Washington Update

NIGMS Director Features MIRA Program Trends at Advisory Council

By: Grace Steward
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Jon Lorsch, PhD, Director of National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), addressed the NIGMS Advisory Council during its open session meeting on September 15. During his update, Lorsch discussed data originally published in an August blog post on application trends for the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program.

The MIRA program splits awards into two different groups, Established Investigators (EI) and Early Stage Investigators (ESI). In EI MIRA applications during fiscal years (FYs) 2019-2021, white applicants dominated applications received over Asian and underrepresented racial and ethnic applicants (Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander); however, there were no reported statistically significant differences in the proportion of applications reviewed from each racial category. Yet white applicants had statistically significant superior mean scores and a higher proportion of reviewed applications awarded than other racial groups. Despite these racial gaps in awards for EI MIRAs, women had both better mean scores and proportion of reviewed applications awarded than men.

However, the trends for ESI MIRAs differ from their EI counterparts. While applications received were still predominantly from white principal investigators, there were no statistically significant differences between racial groups for proportion of applications reviewed, mean score, or proportion of applications awarded. The differences between male and female investigators also disappeared in ESI MIRA applications.  
Takeaways highlighted from this data relieved concerns that MIRA disadvantaged applications from women but also brought attention to the need to enhance efforts to diversify the biomedical research workforce and assure equitable application review.

The NIGMS Advisory Council meeting recording will be available under “Past Meetings” in the coming days.