Institute Policies and Guidelines

Guidelines for Responding to the NHGRI Action Plan

How to respond to the NHGRI Action Plan to increase the representation of underrepresented minority groups in genomics and Ethical Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) research.

What is the objective of the NHGRI Action Plan?

The long-term goal of the Action Plan is to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented minority groups who are engaged in genomics and ELSI research.

The Action Plan addresses this long-term goal by encouraging NHGRI grantees to undertake activities in their laboratories and other research settings that are directed towards increasing the number of scientists from underrepresented minority (URM) groups who will become independent investigators. Under this program, underrepresented minority groups include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans (including Alaska Natives) and natives of the Pacific Islands. Foreign scientists are not eligible to be appointed under the MAP initiative. In order to achieve this long-term goal, it is important to provide expanded opportunities at all stages of the "education pipeline" and at all career levels. NHGRI recognizes that in order to influence the number of individuals, particularly URM, pursuing science as a career, the number of students entering and being retained in the education pipeline must be increased. However, NHGRI is only one of several federal and private organizations dedicated to this important goal. Upon advice from our Advisors and given our limited resources, NHGRI is currently placing emphasis on opportunities at the undergraduate level and higher.

NHGRI will provide additional funds to support these activities, as appropriate.

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Who should participate?

NHGRI encourages all Principal Investigators who are seeking support from or are already funded by the Institute to participate in this initiative.

Training grants already have mandatory requirements for recruiting and retaining individuals from underrepresented minority groups. Training Grant Program Directors are encouraged to develop initiatives to enhance their recruiting and retention efforts.

Specific types of applications and grants (centers engaged in large-scale sequencing or other large-scale data production efforts, hereafter referred to as production centers, Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science (CEGS), databases and other large grants) are required to develop and implement plans aimed at increasing the representation of researchers from underrepresented minority groups pursuing genomics and ELSI research.

Investigators on R01-type grants are encouraged to participate through the Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research []. This is a well-established program and will not be discussed further in this document.

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What should an investigator's action plan response include?

Action Plan responses may take the form of explicit research training and academic enhancement activities. Whereas training of underrepresented minorities at all career levels is appropriate, applicants are especially encouraged to establish programs that give priority to those at the undergraduate through the professional career levels. In well justified circumstances, NHGRI will consider activities for students prior to their undergraduate years. The evaluation component and a cost-effective approach for all activities will be central considerations. Action Plans for these activities must be an integral part of the ongoing research activities of the NHGRI-supported projects and the PI must be actively involved in the proposed activities. Outreach activities, such as laboratory tours, presentations to professional societies and high schools and colleges, laboratory visits, etc., are considered to be part of a scientist's normal activities.

The following is a list of items an Action Plan Response should address. Some of these will be more or less relevant depending on the type of activity proposed:

  • Summary of training project (200 word limit).
  • Program description.
  • Career level(s) targeted.
  • Purpose and expected outcome of the program.
  • Plans for recruiting and retaining participants.
  • Measurable milestones.
  • Plans for evaluating the program in the short- and long-term.
  • Plans for tracking participants for a minimum of five years following completion of the program.
  • Budget, which is justified and consistent with the goals of the activity.
  • For competing continuations, a progress report of five pages maximum should provide information on five priority topics: the number of URM students per year in each activity; a summary of the academic and research experiences of participants and how these relate to the grantee's and NHGRI's goals; a statement on the role of the PI in these activities; concrete evidence that individuals' career goals were satisfied by participation in this activity; and a description of how the activity was evaluated and whether the program design was changed as a result of this evaluation. The evaluation instrument must also be included.

All responses should: (1) describe the demographics in the institution for the population(s) targeted in the Action Plan response; (2) describe ongoing programs at the institution to recruit underrepresented minority groups into the sciences; and (3) address how the proposed activity will increase the number of scientists from underrepresented minority groups pursuing careers in genomics and ELSI research.

Examples of activities that have been successful in the past for increasing the number of minorities pursuing scientific research as a career include, but are not limited to:

  • Long- or short-term support of undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral fellows and faculty for a research experience (individuals or groups of students).

  • Summer research institute for undergraduates and junior faculty.

  • Academic enhancement activities for undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Mentoring activities by faculty and higher-level students.

There are many institutions with successful programs already in place and diverse ideas among the community. NHGRI encourages grantees to build on these resources in addition to or in place of the above proposed ideas, as long as the plan is feasible, has the potential for success and is aimed at the long-term goal of the Action Plan. If you propose to participate in ongoing activities at your or other institutions, you should address what "value added" NHGRI-supported participation will bring to these ongoing programs and the role of the Principal Investigator and senior faculty.

The budget for new and competing continuation MAP activities will be limited to $300,000 (direct costs). Exceptions may be made for those activities that were previously funded and have an excellent track record, but Principal Investigators are expected to prioritize activities based on the success of previously funded activities in meeting NHGRI's goal for increasing the number of individuals from underrepresented groups pursuing careers in genomics/proteomics by focusing activities at the undergraduate and higher levels. Individual Principal Investigators from the same institution who plan to submit applications that require a response to the Action Plan are encouraged to consult with NHGRI staff to discuss how such a response should be structured. Likewise, prospective applicants from institutions that already have a funded Minority Action Plan should contact staff for guidance. NHGRI will continue to support the cost of administrative program assistants and program coordinators, but support must be relevant to the program.

The MAP is essentially an educational component embedded within a research program. The National Research Service Award program limits the facilities and administrative (F & A) costs to 8 percent. Similar F & A costs are used for educational grants, such as the R25 and career development (K) awards. Applicant institutions are encouraged to cost share the facilities and administrative costs of the MAP component at a rate that is comparable to the facilities and administrative costs of educational and training grants.

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What should an investigator consider in developing an action plan response?

  • The PI will be held accountable for oversight of the program and overall progress.

  • The response should be integrated with, and take advantage of, the research environments within which the PI and other faculty associated with the project work and of the resources and similar programs within the institution(s).

  • The response should include academic enhancement activities that will facilitate transitions from one educational level to another, such as from undergraduate to graduate school.

  • The PI is encouraged to collaborate or form partnerships with scientists at other institutions that have a high percentage of, or have successful programs targeted to, individuals from underrepresented minority groups.

  • Several PIs from the same institution are encouraged to develop an integrated response, if appropriate and desirable on the part of the PIs. If an investigator plans to participate in an ongoing NHGRI-supported Action Plan activity, the application must address what added value this project will bring to the collaboration.

  • PIs should consider how each element included in the proposed response would assist in accomplishing the long-term goal of the NHGRI's Action Plan, with special emphasis on participants successfully transitioning to the next phase of their career.

NHGRI will only: (1) consider activities that are targeted to the higher end of the education pipeline - undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty; (2) cap the direct cost of the MAP to $300,000 with allowances for increase in inflation in future years; (3) support the person month's effort of a training coordinator that is commensurate with the level of MAP activity; and (4) encourage the institution to support the MAP as an educational component with 8 percent overhead.

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How should the action plan response be submitted?

Modified November 16, 2009

For PIs requesting support of the Minority Action Plan as part of a new or competing grant application, the NHGRI has developed a separate funding opportunity announcement: as a companion to the parent grant application. This is an electronic application which must be submitted at the same time as the parent grant application. The PI of the parent grant must also be the PI of the R25 application. Applicants may request up to $300,000 direct cost per year for up to five years, coinciding with the project period of the parent grant.

For research education and training initiatives linked to specific NHGRI research grants, applicants may submit only one application per parent grant application. If an institution has more than one NHGRI research grant in which a research education and training initiative is required, such as a training grant and a CEGS, only one application may be submitted to cover NHGRIs support of the research education and training initiative at that institution.

The types of research experiences that can be supported under this award include, but are not limited to: (1) short-term research experiences for undergraduate and graduate students; (2) up to two years of post baccalaureate research and academic support with the objective of transitioning to a F31 support for graduate school; (3) up to 24 months of graduate school support with the objective of transitioning to a F31; (4) up to 24 months of postdoctoral fellowship support with the objective of transitioning to a F32; and (5) research experiences for faculty to provide preliminary data for research grant applications. Exceptions to accommodate research experiences for high school students will only be made for competing continuations of the parent grant that have in the past supported such students. In such cases, support of high school students must represent less than 10 percent of total support requested.

The Research Plan of the research education program application may not exceed 25 pages, including tables, graphs, figures, diagrams, and charts. The Introduction (required for a resubmission application) is limited to three pages. All investigators are encouraged to discuss their ideas for a response with one of the NHGRI program directors or the action plan coordinator listed at the end of this document. This discussion should take place during the development of the response and well in advance of its submission.

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How will the action plan response be evaluated?

All proposed responses will be assessed for likelihood of success by the study section that evaluates parent grant applications. The purpose of the assessment is to provide guidance on whether and how the response can be improved. The assessment criteria will include the following:

  • Are the proposed activities responsive to the NHGRI Action Plan? What is the probability that it will lead to increasing the number of researchers and scholars from underrepresented minority groups participating in genomics and ELSI research?

  • Are the conceptual framework, design and methods adequately developed, well integrated and appropriate to the proposed goals of the activities?

  • Are the activities connected to the grantee's research program? How well is genomics integrated into the planned activities?

  • Are the activities integrated with existing institutional programs that have the same general goals of increasing the representation of scientists from underrepresented minority groups in biomedical research? If the applicant's response to the Action Plan includes participating in ongoing activities, what "value added" does NHGRI-supported participation brings to those ongoing activities?

  • Do the activities employ state-of-the-art concepts, approaches or methods? Does the response take maximal advantage of the research infrastructure?

  • Does the investigator propose a thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of the proposed activities?

  • Are the milestones clearly described?

  • Are the PI and key personnel appropriately trained and well qualified for the project? Does the faculty's expertise constitute the appropriate balance for the objectives?

  • Are the PI and other senior faculty thoroughly involved in the Action Plan activities?

  • Is the budget well justified? Is the level of funding for the proposed training activities commensurate with the requested level of funding for the entire project?

  • For competing continuation applications only, how successful were the previously funded activities in meeting the goals of the grantee and the NHGRI?

For an Action Plan Response that is submitted as part of a competing grant application, the results of the assessment will not be factored into the priority score, but will be reported separately.

All Action Plan Responses will be rated as:

  • Acceptable.
  • Acceptable if modified.
  • Needs to be revised.

If an Action Plan Response is rated "acceptable if modified," the NHGRI Program Director will negotiate with the applicant to make the necessary adjustments. In the case of a competing application, this will be done prior to Council review. If the Action Plan Response needs to be revised, it must be resubmitted and will be re-evaluated by the study section.

Council will review all Action Plan Responses and the evaluators' assessments.

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How will funding decisions be made?

For grant mechanisms that are required to have an Action Plan Response, parent grant applications will only be funded if the Action Plans have been rated as "acceptable." Applications with responses rated "acceptable if modified" will have to be modified, and the modifications accepted, before the parent grant applications will be funded. Parent grant applications with responses that need to be revised will not be funded until the responses have been reassessed and rated as "acceptable."

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What happens after the Action Plan Response is approved?

What happens after the Action Plan Response is approved?

Because the NHGRI has made a commitment to demonstrate that the implementation of the Action Plan is achieving its goals, grantees will be required to address progress under the approved plan in the annual progress report. In non-competing continuation applications, the progress report and budget for the MAP must be clearly delineated from the progress report and budget for the parent grant. The progress report must include information about the training and educational activities supported by the MAP even if support for future years is not requested. Continuation of support for the MAP in the remaining years of the project period of the grant will depend upon satisfactory review by NHGRI of progress for both the parent grant and the MAP supplement, and the appropriateness of the proposed budget for the proposed effort.

Grantees are encouraged to place on their laboratories' Web sites, information about their training activities and the contact information of individual(s) who can respond to questions about these programs.

A Research Training Working Group consisting of a subset of National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research (NACHGR) members and experts in research training of underrepresented minority groups has been established to assist the NHGRI on an ongoing basis with managing the overall program and monitoring progress. The NHGRI will hold an annual meeting as a satellite meeting to the annual meeting of awardees of Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science (CEGS).

NACHGR will be briefed annually on overall progress.

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Who should I contact if I need additional advice?

The success of the NHGRI Action Plan will depend on the grantees and the NHGRI staff working in partnership. The first point of contact for discussing your proposed Action Plan Response should be one of the Directors of the NHGRI Programs. You may also contact the Action Plan Coordinator, if you do not know who to contact within the institute or wish to discuss whether your planned activity is consistent with the goals of the Action Plan.

A Web portal has been developed to provide resources for PIs and information for underrepresented minority groups interested in opportunities for furthering their careers in genomics and ELSI research. Go to: Minority Action Plan Portal.

Program Staff
Bettie Graham, Ph.D.
Action Plan Coordinator
Program Director, Genome Research Training and Career Development
Division of Extramural Research

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Last Updated: July 11, 2012