Fostering Workforce Diversity


I believe fostering workforce diversity in biomedical research is a major way to cultivate creativity in biomedical science and a responsibility of the entire extramural community. Towards this goal, NIH has recently published the Director’s Pathfinder Award to Promote Diversity in the Scientific Workforce, a new funding opportunity supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), with applications due by May 4.

A diverse workforce will allow creative discoveries from scientists of all backgrounds to address the Nation’s health-related research needs. It will also improve the quality of the educational and training environment; broaden perspectives when determining research priorities; improve the ability to recruit research subjects into clinical trials from diverse backgrounds; and enhance the Nation’s capacity to address longstanding disparities in health outcomes.

The Pathfinder Award is modeled after the Director’s Pioneer Award, which funds individuals with potentially transformative research ideas. By encouraging creative scientists to develop highly innovative and potentially transformative approaches for promoting diversity in the biomedical research workforce, the Pathfinder Award will complement the NIH’s ongoing opportunities aimed at promoting diversity, such as the Minority Access to Research Careers program, the Minority Biomedical Research Support program, the NIH Diversity Predoctoral Fellowship and research supplements to promote diversity.

Diversity is broadly defined for the Pathfinder Award; projects can address the inclusion of students, postdoctoral fellows, or faculty members from groups that are currently underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. This includes individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, individuals from socially, culturally, economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, and women at the faculty level. Research projects may also address underrepresentation at the awardee institution.

Applicants are asked to devote about 30 percent of their professional effort to the project and must have the backing of their institution. Up to five individuals will be chosen by Dr. Collins in the fall of 2010 to receive awards, committing approximately $10 million over three years for the entire program. For more information, read the funding opportunity announcement (RFA-OD-10-013).