The Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) translational research network: Building and sustaining capacity for multi-site basic biomedical, clinical and behavioral research

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The Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) program was established by the US Congress to support the development of biomedical research infrastructure at minority-serving institutions granting doctoral degrees in the health professions or in a health-related science. RCMI institutions also conduct research on diseases that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities (ie, African Americans/Blacks, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Hispanics, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders), those of low socioeconomic status, and rural persons. Quantitative metrics, including the numbers of doctoral science degrees granted to underrepresented students, NIH peer-reviewed research funding, peer-reviewed publications, and numbers of racial and ethnic minorities participating in sponsored research, demonstrate that RCMI grantee institutions have made substantial progress toward the intent of the Congressional legislation, as well as the NIH/NIMHD-linked goals of addressing workforce diversity and health disparities. Despite this progress, nationally, many challenges remain, including persistent disparities in research and career development awards to minority investigators. The continuing underrepresentation of minority investigators in NIH-sponsored research across multiple disease areas is of concern, in the face of unrelenting national health inequities. With the collaborative network support by the RCMI Translational Research Network (RTRN), the RCMI community is uniquely positioned to address these challenges through its community engagement and strategic partnerships with non-RCMI institutions. Funding agencies can play an important role by incentivizing such collaborations, and incorporating metrics for research funding that address underrepresented populations, workforce diversity and health equity.