SfN Celebrates 30 Years of Advancing Careers of Underrepresented Minorities in Neuroscience
SFN CELEBRATES 30 YEARS OF ADVANCING CAREERS OF UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITIES IN NEUROSCIENCE
Neuroscience Scholars Program funded by NINDS has provided more than 550 fellowships
Washington, DC — The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) today celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Neuroscience Scholars Program (NSP), which provides underrepresented minorities with access to valuable networking, mentoring, and professional development resources. Since 1981, NSP, generously funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), has provided more than 550 fellowships to young underrepresented minority neuroscientists.
The celebration took place during Neuroscience 2011, the SfN annual meeting attended each year by more than 30,000 researchers, physicians, and business and nonprofit professionals working to advance understanding of the brain and nervous system.
“Over the years, NSP has grown from a one-year fellowship to a multifaceted program fostering professional development, scientific pursuits, and mentoring and networking opportunities,” said SfN President Susan Amara, PhD. “The Society is deeply committed to fostering opportunities for these well-trained scientists for the benefit of the field and the future of science. SfN thanks NINDS for its sustained support, and also thanks the many scientists who have provided leadership and guidance to NSP, as well as those who have dedicated time as principal investigators and mentors.”
The program provides trainees with a three-year fellowship including support for enrichment activities, mentoring, workshops, and events, including attendance at the SfN annual meeting. According to a survey of former NSP Scholars, participants in the program have reached high achievement levels — 76 percent currently work in academia and 11 percent are full professors. Also, Scholars are highly successful in competitive grant funding, with 56 reporting, cumulatively, 290 awards totaling nearly $95 million. Since the mid 1990’s, 55 percent of participants have been women; 48 percent Hispanic/Latino; 35 percent Black/African-American; 4 percent Native American; and 3 percent Pacific Islander. A record 102 applicants applied in 2010 for 20 coveted slots.
“SfN annual meetings now include a robust community of underrepresented minorities and I think the NSP has played a big role in making this happen,” said Erich D. Jarvis, PhD, current principal investigator of the NSP grant. “It is exciting to see so many qualified young trainees coming up through the program, and it is gratifying that many alumni of the program – including myself – are returning to contribute and mentor the next generation of minority neuroscientists.”
Since its inception in 1969, SfN has been committed to promoting diversity within neuroscience. SfN’s mission statement speaks of “bringing together scientists of diverse backgrounds,” and increasing “participation of scientists from diverse cultural, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds.” National surveys and studies in the U.S. have well documented the challenge of underrepresentation of minority scientists at every level, as well as the phenomenon of a decrease or flattening in the number of underrepresented minorities at each higher educational and professional level – the phenomenon known as the “leaky pipeline.” The NSP has addressed these issues since its inception, and other past SfN programming supported through the National Institute of Mental Health has had similar goals.
NINDS is committed to increasing diversity in the neuroscience workforce. In its Report from the Strategic Planning Advisory Panel on Workforce Diversity, NINDS noted, “The importance of recruiting diverse talents is particularly relevant for research on the nervous system, which draws on a wide range of expertise in multiple scientific and academic disciplines…as it seeks to understand and ameliorate the major burdens of neurological disease. Achieving a diverse neuroscience workforce will both aid neuroscience research generally and be a potent factor in reducing health disparities.”
“The NSP is a spectacular program and NINDS is very proud of its accomplishments,” said Story C. Landis, PhD, NINDS director. “It provides a lot of bang for the buck. It is probably the most successful diversity program we support. We fund it precisely because the remarkable diversity of our country is one of its great strengths, and this is also true in the sciences. Progress can only be realized by fully engaging the talent, intelligence, and drive of all of society’s members.”
More information about the program can be found at www.sfn.org. A short video celebrating the NSP program is available at SfN’s YouTube channel.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is a nonprofit membership organization of scientists and physicians who study the brain and nervous system. Since its inception in 1969, the Society has grown from 500 members to more than 41,000. Today, SfN is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to advancing understanding of the brain and nervous system.
NINDS (www.ninds.nih.gov) is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The NINDS mission is to reduce the burden of neurological disease – a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world.