SPECIFIC AIMS - Next-Generation Neuroscience Scholars Program Innovations and advances in neuroscience are greatly enhanced when the community of contributing scientists is diverse in perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. Currently, however, racial/ethnic minorities and individuals with disabilities are not nearly as wel represented within neuroscience compared to their representation in society at large. Underrepresented minorities (URM) who enter the scientific career pipeline, including neuroscience, appear to be exiting at higher rates than their non-URM peers due to significant cultural, societal, and financial pressures, as well as limited access to role models and community support. Now, as the nation becomes increasingly more diverse, an important and exciting opportunity exists to bring an even wider range of voices to bear on neuroscience research and address barriers that may be keeping these important scientist contributors from participating as fully as possible. Helping to fix the leaky neuroscience career pipeline has been the focus of the Neuroscience Scholars Program (NSP), a long-standing, far-reaching NINDS-supported effort of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). NSP has served nearly 600 URM scholars since 1982 and is now poised to broaden its impact while preserving its core service model. Building on NSP's historic successes in meeting short- and long-term performance metrics, this new application will strengthen NSP's activities for a core group of participants, significantly expose many more URM researchers to relevant content and valuable networks, and facilitate sustained research engagement within the greater URM neuroscience community. SfN brings to this effort broad access to neuroscience disciplines, strong commitment to diversity, deep-rooted volunteer engagement from among leaders in the field, valuable in-kind resources, and proven experience in implementing high-impact programs. As such, SfN is uniquely positioned to lead NSP through this next innovative, expansive phase with the affirmed goal of advancing careers and professional development of diverse neuroscience researchers. Evidence shows that former NSP participants have advanced in their neuroscience careers, overcoming challenges that could have led to an early exit from the scientific research career pipeline. SfN proposes to build on that strong foundation in the coming five years. Focusing particularly on graduate and postdoctoral neuroscience researchers from among racial/ethnic minorities and individuals with disabilities (collectively referred to as Underrepresented Neuroscience Researchers [UNRs]), NSP will achieve three specific aims: 1. Intensively guide and support more than 80 of the highest-achieving UNRs so they progress and thrive in their research careers through networking, mentoring, and career- advancement programming. Over five years, 12-15 of the highest-achieving UNRs will be selected annually to participate through the NSP "Intensive" Track as NSP Fellows. (Note: In addition to these new recruits, a cohort of 16 Scholars from the previous NSP funding cycle, currently in their first year, will complete their second year under the new Program). Fellows will receive formal mentoring, access to a comprehensive curriculum of professional and research-enhancement workshops and webinars, and special networking and financial-enrichment support. 2. Extensively engage 500 high-achieving UNRs to help them persist and succeed as neuroscientists through online professional enhancement programming and networking. Approximately 100 qualified NSP applicants will be formally invited annually to participate through the NSP "Extensive" Track as NSP Associates. Associates will receive special access to new and adapted webinars on neuroscience research and career-related topics, online diversity forums for discussion and learning, and a wealth of neuroscience community resources, as well as access to SfN's annual meeting networking events- when they choose to attend. 3. Motivate NSP alumni and diverse neuroscientists to stay engaged in neuroscience and garner long-term professional success by building community through online discussion and neuroscience career and community resources. NSP alumni, including former Fellows and Associates, as well as the broader community, will be actively encouraged to access archived webinars, take part in online discourse on diversity, and stay involved in online affinity networks.
Public Health Relevance Statement It is estimated that neurological illnesses affect one billion individuals worldwide (World Health Organization, 2007), including 50 million Americans, requiring over $500 billion annually in U.S. healthcare costs, not including costs borne by caretakers (CDC, 2011). A strong and diverse neuroscience research workforce is needed to find new and innovative ways to prevent and treat neurological illnesses.