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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2018 Jun;17(2):ar32. doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-09-0287.

Factors Contributing to the Success of NIH-Designated Underrepresented Minorities in Academic and Nonacademic Research Positions.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Border Biomedical Research Center, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968.
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT 06518.
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.


We report the outcomes of a survey of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in life science academic (e.g., faculty) and nonacademic (e.g., research-related) positions seeking to ascertain variables that contribute to their success (e.g., favorable or desired outcome). Given that they had positions in research careers, all respondents were presumed to be successful, and we sought to identify shared factors that were associated with this success. As in previous studies, respondents reported that undergraduate research opportunities, performing research in small- to medium-sized laboratories, and access to mentors throughout all stages of training were important factors for success in their careers. Surprisingly, analysis of the survey results suggests that a record of publications in high-impact factor journals was not essential for their success. There were fundamental differences in the experiences and needs of URMs in academic and nonacademic careers. For example, academic URMs ranked having mentorship as their first choice in order of importance compared with the nonacademic respondents, who ranked this category as their fifth selection. These findings suggest that taking diverse approaches toward these groups is critical for ensuring that all of the most creative minds have an equal opportunity to contribute to realizing our national research goals and diversified workforce.

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