To address health disparities in the twin epidemics of substance abuse and HIV, a well-trained cadre of researchers is needed. Health disparities research in HIV and substance use problems has particular challenges in that it usually involves the need to recruit hard-to-reach minority populations, engage minority communities, and effectively work in multicultural, multidisciplinary teams to address the complex sets of psychosocial, interpersonal, community, and structural factors driving these health disparities. Researchers from racial/ethnic minority groups are potentially well positioned to conduct particularly impactful health disparities research because their experiences may lead to novel, culturally relevant solutions to health disparities. The purpose of the Investigator Development Core is to support the overall goals of the proposed FIU-RCMI by developing research opportunities for a group of early stage investigators, particularly those from underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups, who are committed to conducting research on health disparities and to achieve the goal of successfully competing for peer-reviewed grant funding (e.g., R21, R01). Thus, the objective of this Investigator Development Core is to provide a pilot project and mentoring program to assist promising junior investigators in career development, with a focus on obtaining pilot data and publications in preparation for external peer-reviewed grant funding. This objective will be achieved through the following four specific aims: 1) Develop an equitable and transparent system to solicit and select up to 5 pilot projects a year including developing a request for applications, submission guidelines, review criteria, and a process for convening peer reviewers and selecting winning proposals; 2) Annually solicit applications, provide training in pilot project proposal development, provide a rigorous peer review process that selects up to 5 pilot projects per year to receive funding, and provide constructive feedback for all applicants; 3) Monitor progress of selected projects and ensure that all projects comply with applicable Federal policies, rules, and guidelines for research involving human subjects and vertebrate animals, have appropriate resource sharing plans, and result in publications; and 4) Establish a mentoring program where pilot project recipients will meet regularly with FIU-RCMI faculty and other pilot project awardees for advice and support, including linkages to FIU- RCMI research training, FIU-RCMI research opportunities, FIU-RCMI community connections, and career development activities through the FIU-RCMI and university-wide programs. By the end of the five-year period, the program will result in up to 20, primarily minority, early career investigators committed to health-disparities research, who will be well positioned to compete for NIH funding as independent investigators.
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