The NIH Interest in Diversity (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-15-053.html) encourages institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations, and institutional training programs are required to include a Recruitment and Retention Plan that addresses this goal. The NIGMS review committees, the National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council and NIGMS staff all have crucial roles to play in the implementation process of this requirement. The review committees continue to examine the recruitment and retention of individuals from groups underrepresented in the sciences (see Instructions to Reviewers). Their findings and evaluative recommendations will be summarized and explained in a note in the summary statement prepared by the scientific review administrator. The NAGMS Council continues to examine diversity recruitment as part of its review of research training grant applications and overview of NIH policy. Following each Council meeting, the NIGMS staff Committee to Maximize Representation (CMR) examines each applicant's compliance with this requirement--considering the reviewers' recommendations, NAGMS Council advice and actions and review and program staff advice--and then recommend final action to the NIGMS director.
As outlined in the current NRSA Institutional Training Grant (T32) program announcement and the current SF424 application instructions, applications for NRSA training support are required to describe plans and efforts by each program to recruit a diverse student pool. New applications must include a description of plans to enhance recruitment of a diverse trainee pool and applicants may wish to include data in support of past accomplishments. Renewal applications must include a detailed account of experiences in recruiting individuals from underrepresented groups, as well as their accomplishments during the previous funding period, as well as plans for the proposed funding period. For renewal applications, achievements may be considered in assigning priority score. General efforts by an applicant to increase the pool of underrepresented students preparing for science fields are obviously laudable and can be considered as part of the overall training program effort. The focus of the requirement is on the plans and successes of the training grant program in the recruitment and graduation of predoctoral/postdoctoral individuals from underrepresented groups. Program size, location and level (predoctoral or postdoctoral), as well as other factors, are taken into consideration by the reviewers, NAGMS Council and NIGMS staff in making decisions about each applicant's plans and achievements. However, all applicants are expected to demonstrate commitment and proactive recruitment efforts.
For competing renewals, the reviewers are asked to conduct a careful examination of the success of the research training program in carrying out the plans proposed in the previous competing application. For this purpose, data on students who have been formally appointed to the training grant will be considered first and foremost. However, if the institution chooses to provide data on students clearly associated with the program but supported from other sources, that information will also be considered. Students will be considered to be associated with the program if their training experiences and opportunities are the same as those of students supported by the training grant, and applicants must provide evidence that this is the case. In the absence of strong justification, it will be considered unreasonable, particularly for large programs, to find that all the underrepresented students have been supported by other mechanisms such that only non-underrepresented students have been appointed to the training grant. In addition to progress in recruitment and retention, student degree completion and other accomplishments will be considered.
If previous efforts have not resulted in successful recruitment, added scrutiny will be given to such aspects as faculty involvement, outreach, the number of offers made and other factors affecting recruitment. Of critical importance in such cases are the changes proposed by the program for its diversity recruitment plans for the next grant award period. For new applications, examination of this requirement should focus on the success of participating graduate departments and/or research training programs in the recruitment and graduation of underrepresented individuals, as well as the program's plans for meeting this requirement in the initial funding period proposed by the applicant.
The NIH guidelines specify two descriptors (Acceptable and Unacceptable) for classifying an applicant's compliance with the diversity recruitment requirement. The CMR may also discuss the relative merit of the acceptable recruitment plans and efforts using the following descriptors: Commendable, Satisfactory and Marginally Acceptable. These additional descriptors will facilitate the Institute's consideration of specific action in the implementation of this requirement.
- Acceptable/Commendable -- Research training programs in this category are especially successful and/or innovative in their plans, efforts and achievements. As an incentive for commendable programs, if funds are available, one or more trainee slots may be added to an award, up to the full Council-recommended level of support.
- Acceptable/Satisfactory -- Programs with good plans, efforts and reasonable successes are considered as fully meeting this requirement.
- Acceptable/Marginal -- Programs receiving this designation have met the requirement, but may still have weaknesses. Examples might include recruitment and retention plans with specific faults or omissions, or those that have resulted in limited past success in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students and/or concerns about the plans for improvement. Although research training grant applications in this category are eligible for funding, they all will receive letters from Institute staff informing them that their diversity recruitment effort needs improvement. In addition, funded grants in this category will receive special scrutiny by program staff at the time of the noncompeting renewal to ascertain that appropriate steps are being taken to improve performance in this area.
Unacceptable -- Applications with this designation do not meet the expectations of NIH and the Institute in fulfilling this requirement. Such applications have poor plans and efforts, a lack of commitment and/or poor prospects for future successes. Funding of applications in this category will be withheld until an improved diversity recruitment plan is approved for new competing applications, and, for competing renewal applications, until an improved diversity recruitment plan is submitted by the applicant and approved by the CMR. If an improved diversity plan is approved and the application is funded, the progress on diversity recruitment and retention will be evaluated by CMR after 3 years and the level of funding determined for the remaining duration of the award.