NIDCR Mentoring Networks for Underrepresented Postdoctoral and Early-Career Faculty Investigators

Research Training and Career Development Branch, Division of Extramural Activities


The goal of this initiative is to enhance the research career progression and success of postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty who are currently underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences. This goal will be addressed through the development of mentoring networks that will facilitate interactions between experienced investigators/mentors and these early career stage investigators, and will provide structured and unstructured activities to enhance their professional skills and abilities in pursuing dental, oral, and craniofacial research careers.

Expected outcomes for the early career stage investigators participating in mentoring networks include:

  • Success in transitioning to a subsequent career stage, such as a postdoctoral fellow achieving a junior faculty position, a junior/clinical investigator achieving a tenure-track position, and junior faculty investigator achieving tenure; authorship of scientific publications, and/or subsequent independent research grant support from NIH or other source.
  • Continued participation in scientific research careers as independent investigators and members of the dental, oral, and craniofacial research community.

The mentoring network will establish processes and provide activities to ensure robust and high quality mentorship and the advancement of the participants’ professional goals towards independent dental, oral, and craniofacial research careers. Mentoring activities may include: providing technical expertise, advice, insight into developing a research career; facilitating scholarly writing and grantsmanship;  promoting successful transitions from one career stage to another; providing leadership development; helping to identify potential collaborators; and helping to establish interdisciplinary or translational collaborations to foster research career independence. As a result of these experiences, the participants are expected to achieve professional career advancement and independent research funding. These achievements will lead to the enhanced diversification of the community of independent investigators in the dental, oral, and craniofacial research workforce and an increased number of skilled investigators from underrepresented groups in requisite scientific research areas to advance the objectives of the NIDCR Strategic Plan 2014–2019.


Fostering diversity by addressing underrepresentation in the scientific research workforce is a key component of the NIH strategy to identify, develop, support and maintain the quality of our scientific human capital (NOT-OD-15-053). NIH recognizes that achieving diversity in the biomedical research workforce is critical to the full realization of our national research goals and is in the best interest of our country. Although the NIH currently provides multiple opportunities to develop research careers and improve participation for individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences, a recent report from the NIH Director’s Working Group on Diversity Biomedical Research Workforce (WGDBRW) provides evidence that achieving diversity in the biomedical research workforce remains an important problem that must be actively addressed (see

This report examined five key transition points in the biomedical research career pipeline: (i) entry into graduate degree programs; (ii) the transition from graduate degree to postdoctoral fellowship; (iii) the appointment from a postdoctoral position to the first independent scientific position; (iv) the award of the first independent research grant from NIH or equivalent in a non-academic setting; and (v) award of tenure in an academic position or equivalent in a non-academic setting.

Mentoring/career preparation and retention was identified as a high priority. One recommendation suggested that NIH should partner with established minority scientific and professional groups and other organizations to implement a system of mentorship “networks” for underrepresented minority students that will provide career guidance throughout their career development. The networks would be expected to make available a cadre of experienced investigators who would help shape a junior investigator’s research ideas and formulate a compelling grant proposal, and provide workshops to increase professional skills in support of research career development, including the NIH grant process. The committee’s full recommendations and comprehensive strategy to increase the diversity of the biomedical research workforce are included in the report (

The NIDCR Mentoring Networks for Underrepresented Postdoctoral and Early-Career Faculty Investigators initiative is intended for individuals at the key transition points iii and iv, and addresses the recommendations in the area of mentoring/career preparation and retention.

Enhancing Diversity in the Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research Workforce

Objective 4-3 of the NIDCR Strategic Plan 2014–2019 is to support research, training, and career development programs that value team science, transformative approaches, and diversity at all levels. The proposed program will dovetail with NIH wide efforts to enhance diversity in the NIH biomedical research workforce, while providing a unique emphasis on mentorship for individuals pursuing careers in dental, oral, and craniofacial research. Currently, NIDCR participates in two diversity targeted programs:

Both of these programs involve an individualized mentored research training and career development experience. The proposed NIDCR Mentorship Network will complement these existing programs through its focus on cohorts of individuals at the career transition point between postdoctoral fellow/junior faculty member and independent investigator, and its intent to foster success in this transition. In addition, the NIDCR Mentorship Network is expected to lead to the development of a nationwide network of dental, oral, and craniofacial research mentors and participants that can augment individual research training and career development experiences.


Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group Report (PDF - 3,468 KB) 
Prepared By: Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce (WGDBRW), June 13, 2012 The Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD)

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Last Reviewed
July 2018