TABLE 9-8 Comparison of Doctorates Awarded to the Graduate Student Population, 1997–2002


1997 (%)

1998 (%)

1999 (%)

2000 (%)

2001 (%)

2002 (%)

Percentage of Minority Doctoratesa

Biomedical sciences







Clinical sciences







Behavioral sciences







Percentage of minority students in doctoral-ranking institutionsb

Biomedical sciences







Clinical sciences







Behavioral sciences







aNational Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates.

bSurvey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

of programs that are monitored by the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. There are 61 different programs at NIH, every institute having at least one. They range from the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program to supplement awards on research grants. The MARC program has been in existence from 1975 and is administered by the NIGMS. It offers awards from the four-year college level to senior faculty fellowships, and each is designed to assist students with their education or to provide existing faculty members with support for retaining or development of a research project. The MARC program was evaluated in 1997 with no conclusive results as to its effectiveness, but it has supported a large number of individuals and is the core of NIH’s activities in this area. Most other programs at NIH are small and are directed by individual institutes and centers. These are usually designed to promote the research interests of the institute or center by providing support at the predoctoral or postdoctoral levels as an individual or institutional award. Each institute- or center-based program supports only a few individuals. Although they do assist students with their education, it is unclear whether they support significant numbers of students beyond those that would have been supported by other mechanisms. These programs are currently being evaluated by another NRC study with the hope of identifying effective models that truly increase minority participation.

Although many minority programs are institute and center based, there is a supplemental research grant program that cuts across the NIH institutes and centers and provides additional funds on a research grant to support a student or a faculty member. The intent of this program is to interest students in a particular research area or to develop the research skills of a faculty member. This program could be highly effective in creating opportunities for minority participation.

Looking at the various programs in place at NIH, one is struck by their focus on relatively late stages of the training/ academic career. It will be difficult to increase minority participation later in the path if there are too few students at the precollege level with the requisite academic background and interest to pursue a scientific research career. The MARC awards and some of the other institutional programs that support students at the undergraduate level and aim programs at college-level students are one step toward helping minority students pursue advanced degrees and research careers. However, to make a real difference, intervention needs to take place at the precollege level with programs that properly prepare students and capture their interest in the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical sciences.


The road map for career development in scientific research is appropriately multifaceted. Opportunities exist at all levels, as does the need for improvement. The development of a research scientist begins at a very early age. Outreach programs and encouragement are needed well before undergraduate and graduate programs enter the picture. This is particularly true for minorities but includes the entire population. An effective pipeline of students is needed to enter the professional education that begins with graduate training. This situation notwithstanding, it is also true that strong efforts are needed for training and recruitment at the graduate level.

Postdoctoral training is becoming a requirement for all fields, and this trend is likely to continue as the complexity of the research enterprise increases. The existence of this large training pool is in fact desirable in terms of both training opportunities and research accomplishments. However, the status and working conditions of postdoctoral candidates need to be improved. Moreover, training and opportunities for advancement to independent research positions must be enhanced. The flow of foreign scientists into the system at this level should be encouraged as an opportunity to improve both training and research in this country. In the case of physicians, programs are needed that permit research training without major disruption of clinical duties.

The recommendations presented here should be regarded as only a small part of the integrated effort over all agencies, at all levels, that is needed for the enhanced development of research personnel in this country.


Recommendation 9-1: The committee recommends that career development grants (currently K awards) be maintained but be restructured such that fewer mechanisms are established and consistently implemented across NIH.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement