NIH PAR-17-053 Research Education: Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Program (R25)
The NIH Research Education Program (R25) supports research educational activities that complement other formal training programs in the mission areas of the NIH Institutes and Centers. The over-arching goals of the NIH R25 program are to: (1) complement and/or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs; (2) enhance the diversity of the biomedical, behavioral and clinical research workforce; (3) help recruit individuals with specific specialty or disciplinary backgrounds to research careers in biomedical, behavioral and clinical sciences; and (4) foster a better understanding of biomedical, behavioral and clinical research and its implications.
The over-arching goal of this NIGMS R25 program is to support educational activities that enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce. To accomplish the stated over-arching goal, this FOA will support creative educational activities with a primary focus on:
- Courses for Skills Development: For example, advanced courses in a specific discipline or research area, clinical procedures for research, or specialized research techniques.
- Research Experiences: For example, for undergraduate students: to provide hands-on exposure to research, to reinforce their intent to graduate with a cutting-edge science degree, and/or to prepare them for graduate school admissions and/or careers in research; for graduate students: to provide cutting-edge modern research experiences and related training and mentoring not available through formal NIH training mechanisms. An integral part of the program will be to engage in unique, targeted recruitment of individuals from currently underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences research enterprise to ensure a diverse student cohort.
Purpose and Background
The mission of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is to support research that increases our understanding of life processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. To ensure the vitality and continued productivity of the research enterprise, NIGMS provides leadership in training the next generation of biomedical scientists, in enhancing the diversity of the scientific workforce, and developing research capacities throughout the country.
NIGMS seeks to enhance the pool of individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical workforce by providing training opportunities during multiple training and career stages at varied institutions and educational settings across the country. By enhancing the pool of students from underrepresented groups pursuing advanced training in the biomedical sciences, NIGMS strives to ensure that the future generation of researchers will draw from the entire pool of talented individuals, bringing different aptitudes, perspectives, creativity and experiences to address complex scientific problems.
Need for the Program
Every facet of the United States scientific research enterprise—from basic laboratory research to clinical and translational research to policy formation–requires superior intellect, creativity and a wide range of skill sets and viewpoints.
NIH’s ability to help ensure that the nation remains a global leader in scientific discovery and innovation depends upon having a pool of highly talented scientists from diverse backgrounds who will help to further NIH's mission. However, in spite of advancements in scientific research, some populations have not had access to cutting-edge research and training opportunities, and do not participate fully in the biomedical sciences research workforce. These underrepresented groups include individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (at the undergraduate level and below), as described in NOT-OD-15-053.
Currently these groups are not only underrepresented in science, technology and engineering (NSF, 2016), their underrepresentation in these fields also increases throughout the training stages. For example, students from certain racial and ethnic groups, including Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders currently comprise ~39 percent of the college age population (Census Bureau), but earn only ~17 percent of bachelor’s degrees and ~11 percent of the Ph.D.s in the biological sciences (NSF, 2016).
Similarly, a report from the Census Bureau shows that in 2010, nearly 20 percent of the U. S. population had a disability. In 2012, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that 11 percent of college students had a disability, and 34 percent of undergraduates with disabilities are from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. According to the Council of Graduate Schools and statistics from NCES, in 2008 about 7 percent of all doctoral students and about 6 percent of doctoral students in health or life science programs had a disability.
Further, individuals from low income families are underrepresented in scientific careers, and have limited access to necessary science and math prerequisites at every academic level (Civil Rights Data Collection Data Snapshot: College and Career Readiness (2014). Data shows that while half of all individuals from high-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age 25, only 1 in 10 individuals from low-income families do. Low-income students are less likely to take a science-oriented core curriculum, and less likely to meet readiness benchmarks on college entrance exams. This can be attributed in part to data showing that nationwide, between 10-25 percent of high schools do not offer more than one of the core courses in the typical sequence of high school math and science education— such as algebra I and II, geometry, biology, and chemistry. Such educational environments predominate in communities with low socioeconomic status.
Students from underrepresented groups face a number of challenges that influence their success in obtaining a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences. Some of these challenges include lack of adequate knowledge of academic development activities designed to improve scientific critical thinking and quantitative skills, limited access to independent bench research skills, limited/poor mentoring, and limited professional networking to successfully bridge to the next career level.
The creation of a diverse biomedical workforce requires active interventions aimed at addressing this persistent underrepresentation, as well as preventing the loss of talent at each level of educational advancement. Accordingly, several reports (see for example, PCAST Report, 2012; From College to Careers: Fostering Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in STEM, 2014; and Increasing College Opportunity for Low Income Students, 2014) recommended supporting programs that strive to recruit, retain, and train students from underrepresented groups who have an interest in science, technology, engineering and math as a means to effectively build a diverse and competitive scientific workforce.
The IMSD program provides support for institutions to develop and implement effective program interventions to address the challenges students from underrepresented groups face. The program also encourages institutions to diversify their student population. In doing so, the IMSD program is expected to enhance the pool of individuals currently underrepresented in the biomedical sciences research enterprise, and ultimately contribute to NIH’s ability to ensure that it remains a leader in scientific discovery and innovation.
IMSD grants are awards to institutions that confer the baccalaureate and/or doctoral degree in biomedical fields, have a demonstrated commitment to encourage and assist students from underrepresented backgrounds, and have a research-intensive environment with a large pool of mentors with R01 or equivalent grants.
The IMSD program supports institutions to develop a research education program in basic biomedical sciences relevant to the NIGMS mission, with the overarching goal of enhancing the pool of students from underrepresented groups who successfully complete a Ph.D. degree in biomedical sciences. Ultimately, the program goal is to enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce.
Applicant institutions must conduct an institutional self-assessment of their research environment and student outcomes to inform the design of their proposed IMSD program, to include:
- Demographics of students enrolled in biomedical science departments.
- Number of students that complete the baccalaureate and/or Ph.D. degree, as applicable.
- Challenges/impediments that the students encounter in completing the baccalaureate and/or Ph.D. degree, as applicable.
As a result of the self-assessment, each applicant must establish the program's goals and specific measurable objectives with regard to the outreach and recruitment of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, and the programmatic objectives should be consonant with NIGMS IMSD program expectations. The proposed program should be interdisciplinary in design and should emphasize the skills, abilities and knowledge needed to prepare a strong and diverse biomedical research workforce. Programs are encouraged to integrate quantitative biology or advanced statistical approaches in their research education curriculum to develop a quantitative fluency among all trainees. This curriculum may include quantitative problem-solving, statistical analysis, and/or other didactic or hands-on activities that will enhance student understanding of the value of quantitative approaches to answering scientific questions. Programs should also provide students with outstanding mentoring and education in other critical skills such as written and oral presentation, leadership, grant and manuscript writing, and time management.
Various strategies may be utilized to attain the objective of enhancing the pool of underrepresented researchers via the IMSD program. These may include, but are not limited to, the initiation of new academic developmental activities as well as the expansion, enhancement and/or improvement of existing activities. Some institutions may opt to offer programs to improve preparation of undergraduate students for admission to research doctoral degree programs. Others may concentrate on providing research education experiences to graduate students that will help them obtain doctoral degrees and prepare for successful research careers, while others may concentrate on both.
The IMSD program can provide support for student academic development activities designed to improve scientific critical thinking and quantitative skills, communication skills, time management, group learning opportunities, independent bench research skills, interdisciplinary or advanced research-based courses and opportunities to meet and discuss career choices with appropriate role models.
Typically, IMSD provides 2-year support at the undergraduate and/or graduate level. NIGMS recognizes that the wide range of knowledge and skills, including communication, teamwork, management and leadership skills needed for success in a scientific endeavor, cannot be gained by students merely within this supportive period, but are met by a continuous training and mentoring enviornment throughout their under-graduate/graduate school career.
IMSD programs are encouraged to develop a partnership with NIH-funded T32 training program(s) (http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm) at the applicant institution or another institution in order to facilitate the networking and transition of IMSD students to T32 training programs, as well as to identify the institutional impact of the program. Program directors are expected to characterize intended and actualized improvements to research education experiences for the general student population that originate in or are inspired by the implementation of the IMSD program.
Goals and Outcomes
The goal of the IMSD program is to provide research experiences for students in the institution and to enhance the pool of students from underrepresented groups who successfully complete Ph.D. degrees in biomedical sciences. In doing so, the expectation is that by supporting new and ongoing institutionally-designed student developmental programs, the IMSD program will help reduce the gap in the completion of Ph.D. degrees between underrepresented and non-underrepresented students in the biomedical sciences at the national level. The IMSD program should make available structured, career development advising and learning opportunities (e.g., workshops, discussions, Individual Development Plans). Through such opportunities, all students are expected to obtain a working knowledge of various potential career paths that would make strong use of the knowledge and skills gained during research experience and the steps required to transition successfully to the next stage of their chosen career. At the institutional level, the IMSD program should develop undergraduate and/or graduate students who are proficient in biomedical science for the purpose of training the next generation of the modern research workforce. Furthermore, the institution is expected to identify and address the barriers that might impede the participation and retention of all students, with attention to the types of issues that students from underrepresented backgrounds face. Specifically, it is expected that the following objectives will be achieved:
- Enhancement of the pool of underrepresented students that complete a Ph.D. and continue in biomedical research careers.
- At least 60% of IMSD-supported undergraduate and 80% of Ph.D. students will complete the Ph.D. degree.
- Contribute to ongoing student and faculty efforts to reduce the gap in the completion of Ph.D. degrees between underrepresented students and those from other backgrounds in participating departments.
Research education programs may complement ongoing research training and education occurring at the applicant institution, but the proposed educational experiences must be distinct from those training and education programs currently receiving Federal support. R25 programs may augment institutional research training programs (e.g., T32, T90) but cannot be used to replace or circumvent Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) programs.
See Section VIII. Other Information for award authorities and regulations.