NIH Diversity Supplement Resource

What is an NIH Diversity Supplement? 

The goal of the NIH Diversity Supplement program is to enhance the diversity of the research workforce by recruiting and supporting students, post doctorates, and eligible faculty investigators from historically marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds, including those from groups that have been shown to be nationally underrepresented in health-related research.
This program provides additional funds to principal investigators with existing NIH funding to recruit eligible investigators to engage in research experiences in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences.
The Diversity Supplement aims:

  • To recruit and support high school, undergraduate and graduate/clinical students, post doctorates (including health professionals), and eligible investigators.
  • To support work within the scope of the original project,  but not funded in the original grant and must be an integral part of the approved, ongoing research of the parent award.
  • To provide support for research experiences for individuals from historically marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds throughout the continuum from high school to the faculty level.
  • To provide support and have potential to contribute significantly to the research career development of the candidate.

For additional details, please see the current Funding Announcement from NIH.

For more information about the application process for the NIH Diversity Supplement, visit our Application Process section below.

Diversifying the Gillings Research Workforce: NIH Diversity Supplement Workshop

This workshop provides an overview of the NIH Diversity Supplement program, provides tips curated by a successful awardee for crafting a competitive application and includes a panel discussion featuring Gillings faculty/student recipients who share their insights for crafting an award-winning application.

Watch the video

If you have any questions that are not answered by the material on this webpage, please email researchsolutions@unc.edu or submit your question through the Diversity Supplement Contact Form.


What are the benefits of an NIH Diversity Supplement? 

For the Candidate
For the Principal Investigator (PI)

  • Demonstrate ability to successfully obtain research grant dollars, a key metric for competing for jobs in academia, government, or industry
  • Salary and fringe benefits for the candidate, as well as support for tuition, travel, and supplies (please check with RFA and institute-specific information for details)
  • Grant writing experience, a skill that is very important for pursuing biomedical research careers
  • Support the development of long-term career plans
  • Opportunity to publish the research that is part of the funded supplement

  • Bring new and diverse perspectives to lab and research project
  • Broaden the original intent of the parent research grant
  • Additional collaborative research publications
  • Attract new scientific dimensions to an investigator’s research project
  • Provide funding for a trainee

Why is Gillings encouraging researchers to apply for NIH Diversity Supplements? 

  • We are committed to diversity and inclusion among our faculty, staff, and students.
  • It is important to create space for, celebrate, and train trainees and fellows from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups to better tackle health inequities in our communities.
  • It is critical to expand public health solutions and enhance our health equity lens, by expanding our perceptions and scope of research, starting with our representation.

In addition to the NIH Diversity Supplement, you can review additional sources of funding for trainees.


Eligibility

There are two levels of general eligibility for NIH Diversity Supplements

1. Eligibility of Principal Investigator (PI) and their existing NIH grant
2. Eligibility of the Candidate

The PI must have an active NIH grant that will have at least two or more years of support left at the time the supplement is awarded. Since the process of finding a mentor and completing the application can take some time, we recommend that the award have at least 2.5 years left when you begin this process.

Additionally, NIH has many different types of grants available, but only some of them are eligible for Diversity Supplements. The type of award is referred to as the “activity code,” which is part of the award number

A parent award may support more than one individual on a supplement; however, each request must be strongly justified and include assurances that each candidate will receive appropriate mentoring.

The candidate for the Diversity Supplement must meet the following criteria:

  • Individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups demonstrated to be underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social sciences (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-20-031.html) or racial or ethnic groups that can be demonstrated convincingly to be underrepresented by the grantee institution.
  • US citizens or non-citizen nationals of the United States or to individuals who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States (i.e., in possession of a Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551).
  • Individuals at the following career levels (please see Funding Announcement for additional details):
    • High School Students
    • Undergraduate Students
    • Baccalaureate and master’s Degree Holders
    • Graduate (Predoctoral) and Health Professional Students
    • Individuals in Postdoctoral Training
    • Investigators Developing Independent Research Careers
  • Individuals cannot be funded through more than one Diversity Supplement at a given time but may receive multiple Diversity Supplements over the course of their career.
  • For individuals not from underrepresented populations, there is another type of supplement called a research supplement to promote re-entry into biomedical and behavioral research careers
  • Please note that different NIH Institutes have additional eligibility requirements

Application Process

Initial Steps
Application Preparation
Submit and Wait
Consider the following throughout your exploration of the Diversity Supplement mechanism to ensure eligibility before applying:

  • Talk with your advisor or program director about opportunities for funding your research, including diversity supplements
  • Find out if there is a principal investigator at UNC conducting research within your interests, eligible for a diversity supplement grantee, AND has an eligible grant at the NIH institute that you are eligible to apply to:
    • Consider your current faculty advisor and determine whether they have a research grant that might be eligible for a supplement.
    • If you have not yet been admitted to Gillings, speak with your potential faculty advisor or program chair about the option for writing a research supplement
  • Here are some ways to find a PI who has an eligible grant:
    • Search the Gillings School directory to find a faculty researcher that you have overlapping interests with.
    • Explore your departmental faculty listing and the Gillings Research Strengths to identify faculty working in areas that match your interests.
    • Look up potential mentors in NIH RePORTER to see if they have an eligible grant. On the online form, list the following:
      • Organization: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
      • Principal Investigator (PI) /Project Leader (Last Name, First Name)
    • When viewing an individual PI’s current awards, remember that the project must meet certain criteria, see the Eligibility section above.
    • Check the eligibility requirements of the specific funding institute.
    • Here is a PDF to Gillings led NIH grants that are eligible for diversity supplements as of (April 20, 2021).
    • Here is a PDF to common NIH institutes that fund some of the Gillings research projects

Based on the eligibility criteria of the institute that this study is funded through, are you eligible to apply?

  • If you are unsure view Eligibility for Common NIH Institute Grants at Gillings
  • Do your research interests and proposed project align with the context, aims, or potential focus of the research study?
    • If so, set up a meeting with the potential PI for a “research proposal brainstorming session”, to discuss the possibility of applying for an NIH Diversity Supplement together!

Candidate Preparation

General Tips for Corresponding with a potential PI

  • Be confident in yourself, your interests, and your ideas. You would not have been accepted into a Gillings department if you did not deserve to be here. Our faculty are genuinely interested in working with students!
  • Use the PI’s formal title until they tell you that it is fine to use first name or otherwise
  • Be sure to identify yourself, your home department, and your departmental advisor
  • Include your resume or CV in the email so the PI can learn a little more about your interests and previous training
  • Do not ask for the PIs full research proposal until they have agreed to consider working on an application together. While most faculty members will be happy to share their Specific Aims with you, it is possible that a faculty PI may not be comfortable sharing their full proposal. Remember to build a relationship with the PI before asking too much of them.
  • Be sure to offer to take the lead on the supplement. Do not expect the PI to write the application for you.
  • Remember that many faculty members get hundreds of emails a day. Do not take a lack of response as a lack of interest. Sometimes emails to busy faculty can fall through cracks, you may politely follow up if you do not hear back. Most faculty will appreciate the reminder!

Once you have identified a faculty PI and communicated with them, you will need to prepare for a Research Proposal Brainstorming Session with the faculty PI

  • Do your research on the current publications, aims, and any published results of the study and the PI’s general area of research
  • Identify aspects of the research you are interested in working on and note the future implications of this work
  • Consider what you may bring to the team in terms of innovative methods, questions, and skills.
  • Bring a few ideas that add to the proposed grant and presents a new perspective that aligns with your research interests and may be the good topic for a supplement
  • Be sure to prepare justification as to why this direction is important and needed within the frame of the PI’s research project
  • Prepare as many questions as you can about the faculty PI’s research grant and their general research area
  • After you have worked with your identified PI and have agreement to work together on a supplement application, draft timeline with PI to work on the grant

Tips for Deciding on a Faculty PI to work with on a diversity supplement


It is important to determine if the PI of the study would be a good fit for you as a mentor, since training is one element of a supplement application and grant. Consider the following tips as you solidify your decision:

  • If relevant, check with your faculty advisor and/or program director to discuss whether a project outside of your department is acceptable or not
  • Ask to be connected to the PI’s current students and alumni to find out more about their mentoring styles to determine if they would work well for you.
  • Ask about PI’s expectations for their students (weekly hours, in-person vs. remote, time commitments, etc.) and be sure you can meet them.
  • Find out PI’s communication style and if you are comfortable with it.
  • Set up an informal meeting to connect with the research team that you will be working with to learn more about the team dynamic, styles, and build rapport.
  • The PI is committed to your research experience and will foster the research capabilities of your strengths.
  • Your research experience is related to the research goals and objectives of the parent grant.
  • Determine whether you feel a sense of belonging and investment from your mentor and whether they show dedication to help accomplish your research goals.

PI Preparation

  • Encourage students to consider a research supplement in addition to other funding opportunities
  • Make suggestions to interested diversity supplement candidates about any areas of exploration that could broaden your research grant and provide a good opportunity for a supplement application
  • Draft timeline with diversity supplement candidate to work on the supplement application
  • Connect with your program officer to determine eligibility and institute interest in the proposed topic

Once a candidate and PI have agreed to pursue a Diversity Supplement application, it is time to start working on the application! The first step is to review the current NIH Diversity Supplement RFA very carefully. Additionally, the PI should discuss the supplement funding with their NIH program officer.

Application Checklist

  • The PI should contact their NIH Program Officer to discuss submitting an application for supplement funding
  • Inform departmental research administrative staff about upcoming application
  • The Candidate will need to obtain an eRA Commons account prior to submitting the application. The departmental research administrative staff can assist with this process.
  • A list of required documents can be found in the NIH Diversity Supplement RFA, which includes:
    • Research Plan
    • NIH Biographical Sketch
    • Candidate Eligibility Statement
    • Human Subjects/Ethics Certifications
    • Budget, including stipend, travel, publications, etc.

We have provided a sample application of a successful application. Please note that this should not be shared beyond Gillings faculty, staff or students.

Other Tips

As you are working on the applications materials, we recommend that the PI and candidate discuss how this supplement funding will fit into the candidate’s long-term plans. Consider doing the following:

  • Specify goals and gains from the project (papers to publish, career trajectory, etc.) and draft timelines
  • Draft mentoring plan
  • If the candidate is a student, specify courses to take throughout the time of being an awardee
  • If the candidate is a student, specify timeline for degree completion
  • Outline projected conferences/professional development events to attend

All applications materials must be submitted to NIH by the UNC Office of Sponsored Research (OSR). The departmental research administrative staff will work with the candidate and the PI to ensure that all the necessary documents have been collected. They will also work with OSR to ensure the application is submitted.

Once the Diversity Supplement has been successfully submitted, it will go through an administrative review as outlined in the RFA. Depending on the institute, the review process may take around 4 months. If the application is reviewed favorably, notification will be sent of the status. The status of the application can be monitored in eRA Commons. 


Glossary and Resources

Glossary
Resources

Parent Grant – This term refers to a grant that has been awarded to a researcher at UNC that is eligible for a Diversity Supplement. Please see the eligibility section for more details.

Principal Investigator or PI – this term refers to the researcher who is leading a study or project. In addition to overseeing the science being conducted, they are also responsible for overseeing the administrative tasks associated with a grant.

Request for Applications or RFA – This is a document released by the funding agency (in this case, NIH) that describes the opportunity and the requirements for applying. In the case of the NIH Diversity Supplement, this can be found at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-21-071.html


Frequently Asked Questions

DIVERSITY SUPPLEMENT CONTENT

Q: Do you have any advice/resources that provide guidance to grant writing processes that I can utilize to assist me with this process?

Resources: We recommend exploring “A practical guide to writing a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA grant” by Andrew D. Hollenbach (UNC Library Catalog: https://catalog.lib.unc.edu/catalog/UNCb8160769) and “Guide to effective grant writing : how to write a successful NIH grant application” boy Otto O. Yang (UNC Library Catalog: https://catalog.lib.unc.edu/catalog/UNCb7172941)

Advice: Applying for an NIH Diversity Supplement is a great way to gain grant-writing experience. Be prepared to dedicate at least one month to work on the application consistently. The process of applying for an NIH diversity supplement is dependent upon both the student and the mentor, and requires dedication to complete the grant application. To prepare, reach out to mentors as soon as possible to allocate time to work on the supplement before the deadline.

Q: What is the right scope of a project for a supplement?

For Diversity Supplements, the project aim must fit under the overall umbrella of the parent grant. It may be an extension of the parent project but cannot expand the aims of that project. The goal is for this project to serve as an independent project for the mentee to carry on in their research career (i.e., “the primary aim of the grant is ___ and the data needs to be collected so here is a secondary analysis that can be done under the leadership of the mentee”)

Q: For PhD students, can the proposed research project overlap with/represent the dissertation proposal?

Yes, if it complements the PI’s funded project (parent grant). The supplement must be linked scientifically to the parent grant to serve as an additional specific aim. This is necessary because the diversity supplement does not undergo formal peer review (unlike the R01), so it must relate to the parent award. It needs to be related to the parent grant but not duplicative.

DIVERSITY SUPPLEMENT TIMING AND PROCESS

Q: How would I go about finding a mentor for a Diversity Supplement if my advisor does not have an eligible grant?

Please visit the Application Process section of our website for suggestions on how to find a mentor.

However, it is a good idea to discuss your plans to pursue a Diversity Supplement with your advisor to ensure that this fits well with your overall academic and career goals. 

Q: Am I limited to pursuing diversity supplements that are solely based within my degree department?

The NIH diversity supplement does not have to be within your degree department if your research interests/experiences overlap with another department. However, if you do pursue working with a mentor outside your degree department, you should be able to explain how the intersection between the departments will enhance your experience. Also, we recommend that you have a least one mentor from your degree department in addition to other mentors.

Q: When should I start looking for a potential mentor for a diversity supplement?

As soon as possible! There are several factors to keep in mind, such as when you want the funding to start and how much time is left on the parent grant. Students can initiate this process before or after starting their degree program. In some cases, it may be easier to connect with a potential mentor after starting the degree program.

Q: When should I start looking for a potential student/mentee for a diversity supplement?

As soon as you get your notice of award! Keep in mind that you must have a least 2 years of funding remaining on your grant at the time your trainee begins.

Q: About how long is the process generally from submitting to receiving funding and how should I plan for this?

The review process varies by NIH institute, from 4-6 months. Please see the timeline per institute listed at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/Diversity-Supp_contacts.html.

Q: Should Principal Investigators/Mentors discuss the application with the NIH Program Officer?

 

Yes! Be sure to connect the NIH Program Officer at the NIH institute you are applying to. Specifically, the NIH Program Officer that handles the diversity supplement portfolio. Set up a meeting to share the students’ and principal investigator/mentors plan and ask if it is receptive to what they are looking for right now to fund.

Q: Do all the NIH agencies as well as CDC/NIOSH offer these supplements?

Not all NIH institutes off these supplements. Eligible institutes are listed at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/contacts/Diversity-Supp_contacts.html 

FUNDING SOURCES

Q: Are there any other funding opportunities that focus on research and mentorship?

Q: How does the transition from supplement to an F grant work?

They are separate proposals and can be dependent or independent. For example, the student’s writing of an F32 can be folded into the diversity supplement mentoring plan. Keep in mind that the diversity supplement will end when the F32 begins, but this will also build upon the training and independence.

Q: What advice do you have for faculty/principal investigators who are seeking their first diversity supplement?

Consider identifying a co-mentor who has received a diversity supplement or has experience working with diverse students/populations and integrate them into the mentoring plan to present a stronger application and show commitment to the institute and the mentee. Also, try to review examples of successful diversity supplement applications for the career level of your perspective trainee (undergraduate, master, doctoral, post-doc, etc.). We have an example of a successful undergraduate application on our website under the Application Preparation section. You can also use NIH Reporter to identify other PIs who have received diversity supplements for the grants. Some may be willing to share a copy of the application with you.

Q: How important is the mentoring plan for the application?

The mentoring plan is one of the most important parts of the application. Be very specific in the mentoring plan (frequency of meetings, research team, papers, interactions, development, etc.). It may also be helpful to use the Individualized Development Plan as a starting point for your application.