History of Minority Programs at the NIH
In 1972, at about the same time that the NRSA program was established, the Minority Schools Biomedical Support program—under the administration of the NIH Division of Research Resources—began awarding grants to faculty and students at minority institutions. That same year research awards were made to minority faculty under the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Visiting Scientist and Faculty Fellowship program, and in 1974 MARC was officially established within NIGMS as a formal program to stimulate undergraduates’ interest in biomedical research and to assist minority institutions in developing strong undergraduate curricula in the biomedical sciences. In 1977 the MARC Honors Undergraduate Research Training (HURT) program was established, and in 1981 the MARC Predoctoral Fellowship program was created to provide further incentive for graduates of the HURT program to obtain research training in the nation’s best graduate programs.
These programs continue today with some modifications, such as the replacement of the MARC HURT program with the MARC Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research program, which is designed to help meet the need for continual improvement in institutional offerings. Other additions have included the Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program Award, MARC Faculty Predoctoral Fellowships, MARC Faculty Senior Fellowships, MARC Visiting Scientist Fellowships, and MARC Ancillary Training Activities.
As the MARC programs have been growing, the Minority Schools Biomedical Support program also has been evolving. When eligibility for the program was expanded in 1973, it was renamed the Minority Biological Support program; its name was changed again in 1982 to the Minority Biological Research Support (MBRS) program in order to reflect its research scope. This MBRS program was transferred to NIGMS from the Division of Research Resources in 1988, and the NIGMS established the Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) program branch to serve as the focal point for efforts across NIH to increase the number and capabilities of minority individuals engaged in biomedical research and teaching. In 1996 the MORE Faculty Development and Initiative for Minority Student Development awards were established, and in 1998 the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award was announced to encourage postdoctoral candidates’ progress toward research and teaching careers in academia.
SOURCE: NRC. 2005. Advancing the Nation’s Health Needs: NIH Research Training Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 7.
In its almost 40-year history, the National Research Service Award (NRSA) program has provided more than 160,000 training slots in the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical sciences to students and young investigators. This has been accomplished through a combination of individual fellowship awards and institutional training grants. Over the 10-year period from 1998 to 2007, trainees were to be found in some 258 universities, research institutes, and teaching hospitals. As the NIH and the Public Health Service (PHS) have grown over the past quarter of a century, the NRSA program has evolved to include new fields in the basic biomedical sciences, such as genome research and neuroscience, and has expanded to support training in such clinical sciences as communication disorders, health services, primary care, oral health, and nursing.
Institutional training grants, which fund the education of about 83 percent of NRSA participants, are widely regarded as one of the best avenues for learning the theories and techniques of biomedical and behavioral research.4,5 These programs are overseen by awardee institutions rather than by individual research mentors, and this allows for the implementation of trans-institutional standards for trainee stipends and benefits, mandated instructional programs in such foundational areas as the responsible conduct of research (RCR), the ethical conduct of human and animal subjects research, and sundry career development and counseling programs addressing such topics as grant writing and reviewing, publication practices, mentorship, laboratory management, and preparation of resumes.
Institutional training grants assure institutional ownership of, and responsibility for, the quality of trainees and their training programs as well as making available professional and career development services that may not otherwise be accessible to trainees on individual fellowships. In other words, in order to gain support for a training grant application, each institution has to review and strengthen all of its approaches to graduate education, a process from which all students benefit, not just those specifically supported by the training grant.
Individual fellowships, which support almost 18 percent of NRSA recipients at the predoctoral level and 35 percent at the postdoctoral level, are also awarded on a competitive basis and provide what is often a first step toward professional independence. Fellows develop their own proposals and, once an