds

Dr. Marie Bernard
Marie A. BERNARD [Former NIA Staff],
Deputy Director,
Office of the Director (OD)

Junior investigators always face challenges. Those from diverse backgrounds face even more challenges. If you’re mentoring someone, or if you yourself are one of these junior investigators, you know this all too well.

Support and mentoring networks are hard to find. Opportunities can seem designed for others. National data on the biomedical workforce reflect this. Already underrepresented groups—from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, to individuals with disabilities, and women—often enter the science training pipeline in smaller numbers and drop out at higher rates.

How can this change? The NIH and the NIA are working very hard on this issue. One way is to let you know about everything we already have to offer. Here are some actions you can take to find supportive communities—and available funding opportunities.

Apply for the Butler-Williams Scholars Program.

Formerly known as the Summer Institute on Aging Research, the Butler-Williams Scholars Program is a training institute hosted every July by the NIA. The program provides early to mid-career scientists with a unique opportunity to interact with leaders in the field of aging research, learning how to design strong projects and put together grant applications. Applying is a competitive process—the deadline is in March.

Apply for a fellowship or a dissertation award.

The F31 predoctoral fellowship program includes opportunities for students with disabilities and individuals from diverse backgrounds. Here’s the current F31 funding announcement to promote diversity, which expires in 2014. The NIA also supports R36 aging research dissertation awards to increase diversity.

Current grantees: apply for a diversity supplement.

NIH research supplements to promote diversity in health-related research try to do exactly that. There are opportunities to recruit early career scientists—high school through junior faculty—that are underrepresented in biomedical research.

We regularly evaluate these supplement programs. Read more about our latest assessment of the impact of diversity supplements.

Sign up for WOCRN—the NIH Women of Color Research Network.

WOCRN assists women of color, focusing on the unique challenges they face in research. The network links people interested in funding and career advancement to mentors and advice. It’s run by the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers and was recently featured in the NIH Record.

Welcome the new Director of the NIA Office of Special Populations.

Finally, I wanted to give you a heads-up that our new Director of the Office of Special Populations, Carl V. Hill, started at the NIA last month. Many of you will know that Carl was a Health Scientist Administrator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, focused on the National Children’s Study. Before that, he was at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Here’s his bio.

We’re very excited to have Carl come over to aging research, where his training and expertise in health disparities will help us do even more in this area. He spearheads many of our programs for researchers from diverse backgrounds, and plays a key role in coordinating across the NIA activities and research on health disparities. You’ll be hearing more from Carl soon.

How can these and other programs help promote diversity in the research workforce? Please submit a comment below.

Editor's Note: The Inside NIA blog will not publish next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We'll be back at the beginning of December.

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