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Assessment of NIH Minority Research and Training Programs: Phase 3
The term “underrepresented minority” is used narrowly, focusing on those groups that have suffered a historical pattern of discrimination in the United States and are also underrepresented in science. NIH has determined these groups to be African-Americans, Hispanics, Native-Americans and Alaskan Natives, and Pacific Islanders. For analytical purposes, however, the definition has been narrowed further. While Pacific Islanders are viewed by NIH as an underrepresented minority group, this study could not include them as such, because Pacific Islanders are aggregated with Asians across the data sets.
Universe of Programs
The NIH supports minority-targeted research training programs at all educational and career stages—high school, undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and junior faculty. Determining which of these programs the committee would focus on, in order to meet its charge and to render the study manageable, involved several steps. First, the committee decided to focus exclusively on active extramural research training programs. Retired programs were not included, so that the assessment could focus on providing useful information about existing programs. Intramural minority programs were not included because NIH was conducting an internal assessment of those programs at the time this study began. The committee cannot speak to whatever results may have come from that effort. Second, the committee conducted a census of minority research training programs and established inclusion-exclusion criteria to determine the set of programs it would assess.
Conducting a census of extramural NIH minority research training programs was a staff-intensive effort. National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) staff provided the National Research Council (NRC) with a comprehensive list of minority research training programs that served as a starting point for the census. This list was updated in 2001with help from NCMHD staff, the NIH extramural training officer, 23 institute or center (IC) liaisons who were appointed by their IC directors to assist the study, and numerous health science administrators across the NIH campus. Although most ICs responded positively to the committee’s request for program data, a few ICs did not respond and are therefore unaccounted for in terms of the minority programs they support. In addition, the committee searched through the NIH website for information on minority programs, focusing on specific IC websites, IC health disparity strategic plans, and NIH Guide program announcements. The resulting census listed 79 programs utilized to greater or lesser degrees by 17 of the 27 ICs at NIH.27 Some of these programs are duplicated across ICs, such as the minority (F31) National Research Service Award (NRSA) predoctoral fellowship award, which is supported by most ICs. Nonetheless, each instance of a program was counted in the tally of total programs regardless of how many ICs participated.