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CTSA Program FAQs for Diversity Supplements

Can a candidate for the diversity supplement be supported by Public Health Service (PHS) grant funds at the time of application?

Yes, under certain circumstances, candidates conducting clinical and translational science research projects may be supported by PHS funds at the time of application, however, if the supplement application is meritorious and the candidate will be supported via the diversity supplement the candidate must not have effort on other PHS funded grants.

If the candidate is supported by an institutional training grant (T32 or TL1, etc.) at the time of application, they may not be transferred to supplemental support prior to completion of the expected period of training on the program. The CTSA Program UL1 PD/PI should contact NCATS program staff to discuss such a situation before submitting an application for a diversity supplement.

Who is eligible to be supported by a diversity supplement?

Institutions are encouraged to identify candidates who will enhance diversity on a national basis. The diversity supplement is designed for individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences, including racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and individuals from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who wished to pursue a career in clinical and translational science research. Principal investigators of UL1 mechanisms may request supplemental funds to improve the diversity of the biomedical research workforce by supporting and recruiting graduate and health professional students, individuals in postdoctoral training and/or investigators developing independent research careers in clinical and translational science. Supplemental awards are limited to citizens or non-citizen nationals of the U.S. or to individuals who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S. (i.e., in possession of a Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551).

If a candidate received a prior NCATS diversity supplement award, regardless of career stage, they are not eligible to apply for a second NCATS diversity supplement award.

A “new” diversity supplement for the same diversity trainee and the same training plan is not allowed under any circumstances if the original diversity supplement application received an NCATS award. Extensions of diversity supplements are not permitted.

An individual who has received previous funding from NIH as an independent PD/PI on a research grant (e.g., R01, R03, R21), as the project leader on a component of a program project or center grant (e.g., UL1, P01, P50, G12), or as PD/PI on an individual research career development award (e.g., K01, K02, K07, K08, and K23), or as a Scholar on an Institutional Career Development Award (K12, KL2) is not eligible as a diversity supplement candidate.

Are women considered underrepresented and therefore eligible for a diversity supplement?

Women have been shown to be underrepresented in doctorate-granting research institutions at senior faculty levels in most biomedical-relevant disciplines and may also be underrepresented at other faculty levels in some scientific disciplines. NIH encourages institutions to consider women for faculty-level, diversity-targeted programs to address faculty recruitment, appointment, retention or advancement. Please see the following announcement (PA-21-071) for more information.

Are persons with disabilities eligible for diversity supplements if they are not a member of an ethnic or racial minority group?

Yes. The institution/university must provide a signed statement establishing the eligibility of the candidate for support under this program. If applicable, the PI/mentor should describe any reasonable accommodations that are needed and how the training and mentoring plan would address these needs.

Can a PI request equipment for reasonable accommodations for a disabled candidate under the diversity supplement?

Yes. Funds may be requested to make changes or adjustments in the research setting that will make it possible for a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions associated with his/her role on the project. The accommodations requested under this program must be directly related to the performance of the proposed role on the research project and must be appropriate to the disabilities of the individual. Some types of accommodations that might be provided under these awards include: specialized equipment, assistive devices and personnel, such as readers, interpreters or assistants. In all cases, the total funds for accommodations requested from the supplement must be reasonable in relationship to the direct costs of the parent grant and the nature of the supplement award.

How does the availability of KL2 or TL1 slots at the CTSA Program hub affect eligibility for a diversity supplement?

The CTSA Program is strongly committed to the appointment of individuals from diverse backgrounds to Institutional Mentored Career Development Awards (KL2) and to Institutional Training Awards (TL1) as these provide a clear, mentored program and strong oversight for training students. As both the KL2 and the TL1 components require plans for recruitment and retention to enhance diversity it would be expected that programs would attempt to fill KL2 and/or TL1 slots with scholars or trainees from diverse backgrounds first and then have the opportunity to request additional support from the supplement program. Note that supplement appointments do not count toward the KL2 or TL1 number of scholars or trainees approved by NCATS Advisory Council; however, the supplement may not be awarded if the KL2 or TL1 appointment slots are not filled or if the hub appears not to be strongly committed to the appointment of individuals from diverse backgrounds to the KL2 or TL1. It is possible that the timing of appointments and the applicants’ availability may restrict the appointment on the KL2 and/or TL1 and the supplement may be used prior to or instead of the appointment on the KL2 and/or TL1. There may be other situations that may be justified. If there are unused slots on the KL2 or TL1 components at the same career level of that of the diversity supplement candidate, it would be difficult to justify the supplement request. Hubs are encouraged to justify any relevant situation to explain particularities.

Under the NCATS CTSA Program, which grant mechanisms are eligible for these supplements and how much time can be requested?

Active NCATS UL1 cooperative agreements are eligible for diversity supplements. Institutional Career Development Core (KL2) Training Core (TL1) programs are not eligible, however, the Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) of these programs and/or the mentor(s) of the candidate can work with the UL1 PI to apply. Supplements to CCIA grants will not be considered.

How much time can be requested for a supplement candidate?

The request cannot exceed the length of time remaining for the UL1 grant project period. Potential no cost extensions are not considered as length of time remaining for these requests. A grant must have at least two years remaining in order to request a supplement for a graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, or investigators developing independent research careers to provide an optimal career development experience for the candidate. The requested time should be two years and the research training experience is to be tailored to the candidate’s proposed research project, training and mentoring plans.

The UL1 mechanism is a cooperative agreement and does not directly fund research projects. What types of research projects can be proposed that would fall under the scope of the parent award?

Mentors and their candidates must propose to be conducting high quality clinical and translational science research, similar to the type of research that would fall under the purview of the CTSA Program hubs’ pilot project program, KL2 or TL1 programs. The aims of the candidate’s project can be complimentary to, but not overlapping with, the aims of an existing federally funded or foundation grant. The research plan should address specific skills, responsibilities, and activities that demonstrate increasing independence as researchers. The application should include a timeline for next steps towards obtaining independent research funding.

Who would be an eligible mentor under the UL1 cooperative agreement?

The CTSA Program UL1 contact PD/PI is required to be listed as the first person on the Senior/Key Personnel form. However, additional mentor(s) are expected to be required to support the research training and career development of the candidate. Additional mentor(s) should be listed as key personnel, provide a biosketch, and be integrated into the career development plan for the candidate. All additional mentors must be clearly associated with the CTSA Program hub (may be key personnel, mentors of KL2 and/or TL1 programs, etc.).

Will NCATS consider supporting more than one diversity supplement from a CTSA Program hub?

Yes. NCATS will consider supplemental support for more than one individual from a CTSA Program hub at all levels of training. Each request must be strongly justified and include assurances that each candidate will receive appropriate mentoring. NCATS requires that applications for individual candidates be submitted as separate applications.

NCATS will accept up to two applications under the diversity supplement for review consideration during a fiscal year from any one CTSA Program hub award.

Are clinical trials allowed under this funding opportunity?

This funding opportunity is designed specifically for applicants proposing research that does not involve leading an independent clinical trial, a clinical trial feasibility study, or an ancillary clinical trial. Applicants to this FOA are permitted to propose research experience in a clinical trial led by a mentor or co-mentor.

Does your human subjects research study meet the NIH Definition of a clinical trial?

Is research with human subjects or vertebrate animals allowed under this funding opportunity?

Yes. The supplement adheres to the same NIH policies for human subjects research and vertebrate animals as the parent grant. However, depending on the candidate’s career stage, the supplement provides little to no costs for research to be conducted by the candidate. If the project is conducting research that was not described under the original U application and did not undergo review, it will undergo review of the research by NCATS. See the funding opportunity for further instructions about required supporting documentation.

Can a PI's/mentor’s salary be requested on a diversity supplement?

No, under the existing funding opportunity announcements, a PI's/mentor’s salary is not an allowable cost on a diversity supplement.

What are the allowable costs for investigators developing independent research careers?

For investigators developing independent research careers, the supplement will provide up to and no more than $100,000/year for salary, plus additional fringe benefits. Salary and fringe benefits must be in accordance with the salary structure of the grantee institution and must be commensurate with the individual’s level of effort devoted to the project. Additional funds of up to $10,000 may be requested for supplies and travel. Equipment may be purchased but requires prior approval of the NIH awarding component. Costs should be strongly justified and based upon need but may not exceed $150,000 direct costs for an application for an investigator developing an independent research career.

* Please see the guidance in the FOA for allowable costs for other career levels.

How should a diversity awardee be supported once the diversity supplement ends?

The mentor and applicant institution are encouraged to assist the supplement awardee to identify and transition to additional means of support appropriate for their stage of development. An appropriate transition plan to another means of support should be included in the application. This should be included as part of the training and mentoring plan. Examples include support through research grants, appointment to an institutional training grant or receipt of an individual fellowship, etc.

What is expected time commitment for the diversity supplement?

  1. Short-term Investigator Research Supplement: This supplement provides short-term support for trainees to conduct full-time research in clinical and translational science for three to five months each year for at least two years during the summer or another portion of the academic year, over a maximum period of four years.
  2. Long-term Investigator Research Supplement: This supplement provides long-term research support for faculty members to conduct research in clinical and translational science. Support is usually provided for two years at a minimum of 9 person months (equivalent to 75% effort) during each 12-month period.

For most long-term investigators, the awardee must commit at the minimum 9 person months, equivalent to 75% full-time professional effort, directly to their research project and career development activities. Less than 75% (but not lower than 50%) effort for certain clinical specialties (e.g., surgical and procedure-intensive specialties) is considered on a case-by-case basis. The remaining effort can be devoted to additional research, teaching, clinical work, or other efforts complementary to career development of the awardee. NIH provides some salary support as part of the supplement award, and often institutions will supplement the salary of these award PIs up to a level that is consistent with the institution’s salary scale.

What should be included in the PI's/mentor’s training and mentoring plan?

Training and mentoring plans should be customized to the individual candidate's strengths and weaknesses, gaps in previous training, and short- and long-term goals should be stated within the training plan. The plan must be focused on the development of the candidate’s skills and providing the support structures needed to transition into the next phase of the biomedical training/career pathway. It should be clear from the application how a diversity supplement will impact and add value to the candidate’s training, mentoring, and career development experiences. The plan should specifically focus on how the training and mentoring plan will best position the candidate for a career in clinical and translational science. In addition, the PI/mentor should indicate how the individual will be supported after the supplement ends, including any plans for helping the candidate to apply for independent support, and how the candidate will successfully transition to the next stage of their career.

What should be included in the PI's/mentor’s personal statement?

The PI/mentor should state his/her personal philosophy of training and commitment to promoting diversity and describe his/her track record of successfully mentoring trainees from underrepresented backgrounds at the career stage of the candidate.

What should be included in the candidate's personal statement?

The candidate should describe his/her long-term education and career goals and why they wish to pursue a research career in clinical and translational science.

Who submits the application, the person to be supported or the PI of the grant?

The CTSA Program UL1 PD/PI and the grantee institution must submit the application on behalf of the candidate.

When should an application be submitted?

Applications are due September 15 (or the following business day if September 15 falls on a holiday or weekend) of each year for consideration of funding for the current fiscal year. Applications will be evaluated, and decisions will be made within two to three months, but funding decisions can be influenced and delayed by other factors, including the availability of funds. Therefore, consultation with the NCATS Program Official (PO) assigned to the parent grant and NCATS scientific contacts for these funding opportunities is advised prior to submitting an application. Since it can take up to 10 weeks to review an application and reach a funding decision, applications submitted in the current fiscal year that receive a favorable review will be funded in the same fiscal year, as long as funds and time remain available. If funds are no longer available, applications may be held for funding in the following cycle. Requested start dates should be prospective, align with the budget start date of the UL1 grant and allow sufficient time for review of the request.

How should an application be submitted?

Applicants are required to follow the submission instructions as described in the funding opportunity announcements. Each CTSA Program hub is allowed to submit up to two diversity supplements/applications. However, there should be only one diversity candidate for each application. Use the NCATS-specific guidance in developing your application. Applicants are encouraged to alert the PO and grants management specialist once the application has been submitted.

How are diversity supplement applications reviewed?

Applications are administratively reviewed by NCATS program staff. Program staff will evaluate supplement applications to determine the overall merit using the review criteria outlined in the funding opportunity announcements. Program staff will look at the appropriateness of the research project, career development plan, and mentorship as they relate to the candidate's career goals. In addition, a second level of review is conducted by NCATS and DCI leadership before final funding decisions are made. Emphasis is placed on the strength and quality of the mentoring and training plan and the likelihood that the candidate will be successful at the next stage of their career in clinical and translational science.

Applications will also be reviewed for relevance to the NCATS mission to transform the translational science process and the goals of the CTSA program.

What are the chances of success in obtaining funding?

Applications that are considered to be strong have a high success rate. However, the diversity supplement programs are competitive programs and there may be more applications than funds available.