Washington Update

NIGMS Council Highlights MIRA Success and Efforts to Foster Inclusivity

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, February 10, 2022
The recent meeting of National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council featured updates on the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) grant mechanism and efforts the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is taking internally to address diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility (DEIA).

In April 2016, NIGMS awarded the first MIRA grants as part of pilot focused on early-stage investigators (ESIs) and established investigators who received two or more R01-equivalent awards from the institute. The goal of the MIRA mechanism was to provide researchers with more flexibility to pursue emerging lines of scientific inquiry and the stability of five years of funding support. Those initial awards were up for renewal in fiscal year 2021.

During his director’s report, Jon Lorsch, PhD, presented a detailed analysis comparing outcomes of MIRA (R35) and R01 renewals, data also presented in the NIGMS Feedback Loop blog. When comparing the renewal rates of R35 grants to R01s, the former was nearly double (86 percent versus 45.3 percent); renewal rates of R01s converted to R35s were also higher at 52 percent. Breaking this down by career stage, renewal rates for MIRA ex-ESIs were 72 percent versus 33 percent for R01 ex-ESIs; for established investigators, MIRA renewal rates were even more favorable at 94 percent compared to 48 percent for R01s. In terms of funding, investigators with less than $400,000 in funding received increases, with the most substantial renewal increases seen among those with less than $200,000 initial support. While pleased with data indicating that the MIRA program is meeting its stated goal to distribute NIGMS funding more widely among highly talented and promising investigators, Lorsch noted that program staff continue to monitor application and award trends to ensure it is supporting diverse population of researchers and projects.

Council members were also updated on the efforts of Striving Towards Racial Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (STRIDE), a committee of NIGMS staff charged with creating a more inclusive and equitable environment and helping break down workforce silos to change the work culture for institute staff. Activities include NIGMS-wide meetings about race, spanning the factors underlying implicit bias, microaggressions, and the importance of representation that served as a framework for further education and awareness among NIGMS staff. Two STRIDE recommendations immediately implemented to create a more balanced and inclusive culture at NIGMS dealt with how staff members address each other. The institute now operates on a first-name basis for internal communications regardless of professional title, and titles have been updated to recognize the important contributions of team members at all grade levels. STRIDE continues to engage staff at all levels in a variety of activities intended to foster a more diverse, inclusive, and ultimately equitable workplace.