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Populations Underrepresented in the Extramural Scientific Workforce

In spite of tremendous advancements in scientific research, information, education, and research opportunities are not equally available to all. NIH encourages institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations to enhance the participation of individuals from groups identified as underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences, such as:

  • Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis (visit to see data and the report “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering”). The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research: Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.
  • Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (visit for details). Learn more on the website.

Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as:

  • Individuals who come from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds. These thresholds are based on family size, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index; and adjusted by the Secretary for use in all health professions programs. The Secretary periodically publishes these income levels on
  • Individuals who come from an educational environment such as that found in certain rural or inner-city environments that has demonstrably and directly inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career.

The disadvantaged background category is applicable to programs focused on high school and undergraduate candidates.

Literature shows that women from the above backgrounds face particular challenges at the graduate level and beyond in scientific fields. (See, e.g., “Inside the Double Bind, A Synthesis of Empirical Research on Undergraduate and Graduate Women of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”)

Women have been shown to be underrepresented in doctorate-granting research institutions at senior faculty levels in most biomedical-relevant disciplines, and may also be underrepresented at other faculty levels in some scientific disciplines. (See data from the National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics: “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering,” especially the table describing science, engineering, and health doctorate holders employed in universities and four-year colleges, by broad occupation, sex, years since doctorate, and faculty rank (Table 9-23 of Special Report NSF 13-304 from 2013.)

Upon review of NSF data, and scientific discipline or field related data, NIH institutes, centers, and offices may include women as eligible candidates in faculty-level, diversity-targeted programs to address faculty recruitment, appointment, retention or advancement. This option is not available for funding opportunities that do not directly provide structured opportunities for advancement (i.e., Diversity Supplement).

Visit the NIH web site to learn more about Notice Number NOT-OD-15-053.


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