The following are frequently asked questions and answers regarding the NIGMS Diversity Supplement Program (DSP). Additional information on the DSP can be found at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Research/Mechanisms/PromoteDiversity.htm.
Q. Who is eligible to be supported by a diversity supplement?
A. The DSP is designed for members of groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, including racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and individuals from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds that have inhibited their ability to pursue a career in health-related research. The program announcement specifies that the candidates must be American citizens or permanent residents in order to be eligible for support.
Q. Which ethnic and racial groups are considered to be underrepresented on a national basis?
A. According to the most recent National Science Foundation report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering the following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans/Alaska Natives who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment, Hawaiian Natives and natives of the U.S. Pacific Islands. In addition, it is recognized that underrepresentation can vary from setting to setting and individuals from racial or ethnic groups that can be convincingly demonstrated to be underrepresented by the grantee institution may be included.
Q. Are women considered underrepresented and therefore eligible for a diversity supplement?
A. No. Although NIGMS strongly supports gender equity, women are not designated as underrepresented with regard to the DSP.
Q. Are persons with disabilities eligible for supplements if they are not a member of an ethnic or racial minority group?
A. Yes. The institution/university must verify the disability and the principal investigator (PI) should address the disabled person's specific needs and how the training and mentoring plan would address these needs.
Q. Can a candidate for the DSP be supported by the parent grant at the time of application?
A. No. The goal of the program is to recruit students in need of training to the PI's lab and to support them in their early years of training when the supplement will have the greatest impact. It is not intended to provide an alternate means of support to someone already supported on the parent grant.
Q. How does available T32 training grant support affect eligibility for a diversity supplement?
A. NIGMS is strongly committed to the appointment of individuals from diverse backgrounds to foundational T32 training programs as these provide a clear, mentored program and strong oversight for training students. Furthermore, NIGMS-supported T32 predoctoral training grants are intended to support early phase graduate training (typically, years 1-3). Therefore, eligible students should be nominated for available T32 support. If the candidate already is appointed to a T32 grant, the student should remain on the training grant for the normal term of appointment and prepare for transition to a fellowship or to support on the sponsor's research grant(s). In some cases it might be appropriate for a student supported by a T32 to transition to a diversity supplement, for example, if the student changed sponsors or applied for, but was not awarded, a fellowship. The PI of the parent grant should contact NIGMS to discuss such a situation before submitting an application for a diversity supplement.
Q. What academic levels does NIGMS support through the DSP?
A. NIGMS supports diversity supplements for individuals at the high school, undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate student or postdoctoral fellow levels. Although NIGMS does not support supplements for underrepresented ethnic or racial groups at the investigator level, established investigators (PDs/PIs) who become disabled during the current project period may request funds for reasonable accommodations to permit completion of the currently funded research project.
Q. Will NIGMS support more than one diversity supplement on a PI's grant?
A. NIGMS will consider supplemental support for more than one individual on a grant at all levels of training. NIGMS also will allow diversity supplements to multiple grants to the same PI, when appropriate.
Q. Can an application for diversity supplement request support for more than one student?
A. Yes. Although such requests are rare, it is possible to request support for multiple students when it is appropriate for the research project and training environment. The PI must describe the mentoring plan for each named individual and each individual must submit a personal statement and biosketch.
Q. At what stage of a graduate student's or fellow's training is it most appropriate to request a diversity supplement?
A. At the graduate student and postdoctoral levels, NIGMS emphasizes supporting individuals in the early stages of their training, generally in years 1-3, with an expectation that the individuals will then transition to traditional means of support appropriate for their stage of training.
Q. Which grant mechanisms are eligible for diversity supplements?
A. Active NIGMS research grants, program project grants, center grants or cooperative agreements with a reasonable period of research support remaining at the time of the supplemental award are eligible for an administrative diversity supplement. SCORE grants (SCI, SC2 and SC3) are not eligible for diversity supplement support.
Q. Are multiple PI grants eligible for diversity supplements?
A. Yes. Either PI on a multiple PI grant can request a diversity supplement; the corresponding PI should submit the application.
Q. How long should the request be for?
A. The request cannot exceed the length of time remaining on the parent grant and should be tailored to the student's training plan. Typically a grant should have at least 2 years remaining in order to request a supplement for a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. For high school, undergraduate or post-baccalaureate students, NIGMS will allow requests if the grant has at least 1 year remaining.
Q. Can a diversity supplement be extended?
A. Yes. In some cases the time remaining on the parent grant limits the optimal amount of funding that can be provided. In such cases, it is possible for the grantee to invoke a no-cost extension for the parent grant and request additional supplement support for a brief period of time. Once a grant is renewed, it is expected that the PI will incorporate support for diversity candidates at the graduate student and postdoctoral fellow levels into the regular research budget if that person is still in training.
Q. How should a candidate be supported once the diversity supplement ends?
A. NIGMS expects that individuals will transition to traditional means of support appropriate for their stage of development. Examples include support through the parent grant, appointment to an institutional training grant or receipt of an individual fellowship.
Q. What should be included in the PI's training and mentoring plan?
A. Training and mentoring plans should be customized to the individual candidate's strengths and weaknesses, and gaps in previous training should be addressed. In addition, the PI should indicate how the individual will be supported after the supplement ends, including any plans for helping the candidate to apply for independent support.
Q. What should be included in the PI's personal statement?
A. The PI should state his/her personal philosophy of training and commitment to promoting diversity, and describe his/her track record of successful mentoring of students and fellows.
Q. What should be included in the candidate's personal statement?
A. The candidate should describe his/her long term education and career goals and why they wish to pursue a research career.
Q. Can a PI request equipment for reasonable accommodations for a disability supplement?
A. Yes. Funds may be requested to make changes or adjustments in the research setting that will make it possible for a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions associated with his/her role on the project. The accommodations requested under this program must be directly related to the performance of the proposed role on the research project and must be appropriate to the disabilities of the individual. Some types of accommodations that might be provided under these awards include: specialized equipment, assistive devices and personnel, such as readers, interpreters or assistants. In all cases, the total funds for accommodations requested from the supplement must be reasonable in relationship to the direct costs of the parent grant and the nature of the supplement award.
Q. Can a PI request only equipment for reasonable accommodations for a disability supplement?
A. Yes, however if the request is for the full amount of the equipment, the grantee must justify the cost amount as directly and solely related to the grant project. Information also should be provided describing what accommodations have been provided by the institution.
Q. Whom do I contact about submitting an NIGMS diversity supplement application?
A. The PI should contact his or her NIGMS program officer or the director of the NIGMS DSP, Marion Zatz, Ph.D., at 301-594-3833.
Q. Who submits the application, the person to be supported or the PI of the grant?
A. The PI of the grant and the grantee institution must submit the application on behalf of the individual.
Q. When should an application be submitted?
A. Applications may be submitted at any time. Since it can take up to 10 weeks to review an application and reach a funding decision, PIs should be aware that applications submitted after May 1 may not be awarded until after October 1 due to the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Applicants requesting supplements to support a summer research experience should submit their applications no later than April 1 to allow sufficient time to review an application and reach a timely funding decision. Requested start dates should be prospective and allow sufficient time for review of the request.
Q. How should an application be submitted?
A. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications electronically via the Commons, as described in the Program Announcement (PA-12-149). Applications also may be submitted as a PDF by e-mail or hard copies of the completed application, including a signed face page, may be mailed to NIGMS.
Q. How are applications reviewed?
A. Applications are administratively reviewed by NIGMS staff members. Staff members look at the appropriateness of the research project for both the candidate's goals and the aims of the parent grant. In addition, great emphasis is placed on the quality of the mentoring and training plan and the candidate's personal statement.
Q. What are the chances of success in obtaining funding?
A. Applications that are considered to be strong have a high success rate. However, the DSP is a competitive program and there may be more applications than funds available.