NIH selects first scholars in pioneering program to enhance diversity within in-house research program

Maryland -Thirteen researchers have been selected for the inaugural class of the National Institutes of Health’s Distinguished Scholars Program (DSP). The NIH-wide pilot program is designed to build diversity within the NIH Intramural Research Program, comprised of NIH scientists, by facilitating hiring and career progression of tenure-track investigators who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the biomedical research workforce. In addition to funding, scholars will receive mentorship from senior NIH scientific leadership, professional development, and networking opportunities.

“Nurturing diversity in the NIH Intramural Research Program is paramount to upholding our mission,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins M.D., Ph.D. “Research has shown that a diversity of perspectives is vital to the improved quality and number of discoveries in biomedical research. We are confident the Distinguished Scholars Program will serve as a model for universities to enhance faculty diversity and eliminate the attrition of underrepresented groups, including women, in the transition from training to independent careers.”

NIH launched DSP in early 2018 to enhance the recruitment and success of scientists committed to greater inclusion of groups underrepresented in biomedical research.  Underrepresented groups include but are not limited to women, Blacks, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Scholars receive four years of research support of up to $2.35 million from the DSP program, with their nominating institute or center continuing to fund their research throughout their tenure track. The program provides scholars with:

  • Mentorship from a highly experienced NIH senior investigator
  • Professional leadership training and workshops on a variety of management skills and tactics
  • Networking opportunities where scholars will informally gather with NIH leadership such as the NIH Director, institute and center directors, scientific directors, and others. 

To establish a community of investigators committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion at NIH, scholars are expected to foster a culture of mentorship by advising future cohorts.

“The DSP program is unique in its focused recruitment of early stage investigators, which is the major point where we lose underrepresented groups from scientific careers. By rewarding researchers for their involvement in mentoring initiatives, the program is designed for institutional transformation,” said NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity Hannah A. Valantine, M.D. “Our goal is to build a sustainable and diverse intramural research program at NIH that provides resources for today’s early stage biomedical scientists, and paves the way for future researchers from historically underrepresented communities.”

The pilot program will fund three cohorts of up to 15 scholars each. Candidates for the program are nominated by the scientific director at an NIH institute or center, and selected from applicants to the Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigators search, the Lasker Clinical Research Scholars program and institute-based tenure track researchers.  Nominees will be chosen for their scientific excellence and commitment to diversity and inclusion, shown through participation in activities such as mentoring programs designed to promote diversity, and outreach activities including career days or science fairs at disadvantaged schools.

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH.