The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) established the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Predoctoral Fellowship Program in 1981 to support the graduate research training of underrepresented minorities leading to the Ph.D., the M.D.-Ph.D., or other combined professional-Ph.D. degree in the biomedical sciences. The program, funded under the National Research Service (NRSA) Act was designed to encourage former MARC honors undergraduates to pursue research careers. Awards within this program are conditional upon the individual being accepted into, or enrolled in, an approved Ph.D. or combined degree program in the biomedical sciences.
Approximately 270 individuals have been supported since the inception of the MARC Predoctoral Fellowship Program. No formal assessment of the program has been conducted; reports of successes have been anecdotal in nature. This study was designed to assess the success of MARC predoctoral fellows in establishing research careers and the types of research careers and research activities engaged in by these individuals. The data were drawn from existing National Institutes of Health (NIH) databases as well as from curricula vitae (c.v.) provided by individuals supported as MARC predoctoral fellows.
This study was designed to assess the career outcomes of recipients of MARC Predoctoral Fellowship support. The outcomes chosen reflect postgraduate training and career involvement in research (see Appendix I). A set of broad indicators was used to characterize the research activities of MARC predoctoral fellows. These variables were limited to those contained in available data sets (e.g., the NIH grant application and award files) and those that could be reliably extracted from individual curricula vitae.
The study group population included all individuals with initial support under the MARC Predoctoral Fellowship Program between the years of 1981-93. It is unlikely that individuals receiving initial support after 1993 would have had adequate time for completion of postdoctoral training and establishment of a research career. A total of 191 individuals were supported under this program during 1981-93. The study population was stratified into three cohorts based on initial year of fellowship support: 1981-85, 1986-90, and 1991-93.
Data on postdoctoral training and career outcomes were drawn from two sources. Existing NIH databases were used to collect records of NIH fellowship and research grant applications and awards for the entire study population through fiscal year 1999.
Additional information was extracted from the curricula vitae of the individuals. Individuals were contacted by telephone or e-mail and asked to supply a current curricula vitae that included positions held since graduation, publications, and sources and dates of any grant support. The curricula vitae were also used to acquire information on postdoctoral fellowships.
Curricula vitae were received from two-thirds of the total study population, with the highest response rate from the most recent cohorts. Participation by cohort is represented in Table 1.
Table 1. Response Rate by Cohort.
Educational and Career Outcomes
Several measures were used to evaluate the success of MARC predoctoral fellows in completing their training and establishing research careers. Educational outcome measures assessed include the amount of time elapsed from the receipt of the baccalaureate degree to completion of the Ph.D. or combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree and receipt of postdoctoral research training support. Career outcome measures assessed include academic employment; application for, and award of, NIH research grants; research support from non-NIH sources; and the number of publications in peer-reviewed journals.
Completion of the Doctorate
Approximately 22 percent of individuals in the 1991-93 cohort and 4 percent of individuals in the 1986-90 cohort, for whom curricula vitae information was available, were currently enrolled in graduate school and have yet to complete an advanced degree. Among those cohorts who have had sufficient time to complete a doctorate, the two oldest cohorts shown in Table 2, completion rates are comparable to rates found in other studies of graduate training. For example, a previous evaluation of NIH-sponsored training ( The Career Achievements of NIH Predoctoral Trainees and Fellows by Coggeshall & Brown, 1984) reported a completion rate of 64 percent for NIH predoctoral fellows and trainees between the years of 1961 and 1979. The 1999 NIH Office of Research Training study report titled The Early Career Progress of NRSA Predoctoral Trainees and Fellows reported a 76 percent completion rate for all NIH NRSA predoctoral trainees and fellows within 5 years of their last year of NRSA support. Of the 110 MARC predoctoral fellows with a Ph.D. degree, 20 have completed the M.D.-Ph.D. degree. A listing of institutions conferring Ph.D. degrees to MARC predoctoral fellows is provided; see Appendix Table I.
Table 2. Completion of Ph.D. by Cohort Years (from extant data and c.v. data).
Time to Latest Degree
The average time from receipt of the baccalaureate degree to the Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D., by cohort, is shown in Figure 1. The time lapse for completion of the Ph.D. degree has remained constant among the cohorts and compares favorably to the average time lapse of 7.5 to 8.1 years for comparable cohorts of Ph.D.s in the life sciences as reported by the National Science Foundation ( Summary Report 1997 Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 1999). The median elapsed time for MARC predoctoral fellows with M.D.-Ph.D. degrees is 7.7 years.
Figure 1. Elapsed Time from Baccalaureate Degree to Latest degree, in Years (from extant data and c.v. data).
Field of Degree
Data available on Ph.D. field of degree for 110 individuals is provided in Table 3. (The fields designated "Other Health Sciences" represent bioengineering, materials science, cancer biology, developmental biology/embryology, endocrinology, microbial ecology, toxicology, zoology, and child and experimental psychology.)
Table 3. Ph.D. Field of Degree.
Postdoctoral Research Training Support
In many biomedical science disciplines, active involvement in research and entry into an academic career require further postdoctoral training. NIH supports postdoctoral training in several ways, including traineeships on institutional training grants and individual fellowships. Although a majority of postdoctoral support is provided by NIH, private foundations (e.g., the American Cancer Society and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) and private industry also provide support for postdoctoral research training. Using information obtained from the curricula vitae, the frequency of such training for MARC predoctoral fellows with a Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D., regardless of source, was examined. Thirty-seven percent reported past receipt of postdoctoral training support. An additional 26 percent reported current postdoctoral training support. Combined, 63 percent of MARC predoctoral fellows with Ph.D. degrees or M.D.-Ph.D. degrees had completed, or were currently engaged in, postdoctoral training. Five percent of the 1981-85 cohort, 20 percent of the 1986-90, and 48 percent of the 1991-93 cohort with Ph.D.s or M.D.-Ph.D. degrees were currently engaged in postdoctoral training. The 1999 NIH Office of Research Training NRSA study found that 78 percent of Ph.D.s who had received NIH traineeship (T32) or fellowship (F30 or F31) support had received postdoctoral training support from NIH and/or non-NIH sources. An NIGMS study ( The Careers and Professional Activities of Graduates of the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), 1998) found 65 percent of MSTP graduates reported receipt of postdoctoral training support from NIH and/or non-NIH sources.
The number of MARC predoctoral fellows who have applied for NIH research grants (data on research grant applications through fiscal year 1998) is shown on Table 4. Application rates among fellows appear to be comparable to other NIH-supported students. The 1999 NIH Office of Research Training NRSA study reported that, among NIH trainees and fellows receiving doctorates in years similar to the oldest cohort of MARC predoctoral fellows, 22 percent had applied for NIH or National Science Foundation research grant support.
Table 4. Number of Applicants for NIH Grants (from extant data).
Upon application, award rates for MARC fellows were consistent with those of MSTP graduates and NRSA trainees and fellows. The award rate for MARC predoctoral fellows, by activity, is shown in Table 5. Of the 21 different individuals who applied for research support, 14 (67 percent) were successful (see Tables 8a and 8b Summary Tables (from extant and c.v. data)).
Table 5. Success Rates of Applicants for NIH Grants (from extant data).
Sources of Research Support
Extant NIH research grant data indicates that 15 former MARC predoctoral fellows have received NIH research support. If an applicant had received NIH support, no further determination was made as to whether or not there was also research support from non-NIH sources. Information obtained from the curricula vitae indicates that an additional 13 former MARC predoctoral fellows have received research support only from sources outside of NIH. Non-NIH sources for research support include other federal agencies, private industry, private foundation, and other sources that most typically include faculty research grants or institutional funds.
The curricula vitae were used to gather information on the total number of articles each individual had published through the date of c.v. submission. Peer-reviewed and invited articles and reviews were included, but in-press articles and entries identified by the individual as an editorial, letter to the editor, or book review were excluded. Approximately 79 percent of the respondents have published at least one article; the number of articles ranged from one to 44 articles with a mean of 4 and a median of 5.8 articles per individual. The distribution of average articles per individual by cohort based on year of receipt of Ph.D. is shown in Table 6.
Table 6. Articles Published (from c.v. data).
Academic and Other Types of Appointments
Information from the curricula vitae on current employment positions of former MARC predoctoral fellows was examined to determine the extent to which they held academic appointments or positions in private industry, government, or a non-profit entity. The majority of remaining individuals in each of the cohorts is currently engaged in graduate studies, postdoctoral training, or clinical fellowships.
Of these individuals, across all cohorts, approximately 59 percent held one or more academic positions; 19 percent held positions in private industry; 2 percent held government positions; and 1 percent were employed by non-profit organizations. A breakdown by cohort of 1999 employment and type of organization is represented in Table 7.
Table 7. Positions Held in 1999, by Type of Organization (from c.v. data).
The completion rate of 63 percent for MARC predoctoral fellows from 1981-1990 compares favorably to the 64 percent completion rate for NIH predoctoral fellows and trainees in a 1984 study by the National Academy of Sciences.
The average time lapse for completion of the Ph.D. degree by former MARC predoctoral fellows was 7.3 years, slightly less time than comparable life sciences Ph.D. degrees as seen in a 1999 study sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The average lapsed time for completion of the M.D.-Ph.D. by MARC predoctoral fellows was 7.7 years.
The greatest percentage of MARC predoctoral fellows obtained the doctorate in biochemistry/chemistry, with the next largest discipline being physiology/biophysics.
Sixty-three percent of former MARC predoctoral fellows with Ph.D. degrees received postdoctoral training, similar to graduates of the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program, but less frequently than other NIH predoctoral fellows and trainees.
Of the 191 MARC predoctoral fellows supported since 1981, 35 percent have applied for NIH grants. The success rate for the 21 individuals who did apply for NIH support was 67 percent.
The majority of former MARC predoctoral fellows are or have been employed in academia. The number employed by industry increased three-fold from the 1981-85 cohort to the 1986-90 cohort and remained stable at approximately 25 percent for the 1991-1993 cohort. The percentage of former MARC predoctoral fellows employed by the government was extremely small.
Overall, the results of this study show a favorable achievement pattern for former MARC predoctoral fellows consistent over the three cohorts. Furthermore, the data presented in this study parallels results obtained in previous evaluations of NRSA trainees and fellows. The level of application for NIH grants and the number of publications by former MARC predoctoral fellows are comparable to other NIH trainees and fellows. Moreover, even though these results should not be generalized because of the small sample size, they do suggest that the potential for individuals supported by MARC predoctoral fellowships for pursing active careers in research is good. Summary data on the postgraduate training and career involvement in research for recipients of MARC predoctoral fellowship support is displayed in Tables 8a and 8b.
Table 8a. Summary Table (from extant and c.v. data).
Table 8b. Summary Table (from extant and c.v. data).
Coggeshall, P. E. and Brown, P. W. (1984). The Career Achievements of NIH Postdoctoral Trainees ands Fellows. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (1998). The Careers and Professional Activities of Graduates of the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program. Bethesda, MD: Author.
National Institutes of Health. (1999). The Early Career Progress of NRSA Predoctoral Trainees and Fellows. Bethesda, MD: Author.
Sanderson, A. and Dugoni, B. (1999). Summary Report 1997 Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center.
Appendix I - Definitions and Criteria Used in Analyses of Curricula Vitae
Postdoctoral Research Training Support. This included training that was identified on the curriculum vitae as postdoctoral training or was associated with such titles as postdoctoral research fellow, research associate, or staff fellow (e.g., for NIH intramural positions). The various types of postdoctoral training sponsors were: 1) NIH (through both extramural and intramural postdoctoral traineeships and fellowships; clinical investigator, physician-scientist, or similar research career development awards were excluded); 2) other federal agencies (e.g., the National Science Foundation, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs); 3) private foundations (e.g., postdoctoral awards funded by the American Heart Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Kidney Foundation, the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the McKnight Foundation); and 4) other sources, which most typically were faculty research grants or institutional funds.
Source of Research Support. This included the receipt by the individual of grants and contracts for carrying out research; support for training programs, predoctoral/postdoctoral fellows, instructional activities, and equipment were not included. Only awards made after the completion of postdoctoral research and clinical training were included. The types of sponsoring organizations were: 1) NIH, including research grants and research career development awards; 2) other federal agencies (e.g., the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, other components of the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Center for Toxicology Research, and the Office of Naval Research); 3) industry (e.g., Burroughs-Wellcome Inc., Dupont Merck, Environmental Power of Puerto Rico, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company); 4) private foundations (e.g., the American Heart Association and affiliates, the Welch Foundation, the National Kidney foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Foundation); and 5) other organizations (e.g., Radiological Society of North America, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Society of Nuclear Medicine, Louisiana Education and Quality Support Fund, Southern Methodist University Research Council, New Mexico Water Resources Institute, and institutional funds).
Publications. To be counted as a publication, an article had to have appeared no later than 1999 (in-press articles were not counted). Both peer-reviewed and invited articles and reviews were included, although entries identified by the individual as an editorial, letter to the editor, or book review were excluded. The article also had to appear in one of the journals indexed by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) and included in its Current Contents Journal Coverage as of January 2000. It also represented a crude cut at journal quality, given that the listed journals were chosen by the ISI on the basis of editorial board review and evaluation of content and format by journal experts.
Appendix Table 1 - List of Ph.D.-Granting Institutions
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