There is a well-known lack of diversity in many Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The gap in awarded National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants for scientists from underrepresented populations at the early stages of their careers contributes significantly to this lack of diversity. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Diversity Scholars Network (NDSN) program implemented a new model in 2016 to provide support to underrepresented early-career investigators (ECIs) by equipping them to navigate the competitive NIH grant process. NDSN has a demonstrable track record of providing equity through educational opportunities by enhancing the grant funding success of participants. Of 59 participants from 2016 through 2021, 53% received funding within the first two years after completing the program and 69% by four years. NDSN scholars surmount systemic funding barriers by building relationships with scientific coaches, mentors, NIDA Program Officials and intentionally engaging in network building, which all contribute to the funding success of ECIs. NIDA’s NDSN program provides a model for retaining underrepresented ECIs that not only benefits individual scholars, but also the institutions they serve and society as a whole.
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We thank all contributors of quotes to this article. The authors also thank Isabela Ellenwood of the National Institute on Drug Abuse for her help in compiling data on grant outcomes for program participants, Adam Siggers of Rose Li & Associates for his administrative support, and all other partners who support this program.
WMC reports long-term stock holdings in General Electric Company, 3 M Companies, and Pfizer Incorporated, unrelated to the manuscript. Other authors report no competing interests.
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Avila, A.H., Weixelbaum, J.H., Goggans, K.R. et al. The national institute on drug abuse diversity scholars network: success for a diverse addiction science workforce. Neuropsychopharmacol. 48, 1963–1967 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-023-01733-x