FAQ from faculty

Below are some frequently asked questions we’ve received from interested in NIH diversity supplement funding. For additional information, please visit our UCSF website on diversity supplements (https://guides.ucsf.edu/rdo/diversitysupplements) or the NIH RFA (PA-21-071).

After the Matchmaking Event, what should my next step be?

For next steps in applying for a diversity supplement, please check out this RDO website. It has a lot of great information to get you started (including sample, successful diversity supplement applications). You will also want to reach out to your regular pre-award person if you decide to apply, just like any other grant.

Who is eligible for a diversity supplement award?

Parent awards: The PI must have an active NIH award, such as an R01 or R35, that has at least one year left before it is due for a competitive renewal at the time of the start of the supplement. More information is listed here. You can also check to see if your award is eligible using a tool called Grant Bridge

Trainees: The trainee named in the diversity supplement application must identify as belonging to a race or ethnicity that is underrepresented at UCSF.  This includes racial or ethnic groups identified by the NSF as underrepresented in science (such as Black/African American, Hispanic/ Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander) as well as other groups not on that list but that have been recognized as underrepresented at UCSF (such as Filipino, Hmong and Vietnamese).  Alternately, if the individual comes from a financially disadvantaged background or has a disability, he or she may also qualify. More information can be found here. NIH guidelines state that trainees supported through diversity supplements must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, you can read more here . Diversity supplement candidates may be considered for a supplement at the following career stages: high-school students, undergraduate students, post-baccalaureate and post-master's degree students, pre-doctoral students, postdocs, and faculty. More information is listed here. Importantly, most NIH Institutes do not allow a trainee to be listed as a diversity supplement candidate if they are already listed as personnel in the budget section of the PI’s parent award.  Ideally, the trainee would be a new member of the PI’s lab who has not received any salary support from the parent grant, but exceptions can sometimes be made.

Regardless of the parent award and trainee, you should talk to both your award’s current program officer, and the program officer that oversees the diversity supplement program for the parent award’s institute (a list of contacts can be found on the NIH website) before you apply. 

What types of positions can be funded?

This depends on which institute you are applying to.  Most institutes fund undergraduates, post-baccalaureates (Junior Specialist level), and graduate students.  We are focusing on the Junior Specialist level with the database and the matchmaking event since most institutes will support trainees at this level, and students at this level might be most interested in a short (1-2 year) research experience before moving to their next career stage. More information is available here

Once I identify a candidate in the database or at the matchmaking event, what are the next steps?

That is up to you!  Our goal is to help make matches--once you find a candidate you are interested in, you can take it from there as you would with any other hire.  If you both feel it is a good fit and want to go forward with the process, contact your award’s program officer and the program officer that oversees you institute’s diversity supplement portfolio (listed here) for advice on how to assemble your application.  Once you have gotten their advice, you should reach out to your Research Services Coordinator (use the Find My OSR Staff tool here). They will help you prepare and submit the application, same as for any other NIH grant. The deadlines for diversity supplements vary by institute, so make sure you check (and double check) when your application should be submitted (deadlines listed here). You should also thoroughly review the UCSF website we’ve developed, including our library of successful proposals. We’re happy to help too!   

What are the most important parts of the application?

The goal of the diversity supplement program is to increase career advancement opportunities in science for individuals who identify as belonging to an underrepresented or disadvantaged group.  Therefore, the most important part of the application is the training plan, where you outline with specifics what the background and career goals of the trainee are and how this experience will benefit those goals.  It is important to make this part as specific and individualized as possible so NIH can see you take the training/mentoring aspect of this opportunity seriously.  If it is accurate, it is also helpful to indicate that you will support the trainee with other funds after the diversity supplement has ended. This shows that you believe the trainee will be valuable to you even when you have to pay his or her salary and it amplifies the effect of their investment in the training of underrepresented and disadvantaged trainees.  It is also useful to provide evidence of your mentoring abilities, particularly of underrepresented minorities if you have had that opportunity, by describing your mentoring philosophy, where your trainees have gone off to after leaving your lab, and other mentor related activities (such as mentor training you participate in, etc.).   

What are the least important parts of the application?

In comparison to the mentoring statement, described above, the project plan is much less important.  The supplement application is only reviewed administratively (not by a study section), so as long as the project is reasonable and fits within the broad scope of the parent grant it should be fine.  Check with your program officer about whether it needs to be within or separate from the Specific Aims of the parent grant - this has varied from institute to institute and within institute over time. 

What are the odds of success?

Historically, it has been very high--probably well over 50%.  But budgets vary from year to year, and we hear they are receiving increasing numbers of applications these days so it is certainly not guaranteed. If you (1) identify a candidate who is clearly eligible (i.e., you are not trying to stretch beyond the spirit of the program); (2) get the program officers’ approval ahead of time; (3) write a convincing mentoring statement; and (4) respond diligently to any requests from NIH after you have submitted the grant, your chance of success should be very high. Your chances are further increased if you can submit near the beginning of the fiscal year for your institute.

Can a DS fund a training for part time work (i.e. not a full time position)?

We are not aware of any restriction that requires that the recipient be employed full time.  If a part time position is well justified, it would probably be okay but, as always, contact the PO to be sure.

Can I apply for an NIAID supplement (e.g., by April 1) even though the scholar is not yet hired?

Yes—we recommend starting to write the DS application while the HR process is underway and then submiting it to NIH before the person starts in the lab.  This has the advantage that you avoid risk of the person can becoming ineligible because they are paid from the parent grant before the application is submitted.  We are aware of cases in which the candidate has been allowed to be supported by the parent grant while the application is pending, but you should check with your PO if this will be the case for you.  This timing has the disadvantage that the person is not formally committed to come to your lab until they sign the offer letter, so it is possible that you will submit the application and then they do not come.  Note also that the trainee will need their own eRA Commons ID and that can only be issued by a University.  If your scholar is not a UCSF employee at the time of application submission, it will be easiest if they are affiliated with another university (e.g. they are still a student somewhere) that can create the ID for them.  We have had trouble getting UCSF to issue eRA Commons IDs for people who are not affiliated with the university.  

Can one apply for 2 years or it goes year by year?

We recommend asking for two years of funding (if you have 2+ yrs left on the grant) They may only give you one year, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for two.  It probably depends on how much funding they have available at the time and how many applications they receive.  Usually they don’t let you apply for a second year of funding after you complete the first year, but we are aware of cases in which this was allowed.

Where to ask for eligibility letter:

Effective Friday 10/6/23, the ODO and RDO have implemented a new process for requesting NIH Diversity Supplement candidate eligibility statements. To receive a Candidate Eligibility Statement from the Office of Diversity & Outreach (ODO), please be sure that you have reviewed and are familiar with the eligibility criteria and application process. If you need help with the application process including on how to draft a diversity eligibility letter, contact OSR Find My Support for assistance.  The outcome will be increased funding and diversity of UCSF scientific workforce, learners, grants and research topics. Please visit the diversity supplement page for more information.

Difference between PROPEL, PREP, and NIH Diversity Supplement

These are separate programs and funding opportunities but they work well together. PROPEL is a postbaccalaureate program at UCSF that provides career development, lab mentorship, and networking for research technicians who are employed at UCSF. More information about PROPEL is here. Several of the PROPEL scholars are paid through a diversity supplement but receiving a diversity supplement is not a requirement for joining PROPEL. In addition, receiving a Diversity Supplement does not guarantee admission into PROPEL—scholars and their PIs must apply and be accepted into PROPEL. PREP is an NIH-funded postbaccalaureate program that funds up to four scholars per year to conduct research in a UCSF lab. PREP scholars are members of PROPEL and participate in all PROPEL programming.  Since PREP scholars are funded by the PREP training grant, they do not need to apply for a diversity supplement. More info about the PREP program can be found here.

How does the timing of this all work out? My schedule is already very tight, so I just want to be sure that if I move forward with applying for either/both of these funding mechanisms, that I don't get left without a matched mentee. Does that happen often?

This is unfortunately a risk in this process and there is no surefire way to guarantee that the scholar will come after you have put in the work to recruit them and write a DS application.  I think the best way to proceed is to first get a verbal commitment from the scholar, then start the DS application, and involve them in the process.  These two things help to give them some buy-in into the process and makes them more likely to come. At the same time, get the process started with HR because that can take 4+ months to complete.  If you want, you can also tell them about PROPEL, which may help them get excited about the opportunity.  Please review PROPEL's eligibility page to make sure they qualify. Since they participated in the Matchmaking Event, the main reason they wouldn’t qualify is if they are not interested in going to a PhD or MD/PhD program after their time in your group.  You can wait to apply for PROPEL until after they join your lab, if you want. 

Can a successful candidate can be in school at all during the time of the diversity supplement.

Yes, most NIH Institutes allow this but check with your PO to confirm.  Note, they are not eligible to join PROPEL if they are still a student in another program.

Can you please clarify whether it is acceptable to pay a student from a non-NIH source (e.g. a gift fund) while working on a Supplement Application, or would that disqualify them?

In our experience, it is typically not a problem to pay a trainee from a non-NIH source while working on the supplement application, but it runs a little against the spirit of the program, which is intended to bring a new person into your lab.  If they are already there, getting paid from another source they aren’t “new” in the same way.  However, I we are aware of cases in the past in which this was allowed.  Nonetheless, we are aware of cases in the past in which this was allowed.  Nonetheless, it is better to just submit the application before they join the lab, if possible.

Are Filipinos eligible - is it your understanding that UCSF can make a successful case in support of a Filipino applicant because people from this background are are underrepresented (in science) at UCSF or do they also need to qualify in another category (ex: first generation, or economically disadvantaged)? 

Yes Filipinos are eligible at UCSF. In our discussion with Desirée Salizar, who was running the Diversity Supplement program at NIGMS, she told us that the NIH would consider ethnicities that are underrepresented at the host institution, in addition to those listed on their website.  Filipinos are designated as underrepresented at UCSF (see here). Additionally, Raushanah Newman, Office of Research Training and Special Programs (ORTSP) at DHHS/NIH/NIAID/DEA said that we just need to state "Filipinos are underrepresented at this institution and on a national basis." There certainly could be differences in policy between NIH Institutes or, even if not a formal difference in policy, then different priorities for what types of diversity they want to fund. We always suggest checking with your program officer if in doubt. 

Do candidates need to have abstract/publications? 

We are not aware of this being a formal criterion for evaluation of the candidate but we have heard from at least one UCSF faculty member that their candidate’s lack of evidence of prior research productivity was a concern.  This is surprising since the intent of the award is to provide research training to scholars at this early stage of their career.  If your candidate does not have prior research experience (or evidence such as a conference abstract to demonstrate their prior experience) we recommend addressing this in the mentor plan by talking about how the experience in your lab will fill a critical gap in their training.

Do you have a sense for the budgets outside the salary of the candidate that tend to be acceptable? 

Typically, the awards only fund the candidate, not the research costs (though sometimes you can request a couple thousand dollars for supplies and or travel).  As always, contact your PO to confirm.

I'd like to proceed with hiring the candidate as a Junior Specialist, and I reached out to my HR department to begin that process. HR has told me I need to post the position-- do you know if this is the typical hiring process for trainees through this program? HR mentioned I might be able to obtain a waiver to hire without posting, but my HR contact was unaware how hires for this program are normally done.

Yes, unfortunately, we are not aware of any way around this at this time.  It seems that you still need to post the position even though you have already identified the candidate you want to hire.

Specifically seeking information about the dollar amount difference between what is covered by a DS and what needs to be covered by the department:

  • What are the costs for different levels of diversity supplement learners (high school, undergraduate, postdoc, etc)?
  • How much is funded by the diversity supplement for each level?

The answer to these questions (unfortunately) is that it depends on many factors—the costs depend on things like the number of hours worked, the pay rate, the job title, etc., all of which varies substantially at each of the career stages/levels you listed.  Likewise, the amount funded by a diversity supplement will vary substantially, based on the NIH Institute, the career stage, the amount of available funds, etc.  In our experience, a diversity supplement to cover a Junior Specialist, step 1 provides approximately $50k/year.

The person I recruited after the Matchmaking event will start before I heard back about whether the Diversity Supplement application that I submitted will be funded. Can I pay the scholar from the parent grant while I wait for a decision on the application?

In our experience, yes, NIH does allow you to fund the scholar from the parent grant while the application is pending.  However, of course, you should check with your PO to confirm.

How to pay the part of the trainee’s salary the DS does not cover:

This is a matter of debate among post-award folks. Some have allowed the gap to be paid from the parent award itself whereas others have insisted that the gap be covered by a non-federal source. Thus, we cannot give specific advice about this.  Please check with your post-award analyst. 

How long does the application process take?

In our experience, it takes about 12 weeks to prepare a supplement, and another 12 weeks for the supplement to be reviewed. 

Below is a process map to help plan the submission of your diversity supplement proposal, this is a suggested timeline and depending on the IC from NIH that you are applying this timeline will likely change. Please make note of the internal processes, UCSF entities, timelines involved in the submission process of your supplement. 

Who can I contact if I have more questions?

You can contact [email protected]