Below are some frequently asked questions we’ve received from faculty and students interested in NIH diversity supplement funding. For additional information, please visit the other pages in this site or the NIH RFA (PA-18-906).
Who is eligible for a diversity supplement award?
Parent awards: The PI must have an active NIH award, typically an R01 or R35, that has at least one year left before it is due for a competitive renewal at the time of the start of the supplement. More information is listed here.
Trainees:The trainee named in the diversity supplement application must identify as belonging to a race or ethnicity that is underrepresented at UCSF. This includes racial or ethnic groups identified by the NSF as underrepresented in science as well as other groups not on that list but that have been recognized as underrepresented here (such as Filipinos). Alternately, if the individual comes from a financially disadvantaged background or has a disability, he or she may also qualify. Importantly, most NIH Institutes do not allow a trainee to be listed as a diversity supplement candidate if they are already listed as personnel in the budget section of your parent award. Ideally, the candidate would be a new member of your lab who has not received any salary support from the parent grant, but exceptions can sometimes be made. More information is listed here.
Regardless of the parent award and trainee, you should talk to two NIH contacts before you apply: your award’s current program officer, and the program officer that oversees the diversity supplement program for the parent award’s institute (a list of contacts can be found on the NIH website).
What types of positions can be funded?
This depends on which institute you are applying to. Most institutes fund undergraduates, post-baccalaureates (Junior Specialist level), , and graduate students. We are focusing on the Junior Specialist level with the database and the matchmaking event since most institutes will support trainees at this level, and students at this level might be most interested in a short (1-2 year) research experience before moving to their next career stage. More information is available here.
Once I identify a candidate in the database or at the matchmaking event, what are the next steps?
That is up to you! Our goal is to help make matches--once you find a candidate you are interested in, you can take it from there as you would with any other hire. If you both feel it is a good fit and want to go forward with the process, contact your award’s program officer and the program officer that oversees you institute’s diversity supplement portfolio (listed here) for advice on how to assemble your application. Once you have gotten their advice, you should reach out to your Research Services Coordinator (use the OSR Find My Support tool here). They will help you prepare and submit the application, same as for any other NIH grant. The deadlines for diversity supplements vary by institute, so make sure you check (and double check) when your application should be submitted (deadlines listed here). You should also thoroughly review the UCSF website we’ve developed, including our library of successful proposals. We’re happy to help too!
What are the most important parts of the application?
The goal of the diversity supplement program is to increase career advancement opportunities in science for individuals who identify as belonging to an underrepresented or disadvantaged group. Therefore, the most important part of the application is the training plan, where you outline with specifics what the background and career goals of the trainee are and how this experience will benefit those goals. It is important to make this part as specific and individualized as possible so NIH can see you take the training/mentoring aspect of this opportunity seriously. If it is accurate, it is also helpful to indicate that you will support the trainee with other funds after the diversity supplement has ended. This shows that you believe the trainee will be valuable to you even when you have to pay his or her salary and it amplifies the effect of their investment in the training of underrepresented and disadvantaged trainees. It is also useful to provide evidence of your mentoring abilities, particularly of underrepresented minorities if you have had that opportunity, by describing your mentoring philosophy, where your trainees have gone off to after leaving your lab, and other mentor related activities (such as mentor training you participate in, etc.).
What are the least important parts of the application?
In comparison to the mentoring statement, described above, the project plan is much less important. The supplement application is only reviewed administratively (not by a study section), so as long as the project is reasonable and fits within the broad scope of the parent grant it should be fine. Check with your program officer about whether it needs to be within or separate from the Specific Aims of the parent grant - this has varied from institute to institute and within institute over time.
What are the odds of success?
We are working to get this data, but it seems to be very high--probably well over 50%. If you (1) identify a candidate who is clearly eligible (i.e. you are not trying to stretch beyond the spirit of the program); (2) get the program officers’ approval ahead of time; (3) write a convincing mentoring statement; and (4) respond diligently to any requests from NIH after you have submitted the grant, your chance of success should be very high.
How long does the application process take?
In our experience, it takes about 12 weeks to prepare a supplement, and another 12 weeks for the supplement to be reviewed.