Guest post by Meryl Sufian, PhD, Chief Program Officer, NIH National Library of Medicine (NLM) Division of Extramural Programs.
Biomedical informatics and data science are exciting fields with careers that are in great demand and will continue to grow. As these areas of research have expanded, it is clear that individuals from racial and ethnic minorities and women are underrepresented. A diverse and inclusive workforce provides many benefits to advance science and discovery, such as robust learning environments, public trust in research, and incentives for encouraging underserved populations to participate in and benefit from health research.
The NIH Research Education Program (R25) supports research educational activities that complement other formal training programs in the mission areas of the NIH Institutes and Centers. NLM recently announced RFA-LM-22-001 (Short-Term Research Education Experiences to Attract Talented Students to Biomedical Informatics/Data Science Careers and Enhance Diversity [R25 Clinical Trial Not Allowed]). This funding opportunity seeks proposals from institutions interested in creating educational programs and research experiences that will recruit talented students from diverse backgrounds to pursue degrees in biomedical informatics and data science.
Encouraging diversity remains an ongoing challenge that must be examined at every level of the educational pipeline. NLM’s new R25 program addresses this issue, in particular the transition from undergraduate to graduate education where science and engineering students from underrepresented groups tend to leave the research enterprise. At the postsecondary level, students need exposure to opportunities and role models in fields that require computational ability. The R25 program will provide students with experience in cutting edge biomedical informatics and data science research, offer enriching mentorship experiences, and prepare students to enter doctoral programs in these fields.
Increasing diversity in the biomedical and data science workforce is complex and requires expanding opportunities in primary and secondary education, awareness, and access to mentorships. NLM is optimistic that the R25 initiative is a good first step to address the diversity and pipeline issues, and more importantly, that you will join us in this endeavor. NLM welcomes applications from institutions and organizations who will provide a supportive environment and are committed to increasing the diversity of the biomedical informatics and data science workforce.
Dr. Sufian joined the NLM in 2021 and most recently served as a Senior Science Advisor to the Director at the NIH Office of AIDS Research. Prior to this position, Dr. Sufian held various programmatic positions across NIH including as a Senior Program Director for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and Program Director at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Her first position at NIH was as a Program Director for the National Cancer Institute where she managed and provided oversight for the evaluation of research initiatives