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Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs: Phase 3
our biomedical workforce. NIH may want to take a look at this issue and consider changing the value it places on this essential activity in some concrete way.
Minority respondents to our survey provided additional clues that may bear upon their low numbers at higher career stages. Based on the survey data, which the committee believes are biased toward the most successful NIH trainees, minorities publish fewer papers than do nonminority trainees. They have greater difficulty securing post-Ph.D. employment. They report less social integration in their laboratories, and this was the case more so for minority trainees at institutions using nonminority training mechanisms. Finally, a large fraction of minority trainees believe that their minority status in some way affected their training experience. Given that one-half of the minority postdoctoral survey respondents reported having no mentor at all, one wonders what factors are at play in these training environments that affect minority trainee outcomes so profoundly.
In its efforts to train a new generation of minority research scientists, NIH is by definition effecting change, however small, in minority communities. The committee believes that increasing a community’s interest in science requires more than a single generation. Achieving buy-in to the scientific enterprise requires not only that trainees become turned on to science, but also that families and community pillars demonstrate overt support for young persons’ interests in science. The goal of producing more minority doctoral-level researchers may at first seem straightforward, but it is not. No single trainee outcome suffices for measuring program success. Interim outcome measures are germane and informative and should be taken into account when assessing the impact of these programs. The degree to which minority children can realistically envision themselves as future scientists, leaders of science, and biotech entrepreneurs is a reflection of how successful the intervention of bringing science to minority communities truly is.
The committee recommends that NIH articulate a clear and measurable training philosophy and implement change in data collection to better support rigorous evaluation and accountability efforts beyond the doctorate. In the meantime, the committee also strongly recommends that NIH commit to the continued funding of minority-targeted research training programs and implement measures to better coordinate them across the 27 institutes and centers. Finally, the committee recommends that NIH fund an independent follow-up to this assessment within five years. The committee’s detailed recommendations follow.
By the end of 2005, the NIH director should articulate a set of clear and measurable training goals and objectives specific to minority training. The director should take into account the mission of NIH and the integral role of research training in attaining both societal goals (e.g., health and well-being, the ability to support oneself