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NIGMS Seeks Applications for Research Training Program

1 February 2010 No Comment

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) invites applications for the biostatistics predoctoral research training program.

Biostatistics is an essential discipline in advancing and integrating biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research. According to a 2003 National Institutes of Health (NIH) workshop composed of leading researchers in biostatistics, bioinformatics, and biomedical research, the demand for biostatisticians far exceeds the supply of scientists who are trained in biostatistical theory and rapidly emerging biomedical research technologies.

In 2004, NIGMS spearheaded a trans-NIH effort to increase the number of trained biostatisticians through its biostatistics predoctoral research training program. The program supports predoctoral training in biostatistical theory and evolving methodologies related to basic biomedical research, including areas such as bioinformatics; genetics; molecular biology; cellular processes and physiology; and epidemiological, clinical, and behavioral studies.

The NIGMS training program differs from other programs by emphasizing broad interdisciplinary training. It complements the more disease-focused NIH biostatistics training programs by providing balance between the need for biostatistics training tailored to a specific disease with those developing biostatistical formalisms for emerging research areas.

NIGMS typically supports graduate students on training grants for one to three years and during their early years of graduate training leading to a PhD degree. This timing provides participants with flexibility in the selection of courses, rotations, research fields, and mentors. Only one NIGMS biostatistics predoctoral research training grant is allowed at an eligible institution.

The program uses the NIH Institutional Training Grant (T32) mechanism and follows the omnibus NIH T32 program announcement (PA-10-036), which only accepts applications submitted electronically through Grants.gov (see NOT-OD-10-008).

The program is a National Research Service Award (NRSA), which has been NIH’s primary means of supporting predoctoral and postdoctoral research training programs at domestic institutions of higher education since 1974. NRSA policy states eligible individuals “must be a citizen or a noncitizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time of appointment.” Further, at the level of predoctoral training, the program is for “individuals who have a baccalaureate degree and are enrolled in a doctoral program leading to either a PhD or combined PhD.” These rules thereby exclude training grant support for foreign students and those in a master’s degree program. However, existence of this biostatistics training grant offers eligible institutions a means to leverage funds from other sources to support foreign and MS-level students. Moreover, the activities supported by the training grant would generally be made available to students not supported by the biostatistics training program, an approach that broadens impact and extends benefits to a wider cadre of students.

Successful NIGMS-supported biostatistics predoctoral research training applications should describe an interdisciplinary program built on a strong foundation in statistical theory and methodology and provide a clear understanding of basic biological research in relation to epidemiological, clinical, and behavioral research. Applications should address the challenges of melding statistics and biology at both the faculty and student levels. Training grant activities should include cutting-edge research opportunities, coursework, and seminars that focus on biology and statistics, laboratory rotations, training in the responsible conduct of research, and proactive mentoring. Additional program activities that could enhance the training experience include retreats, journal clubs, and opportunities for students to present their research progress.

Programs are expected to monitor student progress and ensure timely completion of PhD degree requirements. Applicants must provide information describing evaluation plans for ongoing assessment of the training program and demonstrate efforts to recruit and retain a diverse trainee population, including students from under-represented racial and ethnic minority groups and those with disabilities. Emphasis is placed on applications that already have established training in biostatistics at the graduate level.

Last, all applicants for NIGMS-funded predoctoral training grants are required to respond to six questions. These ‘special requirements’ should be addressed in the background section of the application.

Applications for this program are reviewed at NIGMS through its Office of Scientific Review. To determine the scientific and technical merit of the application, reviewers will consider training program and environment, training program director/principal investigator, preceptors/mentors, trainees, and training record. Training grants are usually awarded for five years and are renewable.

For more information, including institutional eligibility requirements, contact Shawn Drew, program director of MORE Division and Biostatistics Training, at DrewL@mail.nih.gov.

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