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Trans-NIH FIRST program will address faculty diversity and inclusion in biomedical research

October 29, 2020

Update: Two FIRST funding opportunity announcements were released on December 8, 2020.

Young male scientist holding flask of liquid in a lab setting, discussing chemical reaction with another young male scientist and young female scientist.

The forthcoming trans-NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program will propose an innovative model to address faculty diversity and inclusion in biomedical research. In late July, a Notice of Intent was published, indicating that the FIRST request for applications (RFA) would be issued in fall 2020. Advance notice was provided in order to allow potential applicants sufficient time to develop meaningful plans for robust applications to this opportunity. The RFA has yet to be published, but there is every expectation this will occur before the end of the calendar year, with projected first receipt date in the first quarter of 2021. The RFA will appear in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts, so please monitor that for the announcement.

The FIRST program aims to help institutions build a self-reinforcing community of scientists through recruitment of a critical mass of early-career faculty who have a demonstrated commitment to inclusive excellence. The program also seeks to have a positive impact on faculty development, retention, progression, and eventual promotion, as well as to develop sustainably inclusive environments. It’s anticipated that both public and private institutions of higher education will be eligible to apply.

Selected text from the announcement:

The FIRST Program will provide one funding mechanism with opportunities for Highly Resourced Institutions (HRI) and Limited-Resourced Institutions (LRI) to apply independently or in a partnership arrangement to develop and implement faculty cohort models for the simultaneous hiring of a diverse group of research faculty.

Any individual who is competitive for a tenure track faculty position and who has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting diversity and inclusive excellence is eligible for FIRST faculty positions. Faculty candidates will be required to submit a statement describing their commitment to promoting diversity and inclusive excellence. Institutions will decide how to evaluate this commitment, but some examples include the area of a candidate’s research program, active participation in diversity efforts, mentoring individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, volunteer activities in the community, etc. Selection for the program should be competitive and inclusion in the FIRST cohort will be viewed as a prestigious recognition of outstanding accomplishments both in scientific research and in promoting diversity and inclusive excellence. The program will support activities for faculty to receive multilevel mentoring, sponsorship, professional and research development embedded within institutions that are actively implementing integrated, systems-level approaches for sustainable culture change.

I encourage you to begin conversations with colleagues within and beyond your university, across disciplines and departments. Naturally, I encourage you to consider developing or participating in a program that might support candidates with research interests related to the NIDCD. This could be a great opportunity to expand our diverse workforce and provide a mentored cohort opportunity for beginning investigators.

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