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The NIA Diversity Supplement Program—a fingerprint for success

The NIA Diversity Supplement Program—a fingerprint for success

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Chyren Hunter, Deputy Director and Training Officer, Division of Extramural Activities. See Chyren Hunter's full profile.

Following every meeting of the National Advisory Council on Aging, we set about the task of funding investigators who will contribute to our understanding of aging in health and disease.

A look at the 5-page biosketch of these investigators will show you that the road to success can be as unique as the human fingerprint. One can pinpoint a period of high productivity, a seminal publication or critical research funding that became the game-changer in setting an investigator on the path to research independence. One awardee may have benefitted from the payline percentile advantage for early stage investigators and new investigators. For another, it was a spot-on RFA that exactly matched their research expertise. An attentive mentor may have encouraged a physicist to write a K25 grant application that opened up an entirely new career in biomedical research. Or, a supplement may have bridged a dearth in funding and salvaged a research career. Remember the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act supplements of 2009?

Today, I want to call your attention to the NIA diversity, disability or re-entry supplement, another route a small but accomplished group of investigators took to success.

What do NIA Diversity, Disability, and Re-Entry Supplement Programs offer?

The NIA diversity, disability, and re-entry supplements provide a mentor-directed opportunity for the awardee to develop new critical thinking skills, scientific technical expertise, and the professional acumen essential to advance to the next career stage in aging and geriatrics research. The supplement can represent a pivotal opportunity for an investigator new to aging or for an investigator seeking the preliminary data necessary to submit a small grant application. It can bridge a lapse in funding at a critical juncture in a career.  

The word, “supplement,” here refers to funding added on to an already-funded NIH grant.  NIH and NIA can provide supplement funding to over 40 types of grants, including R01, P30, P50, and R37 grant mechanisms. Applications for supplements to small business R41 and R43 grants are also welcome. 

Who can get diversity, disability, and re-entry supplements?

NIA supplements support eligible post baccalaureate and predoctoral students, as well as PhDs, MDs, and MD-PhDs. Supplements support individuals interested in all areas of aging and geriatrics research: basic as well as clinical research, translational research, and more.

If you currently have an NIA grant and are interested in supporting a candidate, I invite you to take a look at the program guidelines for these supplements focused on funding opportunity for diversity and disability supplements and the funding opportunity for re-entry supplements.

Candidates: you may already know an investigator you would like to work with who is the PI of an R01, P30 or other of the 40 or so grant mechanisms covered by these supplements. If not, the NIH RePORTER database can help you find an NIA-funded investigator whose research may match your interests.

Check the NIA website under programs to diversify the research workforce for specific details on what to submit and the deadlines for submission and review.

Why does the NIA support supplement programs?

The NIA/NIH diversity supplement program is definitely a win-win for the individual investigator and candidate. NIA supplement awardees have gone on to secure NIH career development, R03, and R21 awards, as well as loan repayment contracts. Others became principal investigators or co-principal investigators on R01 awards from NIA or other NIH institutes. Past supplement holders now serve as peer reviewers, Council members, college presidents, department chairs, division chiefs, and have headed federal agencies. Not bad! We need more. Diversifying the research workforce is a goal in good times and in lean. But I also think the programs benefit the overall biomedical research enterprise, as well. NIH‘s recently published notice, NIH’s Interest in Diversity, has it right:

Scientists and trainees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences bring different perspectives, creativity, and individual enterprise to address complex scientific problems. There are many benefits that flow from a diverse NIH-supported scientific workforce, including: fostering scientific innovation, enhancing global competitiveness, contributing to robust learning environments, improving the quality of the researchers, advancing the likelihood that underserved or health disparity populations participate in, and benefit from health research, and enhancing public trust.

Investment in diversity advances the possibility that we will be able to solve current and future challenges to the health of all of our citizens.

Do you have the intellect, commitment, and desire to pursue a research career in aging and geriatrics? Could the diversity supplement be the right fit at the right time for you? Do you know someone, or do you mentor someone who might fit this description? Consider the NIA diversity, disability, and re-entry supplement programs!

By the way, what’s been your particular fingerprint for success? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.


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Posted by Dorothy Winningham on Mar 26, 2015 - 6:51 pm

I am interested in obtaining a certification in gerontology and would be interested in a mentor. I am a caregiver and have a passion for working with the elderly. I am aware that grants, etc are geared to those with higher education criteria, but what about others who have a interest in this field?

Posted by NIA Blog Team on Mar 27, 2015 - 11:25 am

NIH offers training for individuals at many levels: internships for high school students, college and postbac programs, opportunities for medical, dental, and graduate students, and more.