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Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs: Phase 3
The data are grouped into four major content areas: (1) recruitment strategies; (2) funding application process; (3) definition of program goals; and (4) reliable methods of outcome monitoring.
In general, program administrators expressed one of two views about the adequacy of trainee recruitment to the programs: a modest majority was content with current trainee recruitment strategies, whereas a substantial minority was less so. With regard to the former, respondents said that underrepresented minorities who wish to pursue a career in biomedical research are welcome to locate specific program information on IC web sites or from printed matter such as program brochures or trade journal announcements. Respondents in this group emphasized that it is up to the minority trainee to identify the appropriate training program for him- or herself: “I think the programs are [fine], if any one is at all interested in doing research they know to look at NIH [web sites], and when they get to the NIH, the programs are, I think … easy to find.” Another respondent said, “Because the people come to the web site, they’ll see the ‘diversity page’ that they can click on. They’ll see there are opportunities.” Other respondents in this group mentioned that NIH staff regularly attends professional conferences and other meetings where they give presentations about IC training opportunities. Some respondents added that sometimes NIH staff make contact with key individuals in the community just to let them know about a pending announcement. A few respondents in this group noted that there may not always be an adequate number of eligible minorities in certain geographic regions of the country. “we encourage … investigators to … enroll underrepresented minorities, … we don’t have quotas but we have a firm expectation. There are some realities when you get out of [major urban areas] there aren’t very many minorities enrolled in the school in [less populated areas], …” and thus their expectation is that NIH must accept their limited ability to recruit underrepresented minorities. An unexpected comment came at the end of one interview: “We are not in a position here, as a funding institution, to really have a hands-on meaningful effect on young individuals, convincing them to come into science and stay in science, … that is a reality, … we just aren’t close enough to the individuals.”
The second group felt that current trainee recruitment strategies are largely insufficient and that ICs should conduct a more proactive and targeted outreach to prospective minority trainees. Such targeted outreach may include dissemination of minority trainee success stories, training opportunity advertisements, and program announcements infused into popular media that serve minority audiences. This group of respondent also placed great value in outreach targeted to minority students at the primary and secondary school levels. They noted that in low-income areas, where access to computers is limited, the web and other literature may not be available to potential applicants. In addition, the information provided does not always address the issues that