Unyielding commitments to research workforce diversity
Since NIA’s previous update on our work to increase diversity in the scientific workforce, we have continued to take meaningful steps to better support diverse investigators throughout their respective journeys to become independent researchers.
Through programs such as NIH’s UNITE, we are together helping to develop future generations of researchers that more closely mirror the demographics of our nation. NIA intends to continue our work in this area in the immediate future and well beyond!
Research diversity through the hashtag and beyond
NIH’s next research diversity Twitter event falls on Oct. 21 this year, 1-2 p.m. EST, #ResearchDiversity Day, and will focus on NIH’s grant funding via diversity supplements. NIA launched this annual effort in 2019 to showcase the importance of diversity in biomedical research. It has since evolved to engage many others from across the broader NIH and stakeholder organizations.
All extramural NIA divisions participate in our diversity supplement training program, which is designed to attract talented researchers from underrepresented groups to help develop their careers. Our commitment to these funding opportunities has grown steadily since fiscal year (FY) 2018 to encompass more than 200 diversity supplements: The number of related applications NIA received increased by 40% in FY 2021 compared to FY 2020. Join our #ResearchDiversity Day Twitter event to hear directly from diversity supplement awardees about their experiences!
Other ways to get involved
NIA promotes a more diverse research workforce through many other channels and mechanisms, including:
- The NIH Common Fund’s Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program helps institutions recruit diverse cohorts of early-stage research faculty and prepare them to thrive as NIH-funded researchers. Earlier this year, we joined other NIH institute directors in a message on the value of programs like FIRST. We encourage interested mentors and their students to investigate a related series of funding opportunities.
- The NIA-funded Advancing Diversity in Aging Research (ADAR) Through Undergraduate Education program assists undergraduates in pursuing aging research careers. ADAR programs invest in training students from diverse backgrounds and expanding the number of scientists seeking new ways to address health disparities, prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and promote healthy aging.
- NIA’s Butler-Williams Scholars Program prepares new investigators with expertise ranging from basic science to public health to enter into aging research. The focus is on better understanding the contextual factors that determine health outcomes of older adults.
- NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research champions the Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR) Program and its goal of increasing workforce diversity in the social and behavioral sciences of aging and Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The RCMAR program emphasizes health disparities and minority aging research training.
- Earlier this year, NIH published several funding opportunity announcements that promote research to understand and address the impact of structural racism. The Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity initiative will boost innovative research projects, which, if successful, would have a major impact in developing effective interventions to prevent, reduce, or eliminate health disparities and advance health equity.
Join us in the journey forward
During the past century, many incredible scientific breakthroughs were made during overwhelmingly difficult times. Today’s challenges are no different, and we aim to continue building diverse, multidisciplinary teams to find timely solutions. These efforts will be critical to ensuring the highest quality biomedical research that represents all Americans.
We plan additional blog posts in the near future on NIA’s efforts to expand health disparities research and increase clinical trial participation by underrepresented groups. In the meantime, we hope you will join us on our continuing journey by getting involved in some of the opportunities described above, being part of the #ResearchDiversity Day discussion, learning more about NIA's commitment to diversity, and/or by leaving a comment below.
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