Institutional Research Training for a Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research Workforce

Research Training and Career Development Branch

Division of Extramural Activities

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The goal of the initiative is to strengthen and sustain a robust, diverse, and inclusive biomedical research workforce dedicated to improving dental, oral, and craniofacial health. Institutional training programs provide an entry into a research career pathway, a full-time research experience under a qualified mentor, a cohort of trainees providing peer mentoring, and a foundation of research and career development experiences to ensure successful research career progression and transition to an independent research career.

The outcome will be institutional training programs that provide a foundation of novel, innovative and rigorous research training experiences, include research training in new and emerging technologies and scientific areas, offer integrated and multidisciplinary training opportunities, foster career transition, and have the flexibility to support dual degree dentist-PhD, predoctoral PhD, and postdoctoral trainees, including clinician scientists and non-citizen dentists. Accomplishment of this program will advance NIDCR towards improving dental, oral and craniofacial (DOC) health.

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Alignment with Institute Goals and Strategic Plan

This initiative is aligned with NIDCR Strategic Plan 2014-2019, Goal IV, Objective 1: Collaborate with academic institutions, especially schools of dentistry, to create research pathways for faculty and trainees; and Objective 3: Support research, training, and career development programs that value team science, transformative approaches, and diversity at all levels.

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The NIDCR is committed to supporting education, scholarship and research training across a spectrum of career levels and types of institutions, and to collaborate with academic institutions, especially schools of dentistry, to create vibrant and robust research training and career development pathways for predoctoral students, postdoctoral scientists, including clinician scientists and faculty, inclusive of individuals at different career level and those from diverse backgrounds and life experiences.

Institutional training programs provide a structured pathway for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees to pursue full-time mentored research training. Programs are expected to provide trainees with a strong foundation in research design, methods, and analytic techniques appropriate for the proposed research area, and to build collaborative skills and a diverse set of competencies. The programs are expected to enhance trainees’ ability to conceptualize and address research problems with increasing independence and contribute effectively in team science approaches. The programs allow Institutions, through the Training Program Director, to recruit and select individuals for trainees and develop flexible programs appropriate for the trainee’s career level and scientific interests. The duration of training, the transition of trainees to individual research training and career development awards, and their transition to the next career stage are important considerations and milestones in institutional training programs.

NIDCR Institutional training programs are designed to expand the training opportunities in dental, oral and craniofacial research by supporting integrated but flexible institutional programs.  In 2000, NIDCR issued its first comprehensive institutional training program Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) PAR-00-116 NIDCR National Research Service Award Institutional Research Training Grants (T32), where “comprehensive” refers to the different types of trainees (e.g., predoctoral, postdoctoral). The FOA was re-issued in 2005, 2010, and 2015, each with modifications based on programmatic interests and priorities. 

A 2008 report to the NADCR Council on NIDCR T32 training and career development programs led to a stronger emphasis on trainees applying for and transitioning to individual research training and career development support [Fellowship (F) and Career Development (K) or Transition Awards (K99/R00)].  Programmatic recommendations for Fellowship grant writing experiences and applications is based on data showing that trainees supported by an individual fellowships (F) were more likely to achieve subsequent success in obtaining independent NIH research funding, particularly with respect to R01s, than those supported by an institutional training grant (T32). This finding is consistent with historical NIH-wide data (2006 Career Achievements of NRSA Postdoctoral Trainees and Fellows: 1975–2004) and more recent NIDCR data (FY2001-2016): of postdoctoral NIDCR F32 awardees (n=138), 16% achieved a K, 26% achieved a Research Project Grant (RPG, e.g., R03, R21, R01) and 14% achieved an R01, compared with T postdocs, of which 8% achieved a K, 16% achieved an RPG, and 8% achieved an R01 (Table 1).  Since the NIDCR T transition to F policy implementation in 2010, there has been a nearly four-fold increase in the number of F applications submitted and awarded between FY2008-2016 (n= 217 applications, n=138 awards) than between FY 2000-2007 (n=57 applications, n=36 awards) (Table 2).

In response for a need for research training of non-citizen dentists to contribute to the dental, oral, and craniofacial research workforce, NIDCR developed a T90/R90 program, which pairs a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA institutional “research training” program (T90, same as the T32), which supports U.S. citizens and permanent residents, with an a non-NRSA “research education” program (R90) which has the flexibility to support non-citizens.  Since the 2010 NIDCR has used the R90 component of the integrated T90/R90 program to support postdoctoral research training for non-citizen dentists. The T32 has continued to support supported new or continuing NIDCR T32 programs. See PAR 10-170 (T90/R90), PAR 10-171 (T32), PAR-15-101 (T90/R90) and PAR-15-102 (T32).  Between FY 2001–2018, 11 T90/R90 programs have supported 41 non-citizen dentists under the R90 award. Of these 33 have completed R90 training (generally up to 3 years) or transitioned to another position or type of support. Of these, 85% remain in research and research related activities, 24% returned to their country, and 15% achieved subsequent funding [n=2 (6%) achieved a mentored K; n=2 (6%) achieved an RPG; and n=1 (3%) achieved an R01). The R90 subsequent grant success is similar to their T90 postdoctoral peers (Total n=119; n=11 (9.2%) achieve a mentored K; n=7 (5.9%) achieve an RPG; and n=2 (1.7%) achieve an R01) (Table 3).

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Proposed Program

To help ensure that a diverse pool of highly trained scientists is available, the NIDCR plans to continue to use the T32 and the T90/R90 grant activities to fund its institutional research training and research education programs. T32 and T90 programs support U.S citizens and permanent residents. NIDCR uses the R90 to support non-citizens. The awards issued under this program are comprehensive training grants to support both predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees and can include one or more the following training components:

  • Predoctoral research training leading to both the DDS or DMD and PhD degrees in a formal combined research degree program, such as a Dentist Scientist Training Program (DSTP) (T32, T90)
  • Predoctoral research training leading to a PhD or equivalent degree (T32, T90)
  • Postdoctoral research training for individuals with a clinical doctoral dental degree or equivalent (DDS, DMD, BDS) and for individuals with a clinical doctoral dental degree or equivalent who are seeking research training leading to a PhD or equivalent degree, or to a Master’s in Clinical Research, or Master of Public Health degree (T32, T90)
  • Postdoctoral training for individuals with a dental degree or equivalent (DDS, DMD, BDS) and PhD or equivalent and for non-clinician PhD scientists to provide an understanding of the clinical relevance of their basic science research activities, and to better prepare these scientists for independent careers in dental, oral and craniofacial research is encouraged (T32, T90).
  • Postdoctoral research training for non-citizens with a clinical doctoral dental degree or equivalent (DDS, DMD, BDS. who are seeking research training leading to a PhD or equivalent degree, or to a Master’s in Clinical Research, or Master of Public Health degree (R90)
  • Postdoctoral research training for non-citizens with a dental degree or equivalent (DDS, DMD, BDS) and PhD or equivalent to better prepare these scientists for independent careers in dental, oral and craniofacial research (R90)

Training activities may be in biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research and in any discipline relevant to the NIDCR Strategic Plan. Research training programs will incorporate didactic, research, and career development components to prepare individuals for careers that will have a significant impact on the health-related research needs of the Nation.  Research training should provide a strong foundation in research rigor, including experimental design and statistical methodology and analysis.

The purpose of the NIDCR T32 training program is to support innovative and novel approaches to research training and mentoring for a diverse cadre of individuals who are preparing for careers in dental, oral, and craniofacial research. Opportunities that provide interdisciplinary research training and programs that take advantage of clinical research opportunities within nationwide networks and infrastructures such as the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award program are encouraged. Also, partnerships to incorporate training in data science that align with the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, an NIH-wide Common Fund program aimed at developing new strategies to manage, integrate, analyze, visualize and draw conclusions from large and complex sets of data (“big data”) are encouraged.

In addition, the programs will align with the NIH Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce, the Biomedical Research Workforce, and the Physician Scientist Workforce initiatives. NIDCR Training Programs will comply with NIH policy to require institutional commitment to the planned program to ensure that proper policies, procedures, and oversight are in place to prevent discriminatory harassment and other discriminatory practices (NOT-OD-19-056). Programs should provide an environment that promotes the success of individuals with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives and provides direct access to an appropriate diversity of role models, both within the institution and through activities such as invited seminars.

The Institutional Training grant programs will be structured to launch individuals into research careers, providing initial support to develop individualized research projects and appropriate mentorship, with the continued expectation that the trainees will transition from the training grant to other types of independent research training support, such as School-based or University-based support, NIH support through individual fellowships (Fs) or career development awards (Ks), or other organization/foundation funding.

Applications for support under these FOAs will be reviewed on the basis of the strengths of the research training and environment, the qualifications of the Training Program Director and Mentors, the training record of trainees, including research accomplishments, publications, subsequent fellowship or career development awards and subsequent positions that benefit the biomedical research enterprise.

NIDCR will continue to manage the cost of the programs. It is anticipated that the size of the programs may vary and consideration will be given to the total numbers of trainees supported (Figure 4).

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Current Portfolio Review

NIDCR currently funds 15 Institutional comprehensive research training grants that are actively appointing trainees, including six T32 and nine T90/R90 grants that were awarded in response to  PAR-15-102 and PAR-15-101, respectively.  In addition to institutional training grants NIDCR provides extramural research training and career development opportunities through individual Fellowships (Fs), Career Development Awards, and Career Transition Awards (K99/R00). Recently, NIDCR funded three new K12 Institutional Dental Specialty and PhD Program (DSPP) awards  dedicated to developing dentist scientists. The combined program is expected to accelerate the process of early career dentist scientists in achieving competencies in both clinical and research areas and facilitate the transition to an independent and productive research career dedicated to improving dental, oral and craniofacial health.  A number of research career development and enhancement opportunities are available for early stage and mid-career investigators (e.g., K02, F33, NIDCR K18). NIDCR’s commitment to diversity is supported by participation in the NIH administrative supplement programs to promote diversity and to promote re-entry in health-related research, by participating in the NIH F31 predoctoral fellowship to promote diversity in health-related research, and by issuing an NIDCR K01 to promote diversity in the dental, oral and craniofacial research workforce. A listing and description of NIDCR supported research training and career development opportunities by career level can be found in the Careers and Training section of this website.  NIDCR supports also participates in the NIH Loan Repayment Programs designed to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals into biomedical or biobehavioral research careers.

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Specific Areas of Interest

  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Rigor and reproducibility
  • Statistical analysis
  • Data science, Artificial Intelligence applied to Biomedical and Behavioral Science
  • New and emerging technologies and approaches
  • Clinical relevance of basic research
  • Multi-disciplinary research training, collaborative research, team science
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Table 1. More F32 Than T32/T90 Postdoctoral Scientists (2001-2016) Achieve Subsequent Research Project Grants and R01s
Funding N Trainees K awards RPG awards R01*
NIDCR F32 138 16% 26% 14%
NIDCR T Postdoc 624 8% 16% 8%
NIH F32 11216 11% 26% 18%
NIH T Postdoc 41384 11% 13% 8%

*R01 or equivalent awards

Table 2. T Trainee Subsequent F Applications and Awards Increased FY 2000-2007 vs FY 2008-2016
IC FY 2000-2007
F Applicants
FY 2000-2007
F Awards (Award Rate)
FY 2008-2016
F Applicants
FY 2008-2016
F Awards (Award Rate)
NIDCR 22 17 (77%) 171 120 (70%)
Other IC 35 19 (54%) 56 18 (32%)
Total 57 36 (63%) 217 138 (65%)

Table 3. Subsequent NIH Grant Outcomes of T90 and R90 Trainees
Program Participants Subsequent K Subsequent RPG Subsequent R01
R90 Participants, n=33 6% 6% 3%
T90 Postdocs, n=119 9% 6% 2%


Figure 4. Extramural Funding for NIDCR T32, T90 and R90 Awards FY2007-2018

PAR-05-101  T32 n=19 Type 1 and 2 awards FY 2006-2009 include Short Terms Training (STT)  (< 3 months)
PAR-10-170  T90/R90 n=10 and PAR-10-171 T32 n=8 Type 1 and 2 awards FY 2011-2013
PAR-15-101 T90/R90 n=9 and PAR-15-102 T32 n=6  Type 1 and 2 awards FY 2016-2018

Extramural Funding for NIDCR T32, T90 and R90 Awards FY2007-2018
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Last Reviewed
September 2019