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Minority Biomedical Research Support Focus Group Report

December 9-10, 1999


Executive Summary

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) convened a focus group to define/refine the term "developmental" as it pertains to research scientists seeking support through the Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Support of Continuous Research Excellence (SCORE) initiative. Specifically, the focus group was asked to define what constitutes the stages in the development of a research scientist seeking support by SCORE. This request was prompted, in part, by the SCORE policy statement which stipulates that participation of faculty in SCORE funded research is intended for those scientists who need assistance to develop and become competitive in their research careers. In addition, the applicant institution must have a method of selection of research project investigators and justify their inclusion in the application.

In response, the focus group described stages or scenarios ranging from "1"--those requiring the most developmental assistance to "10"--those involving the least support. Although these stages defined a typical career progression, the group also recognized that other stages or scenarios are likely to apply to individual scientists and other institutional settings. In addition to defining the stages in a developing scientist's career, the focus group also agreed that neither the academic rank of an individual scientist nor his/her productivity should be a factor critical in defining the developmental stage of a scientist's career.

The stages of development of MBRS research scientists, as defined by the focus group, were reviewed by NIGMS staff and are being used to further refine the eligibility criteria for researchers seeking support from the SCORE program. In addition, the focus group's recommendations are also being considered in determining future directions of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) Division initiatives.


Introduction

All of the programs in the MORE Division of NIGMS are considered to be developmental in nature. That is, the programs are designed to develop competence for research among faculty at eligible institutions and/or develop activities to increase the preparedness of underrepresented minority students for careers in biomedical research. As part of the MORE Division, the MBRS Branch targets scientists at eligible institutions for participation in the SCORE program, an initiative that supports research projects that are scientifically meritorious though perhaps not yet competitive for R01 funding. Since its inception, the MBRS SCORE policy statement has stipulated that participation of faculty in SCORE funded research is intended for those scientists who need assistance to develop and become competitive in their research careers. It further states that the institution must have a method of selection of research project investigators and must justify their inclusion in the application.

Although these requirements have been in place since the announcement of the SCORE initiative in 1996, more recent questions raised by the MBRS community about specific eligibility requirements made it clear that refinement of eligibility criteria was needed. Towards this end, a focus group was convened and asked to discuss and define/refine the term "developmental" as it pertains to stages of development of research scientists seeking support through the SCORE initiative. The group membership consisted of scientists from large and small minority-serving institutions, most of whose research is currently supported by MBRS.


Meeting Agenda

The focus group met December 9-10, 1999 at the Holiday Inn, Bethesda, MD. The first day was devoted to getting acquainted with the issue of development and participation in a brainstorming session to get a sense of the group's initial viewpoints on the issue. The second day was devoted to defining the issues in more detail and drawing conclusions that are presented in this report.


Summary of Focus Group Discussion

The focus group described a number of stages or scenarios ranked 1 to 10, with 1 as the most developmental (highest need for developmental assistance), and 10, the least developmental *.

These stages or scenarios are as follows:

  1. Faculty (especially new/junior faculty) without substantial current extramural research support from any source but with fine potential for productive research.
  2. Faculty who have had MBRS (SCORE) research support for two or more project periods and have made attempts at non-MBRS funding.
  3. Faculty who have had previous research support from MBRS or other sources, but do not have any substantial current extramural research support from any source.
  4. Senior faculty who have no current support but want to restart research efforts.
  5. Faculty who currently have non-MBRS extramural research support and want to explore new avenues of research.
  6. Senior faculty that have major research funding but the school sees them as important mentors.
  7. Faculty who have had MBRS extramural research support for two or more project periods and have not made attempts at non-MBRS funding.
  8. Faculty whose applications received marginal priority scores, have had continuous MBRS support for four or more rounds, and have few publications.
  9. Faculty who have had several rounds of MBRS support, and who show no evidence of having mentored minority students.
  10. Faculty with substantial extramural research support from other sources (National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, etc.).

*The focus group also recognized that other stages or scenarios (not included in the list) are likely to be appropriate to individual scientists and other institutional settings.

In addition to defining the stages in a developing scientist's career, the focus group also agreed that neither the academic rank of an individual scientist nor his/her productivity should be a factor critical in defining the developmental stage, as productivity is assessed during the scientific review of an application.

Focus Group Participants

Joseph Dunbar (Chair)
Department of Physiology
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48202

Sandra Harris-Hooker
Department of Medicine and Pathology
Morehouse School of Medicine
Atlanta, GA 30310-1495

Robert M. Hoyte
Department of Chemistry and Physics
State University of New York
College at Old Westbury
Old Westbury, NY 11568-0210

Eppie D. Rael
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, TX 79968-0519

Laura J. Robles
Associate Dean for Student Academic Advancement
Department of Biology
California State University, Dominguez Hills
Carson, CA 90747

Hubert Rucker
Department of Anatomy & Physiology
Meharry Medical College
Nashville, TN 37208

Jose Torres-Ruiz
Department of Biochemistry
Ponce School of Medicine
Ponce, PR 00732

Maria Elena Zavala
Biology Department
California State University, Northridge
Northridge, CA 91330-8303

This page last reviewed on December 30, 2013