We Accelerate Discovery

Program Initiatives

The Common Fund’s Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program will build upon and move beyond existing programs and paradigms to support transformative approaches to student engagement, research training, mentoring, faculty development, and infrastructure development. Transformative approaches are ultimately expected to supplant less effective practices and methods to have a broad and sustained impact on the diversity of the NIH-funded biomedical research workforce. The Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program consists of three highly integrated initiatives. Through these integrated initiatives, this program will investigate which approaches work in various contexts. The three initiatives are:

National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN):


Lack of adequate mentoring is consistently described as a problem for all trainees at all stages in their career path. Effective mentors can provide guidance to emerging scientists regarding career options and opportunities within the NIH-supported biomedical workforce and help foster development of the necessary experience and skills needed for successful biomedical research careers. The NRMN initiative will develop a highly networked set of motivated and skilled mentors from a variety of biomedical research disciplines linked to mentees from the undergraduate to early career faculty level across the country – both from BUILD institutions and elsewhere. In addition to linking individuals to mentors, the NRMN develop best practices for mentoring, provide training opportunities for mentors, and provide networking and professional opportunities for mentees. The NRMN is expected to contribute substantially to the attainment of hallmarks of successful research career progression for each career stage.



Funding Opportunity Announcements and resources for applicants are posted on the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program website. The NRMN award is anticipated to be made in September 2014.



Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD):


The BUILD initiative's primary purpose is to provide opportunities and resources for eligible institutions to implement transformative, broad-based approaches to the training of students to undertake biomedical research in matters relating to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of disease. BUILD awards will emphasize research opportunities for students, because exposure to meaningful research experiences is associated with improved academic performance and sustained interest in biomedical research careers. Institutions are also encouraged to incorporate additional innovative methods to engage and prepare students for success, including those who might otherwise not choose biomedical research careers. Flexibility to innovate is an emphasis of the BUILD initiative. Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about how to address identified needs at their institutions and develop visionary approaches that encompass institutional, social, and individual factors.


BUILD institutions are expected to cast a wide net for student participants and offer innovative research training and mentorship activities across a broad range of relevant disciplines. Applicant institutions may, at their discretion, partner with other institutions to broaden the potential pool of participating students and maximize opportunities for research training and faculty and staff development. The applicant (Primary) institution will have responsibility for the conduct and oversight of the award, along with the flexibility to determine the optimal configuration with its partners (if applicable) to have the maximum impact. Partnerships involving the Primary institution and one or more additional institutions among the other types described below are encouraged, but not required.


  • Primary Institution – The primary institution will be the awardee institution with primary responsibility for the conduct and oversight of the award. Primary Institutions are limited to baccalaureate-granting colleges/universities that receive less than $7.5 million (total costs) of NIH research project grant (RPG) funding annually (averaged over three preceding fiscal years) with relatively high proportions of students from low-income backgrounds (at least 25% of students are supported by Pell grants). These institutions typically emphasize undergraduate training and may be ideally poised to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter biomedical research careers.
  • Pipeline Partner – Two- or four-year undergraduate institutions with student populations that will enrich and expand the pool of students engaged in BUILD activities. Primary Institutions and Pipeline Partners are expected to co-develop and implement programs that enable students to master the coursework necessary to enter research careers, in addition to participating in research and mentoring activities.
  • Research Partner - Research-intensive institutions with investigators who are committed and able to serve as effective mentors. Research partnerships are intended to expand education, research, and mentorship opportunities available to participating students, as well as engage faculty at Primary Institutions through collaborations and/or training opportunities. In addition to academic research universities, partnerships with industry, NIH intramural research laboratories, or other research institutions may be established.
  • Graduate/Medical Partner Institutions - Medical and graduate institutions that do not have undergraduate programs but do have a pool of doctoral-level students engaged in research or planning a research career, and that receive less than $7.5 million in NIH funding (total costs; averaged over three preceding fiscal years) through Research Project Grants. Primary Institutions and Graduate/Medical Partner Institutions will work collaboratively to provide joint programs for both undergraduate and graduate students.


Funding Opportunity Announcements and resources for applicants are posted on the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program website. Awards for BUILD are anticipated to be made in September 2014.



Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC):


The CEC will coordinate consortium-wide activities and evaluate BUILD and NRMN programs. The CEC will work within the Diversity Program Consortium to facilitate development of consortium-wide hallmarks, including core competencies, of successful biomedical research career progression and examination of the impact of BUILD and NRMN programs according to these hallmarks. The CEC will coordinate the collection and reporting of data from BUILD and NRMN awardees. The CEC will also facilitate consortium-wide discussions of approaches, progress, and lessons learned, and will serve as the focal point for dissemination of information to the broader research training and mentoring communities.


The CEC will work collaboratively with BUILD and NRMN awardees to design meaningful ways to assess the impact of approaches tailored toward individual environments as well as those intended to address consortium-wide goals. The consortium as a whole will strive to enhance the ways in which program participants are engaged and trained. Awardees will learn from each other during the course of the program, and approaches will be modified based on lessons learned to maximize overall impact.


Funding Opportunity Announcements and resources for applicants are posted on the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program website. The CEC award is anticipated to be made in September 2014.



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