NIH – Initiative to Maximize Research Education in Genomics: Diversity Action Plan (R25)

July 7, 2016 by School of Medicine Webmaster

NOTE:  Applicant organizations may submit more than one application, provided that each application is scientifically distinct.  If interested in applying to this opportunity, please speak with Dr. Steven Wasserman in the SOM Dean’s Office.

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) is committed to enhancing the pool of individuals from diverse backgrounds who have the training to pursue careers in genome sciences, genomic medicine, and genomics and society research. Genome sciences and genomic medicine research offer tremendous opportunities for improving human health, and genomics and society  research offers the chance to not only improve human health, but also to explore some of the most profound ethical, legal and social issues of our time. NHGRI wants the best minds to engage in this research. There are extraordinary career opportunities in genome sciences, genomic medicine, and genomics and society research in which all should have an opportunity to participate. The very nature of genome sciences, genomic medicine, and genomics and society research demands a diversity of viewpoints and scientific interests. A major emphasis of this research will be the development of: resources and methods and technologies that will accelerate research in understanding the structure of genomes; understanding the biology of genomes; understanding the biology of disease; advancing the science of medicine; and improving the effectiveness of healthcare. The significant societal ramifications of this research will also need to be addressed. It is clearly desirable to have individuals involved who bring diverse perspectives to this research, including an interest in understanding diseases that disproportionately affect some populations. Genome sciences, genomic medicine, and genomics and society research will affect all populations and thus all groups need to participate in setting the research agenda and examining the broader issues raised by it.

Although genomics is a relatively new scientific discipline, its roots are in the foundational sciences of biomedical, physical, mathematical, computer and engineering sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, bioinformatics, bioethics, social and behavioral sciences, law, and the humanities. Interventions early in the careers of underrepresented high school students have been effective in engaging undergraduate students in genomics research and has led to college enrollment in science-related fields (Rohrbaugh, M. C. and V. G. Corces (2011). “Opening Pathways for Underrepresented High School Students to Biomedical Research Careers: The Emory University RISE Program.” Genetics 189(4): 1135-1143). In addition, surveys of undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds participating in a capacity building learning environment in Genomic Science shows that students benefit from programmatic interventions that (a) create opportunities in science fieldwork and research, (b) preparing them for graduate school, and (c) serve as a pipeline for science research and careers. (Rivera, H. H. and D. Murray (2014). “An Exploratory Assessment.” Developing Pathways for Underrepresented Minorities Into Genomic Science 4(4)). The need to enhance the capacity for genomic research is also discussed in a paper by LeManuel Lee Bitsoi in which he focuses on the paucity of American Indians and Alaska Natives receiving doctoral degrees in the biological sciences in 2007-2008 as 0.0024%. Similarly, as part of a larger meeting to discuss engaging Latinos in the future of genomic science, there was a call to recruit more Latino students into genomic careers.   Few, if any reports focus on the training of persons with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds in genomics related programs or careers.

The research mission of the NHGRI has expanded beyond the original goal of the Human Genome Project–the sequencing of the human genome– to encompass a broad range of studies aimed at understanding the structure and function of the human genome and its role in health and disease. The success of NHGRI research programs rests on the ability to develop new technologies, resources, and methods, to support the safe and effective use of genomic approaches in the basic and clinical sciences and medicine.  This requires expertise in the foundational sciences relevant to genomics–biomedical, physical, mathematical, and computer and engineering sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, bioinformatics, bioethics, social and behavioral sciences, law, and the humanities.

Training in genome sciences, genomic medicine and genomics and society research have become embedded in most if not all research programs at the NHGRI. Thus training in the foundational disciplines of genome science, genomic medicine, and genomics and society will allow those who participate in NHGRI-supported research activities to be well poised to contribute to biomedical research in the future.

The over-arching goal of this  NHGRI  R25 program is to support educational activities for undergraduates, postbaccalaureates, and graduate students to  enhance the diversity of the biomedical, behavioral and clinical research workforce in the areas of genome sciences, genomic medicine and genomics and society.

To accomplish the stated over-arching goal, this FOA will support creative educational activities with a primary focus on:

  • Research Experiences: For example, for undergraduate students: to provide hands-on exposure to genomics research and relevant courses, to reinforce their intent to graduate with a science degree, and/or to prepare them for graduate school admissions and to expose them to the relevant foundational scientific disciplines in: genomic sciences (computational biology, quantitative sciences, bioinformatics), genomic medicine (biostatistics, epidemiology, bioinformatics), and genomics and society (e.g. bioethics, social and behavioral sciences, law, the humanities) not available through formal NIH training mechanisms.
  • Courses for Skills Development: Courses are limited to those that are an integral part of the academic preparedness for a formal academic program such as GRE courses and foundational courses in the relevant scientific areas listed above to prepare participants for graduate school.

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is an expansion of PAR-13-063 which accepted applications only from a limited number of NHGRI high-profile programs. Since this program started in 1992 first as NHGRI’s Minority Action Plan, followed by the Diversity Action Plan, there are many academic and research institutions with significant peer-reviewed research activity in the three broad areas of interest to NHGRI: genome sciences, genomic medicine and genomics and society. The intent of this FOA is to expand the number of institutions participating in this program to include significant research programs in genomic medicine and genomics and society.

The purpose of the Diversity Action Program is to expose interested undergraduate, post baccalaureate, and graduate students from underrepresented groups to the foundational sciences underpinning research in genome sciences, genomic medicine and genomics and society as well as to participate in research projects, to enhance their academic skills in relevant academic courses, to develop critical thinking skills, to develop the speaking and writing skills to present scientific findings, and to provide guidance about how to successfully navigate to the next career level.

It is assumed that the institutions that apply for this award will:

  • have faculty with broad experiences in one or more of the three areas of genomics relevant to NHGRI;
  • have experienced mentors who have worked with underrepresented individuals in traditional NIH training programs; and
  • be able to demonstrate that related research education programs at their institution will work collaboratively with the Diversity Action Plan (DAP) program to ensure a smooth transition of DAP participants to the next career phase.

The guiding principles of what can be supported under this funding opportunity announcement are that participants:

  • should be exposed to appropriate didactic training in the foundational disciplines for genome sciences, genomic medicine, and/or genomics and society in order to develop critical thinking skills as appropriate for their career level and research focus;
  • should receive research experiences that do not focus on any particular disease or groups of diseases but skills and knowledge that are generally applicable to a variety of biomedical research questions;
  • must be so prepared that they can use this knowledge and these experiences to move to the next stage of their career; and
  • must be in a research environment where they will have an opportunity to select from a variety of genome science, genomic medicine and/or genomics and society research experiences and mentors.

The types of research experiences that can be supported under this award include:

  • summer or semester research experiences and courses for skills development for undergraduate students with the objective of pursuing a doctoral degree in one of the foundational sciences relevant to genome sciences, genomic medicine or genomics and society;
  • Up to two years of full-time support forpost baccalaureate research and courses for skills development with the objective of transitioning to an F31 or other source of peer-reviewed support for graduate school; participants may take academic courses, but may not be enrolled in a formal graduate program; and
  • up to 24 months part-time support for graduate school with the objective of transitioning to an F31 or other source of peer-reviewed support.

Note: Although a subset of these activities’ primary goal may be increasing diversity, all activities, with the exception of those supporting curriculum or methods development, must account for their efforts at recruiting underrepresented individuals. These efforts should be appropriate and reasonable for the nature of the proposed activity. See below: Diversity Recruitment and Retention Plan.

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. In addition, institutions that have more than one NHGRI-supported R25 diversity and/or T32 programs should demonstrate coordination and collaboration such that there is synergy amongst the programs.

Deadlines:  standard dates apply


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities