NIH – NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) Award (F99/K00 Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

October 9, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is an initiative of the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research (, a collaborative and coordinated effort across 15 Institutes, Centers and Offices (ICO) that supports research, research education, and research training with the goal of accelerating the pace of discovery in neuroscience research. By pooling resources and expertise, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research can take advantage of economies of scale, confront challenges too large for any specific ICO, and develop research tools and infrastructure that will serve the entire neuroscience community.

The purpose of the NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience Award or D-SPAN (F99/K00) is to support mentored research training for late-stage graduate students from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups that are underrepresented in neuroscience research, and who have demonstrated interest and potential in pursuing careers as independent researchers. Applicants must be currently enrolled as students in a PhD or equivalent research doctoral degree program at the time of application. See Section III for additional information regarding eligibility for this program.

The F99/K00 award will provide up to 6 years of support in two phases, described further in the section below. Strong individualized research training plans and career development activities will outline a defined research pathway and are expected to enhance the development of independent neuroscience research careers.


While the proportion of graduates from underrepresented backgrounds in biomedical programs is increasing slightly, the representation of these groups in later career stages remains small. Individuals currently underrepresented in neuroscience research on a national basis (for example see surveys conducted by the Society for Neuroscience Committee on Neuroscience Departments and Programs), include: individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups or individuals with disabilities (see also Among U.S. citizens at U.S. institutions, the percent of neuroscience trainees from underrepresented backgrounds declines from the graduate (14%) to the postdoctoral level (9%) to only 5% in the neuroscience tenure stream (2011 Survey Report of Neuroscience Departments and Programs). Both graduate students and postdoctorates report decreased interest in faculty careers over time, with women and underrepresented minorities (URM) reporting a comparatively greater decrease than men and well-represented trainees (Fuhrmann et al., 2011Gibbs et al., 20142015Sauermann and Roach, 2012). Literature also shows that women from underrepresented backgrounds face particular challenges at the graduate level and beyond in scientific fields (see, e.g., Inside the Double Bind, A Synthesis of Empirical Research on Undergraduate and Graduate Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

The NIH Blueprint D-SPAN initiative will enhance the ability of predoctorates from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, to progress in what is often perceived as a challenging research career environment (Developing a 21st Century Neuroscience Workforce; Institute of Medicine). The program will address these issues by providing support to neuroscience trainees at a critical juncture in their career decision-making pathway. Among URM groups, compared to well-represented groups, research indicates that lower interest in faculty careers as a postdoctoral scholaris accompanied by lower feelings of intellectual and social belonging that starts in graduate school (Gibbs et al., 2015). Studies have suggested that mentoring on self-efficacy, identity as a scientist, and commitment to a science career may remediate these barriers (Chemers et al., 2011). Surveys of postdoctoral fellows have also shown that those trained in an environment with more structure, administrative oversight, and formal training are more likely to be satisfied with their postdoctoral experience, to rate their advisors highly, and be more productive (Davis, 2005Scaffidi and Berman, 2011). Structured postdoctoral training programs have also been shown to help prepare these scholars for successful transition to academic positions (Derting et al., 2016Rybarczyk et al., 2011).

The NIH Blueprint D-SPAN is a structured program that requires formalized and defined training plans and seeks to increase levels of participation of trainees from diverse backgrounds transitioning from predoctoral to postdoctoral positions. As cited above, the literature shows that intervening at this graduate time point could change the trainee’s perception about the pursuit of an academic/research career. The D-SPAN program creates accountability and structured processes for ongoing assessment of the training environment. A key component of the program is enhanced mentorship; D-SPAN requires the involvement of a vetted mentor or mentor team in both the graduate phase (F99) and the postdoctoral phase (K00). For the K00 phase, identification of the postdoctoral mentor or mentor team is not required at the time of application. D-SPAN also empowers trainees from diverse backgrounds to find postdoctoral environments that match their skills and scientific interests with minimal financial constraints by providing continuous support throughout the critical postgraduate career stage. The funding stability and professional development benchmarks will allow D-SPAN awardees to structure a specific plan forward in their early career as a researcher. It is envisioned that F99 Phase funding support paired with the K00 Phase funding support will enhance the pool of well-trained researchers who can compete for and conduct independent neuroscience research.

Overview of this F99/K00 Transition Opportunity

The D-SPAN F99/K00 award is intended for individuals who have demonstrated an interest in a neuroscience research career in NIH Blueprint mission-relevant areas and/or BRAIN Initiative research areas. At the time of award, applicants are expected to require 1-2 years to complete their PhD dissertation research training (F99 phase) before transitioning to mentored postdoctoral research training (K00 phase). Consequently, applicants are expected to propose an individualized research training plan for the next 1-2 years of dissertation research training and a plan for 3-4 years of mentored postdoctoral research training and career development activities that will prepare them for independent neuroscience-focused research careers.

The D-SPAN F99/K00 award is meant to provide up to 6 years of support in two phases. The initial phase (F99) will provide support for the final 1-2 years of dissertation research in a neuroscience related field (including experiments, dissertation preparation) and the search for/selection of a postdoctoral mentor. The two award phases are intended to be continuous in time. The second phase (K00) will provide up to 4 years of mentored postdoctoral research career development support and is contingent upon successful completion of the doctoral degree requirements. A K00 award will be made only to a PD/PI who has successfully completed the F99-supported training, secured an appropriate neuroscience postdoctoral position, and has provided the NIH Blueprint oversight committee with a strong research and career development plan that will occur in a supportive and competitive research environment.

Deadlines:  December 13, 2018; April 15, 2019; December 13, 2019; April 15, 2020; December 15, 2020; April 15, 2021 (letters of intent due 30 days prior to deadline)


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities