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Inviting RCMAR applications to continue NIA’s investment in diversifying the research workforce in the behavioral and social sciences

picture of Dr. Melissa Gerald
Melissa GERALD,
Program Official,
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)
.
Laura Major
Laura MAJOR,
Health Specialist,
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)
.

NIA has long appreciated the value of diverse experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds in aging research. Since 1997, a key investment in this effort has been through our Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR) program. The RCMARs help advance NIA’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) by enhancing the diversity of the aging research workforce and increasing the number of researchers focused on health disparities and the health and well-being of older adults affected by health inequities.

Supporting early career scientists and workforce diversity

Each RCMAR awards pilot projects to early career scientists, providing the opportunity to conduct an independent research project, receive hands-on mentoring, connect with the larger RCMAR network, and generate preliminary data and experience applying for NIA grants. In the last five years alone, the program has supported 236 researchers from diverse backgrounds. Many former pilot project awardees have gone on to receive their own NIH-funded grants and/or assume leadership roles in RCMARs.

Apply by October 21 to establish or renew a RCMAR!

As part of ongoing efforts to enhance the RCMAR program’s impact, NIA recently published three new, interconnected funding opportunity announcements that underscore our DEIA resolve. We are accepting applications now through Oct. 21, 2022, for the following:

  • RFA-AG-23-026, which seeks new and renewal applications for RCMARs that focus on behavioral and social research related to aging and/or to health disparities in older adults.
  • RFA-AG-23-025, which invites new and renewal applications for Alzheimer’s and related dementias RCMARs that focus on a selected area of behavioral and social science.
  • RFA-AG-23-027, designed to support the development and maintenance of the RCMAR coordinating center, which provides leadership to the RCMAR program through a cooperative agreement with NIA. This funding opportunity has been changed from a grant to a cooperative agreement to facilitate collaboration among RCMAR centers, other NIA-funded centers, and the broader NIH.

Applications must demonstrate a commitment to mentoring early career investigators from diverse backgrounds, including, but not limited to, underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and women. Competitive applicants should also emphasize inclusion and support of scientists and mentors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other institutions historically committed to training students from underrepresented minority groups.

We welcome your application! If you have questions, check the Frequently Asked Questions posted on the DBSR’s Funding Opportunities and Applicant Resources webpage or email melissa.gerald@nih.gov.

Comments

Submitted by Preeti Pushpal… on August 17, 2022

This is a great initiative by NIA. However, unless the definition of diversity is inclusive of Asian Americans and sub-groups of Asians who are also first-generation immigrants, how is this truly a DEIA effort? My Black, Hispanic and Native American colleagues have benefitted from the RCMAR's which has helped them advance their research and helped them progress upward in their professional careers.

I am glad NIA has supported minority researchers, jump-started research careers, and made being an independent researcher possible for many. However, as a woman and Asian scholar me and my other Asian colleagues have had to experience multitude of burdens and disadvantages. I personally have been denied RCMAR pilot grants several times. I do not know what role my Asian heritage played into these decisions.

I also do not qualify for Diversity Supplements unless the definition of diversity or underrepresentation has changed recently. I spent way too much time understanding my eligibility for these diversity supplements and only to realize I did not qualify based on the criterion proposed.

Despite being a highly heterogenous group, Asians are all lumped together as Other and at time with Whites when it comes to NIH Research Statistics on NIH funding and not considered minorities. Women Asian scientists like myself who are also first-generation immigrants lag far behind many research metrics in comparison to my Black, Hispanic and Native American colleagues.
Thank you for listening and hope some policy action will be taken ASAP on this issue to rectify the disadvantages and the lags Asian Immigrant women scientists like myself had to suffer in our scientific careers.

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