We’ve distilled the wisdom from a panel discussion about diversity supplements with Dr. Julie Bastarache, Dr. Wonder Drake, and Dr. E. Wesley Ely. Diversity supplements support students, postdocs, and early career faculty collaborators from backgrounds underrepresented in science for the remaining life of your research grant. To be eligible, you need at least two years remaining on your R01.

Here’s what our panelists had to say:


  • Administrative supplements do not go through full review and have a very high funding rate.
  • If you are even toying with the idea of applying, do it!
  • Funds vary by institute.
  • NIH starts with a pot of money for these supplements, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, so apply early in the fiscal year.
  • The application process is easy and template language exists.
  • NIH thinks highly of PIs who apply for these due to their commitment to diversity.
  • Diversity is usually thought of in terms of race, but gender, economic/class background, disability, and other areas of diversity are also considered for these supplements.


  • This is a good way to get salary support for a trainee who will work on part of your project.
  • The supplement provides a small amount for manuscripts and for travel to international meetings.
  • You can support summer students and postbacs in addition to postdocs, predocs and faculty.
  • Indirect costs are paid on the  supplement.
  • The salary/stipend is livable for the person supported on it.

Supplements Are for a Specific Person

  • Give a lot of thought to who you’re supporting. The application is for a specific person, not a slot to be filled later; the application needs to be tailor-made for that person.
  • The person you’re supporting needs to be a US citizen or permanent resident.
  • He or she cannot have already been supported on NIH funds like a T32, F31, K grant, etc.
  • The application isn’t the hard part. Mentoring after the person is on board can take a lot of time and energy, but is worth it.
  • Many people supported by these supplements don’t come from research-intensive backgrounds or institutions and will require additional mentoring and training in many aspects of research.
  • This can be a gift for not just you, but also the person you’re giving it to. One student “consider[s] it one of the great breaks of [his] life.”

Preparation Is Key

  • Engage your student/trainee in completing the application.
  • Program Officers are helpful for reviewing the supplements before they go to the committee.
  • Get HR involved early and follow up with them often.
  • You’re hiring an employee, not a stipend; there will be taxes, health insurance, and other costs that affect the budget, and they are different depending on the category of employee (student vs. Research Assistant, etc.).
  • If your student/trainee is from another institution, make sure you figure out what documentation is needed from that institution and ask for it way ahead of time. This will be different depending on the level of the trainee.
  • Overall, this is very simple on the application side of things but very complicated on the Vanderbilt/HR side.

Are you at Vanderbilt? We have examples of minority supplement applications in our funded grants library. Email adrienne.babcock@vumc.org to get access.

Not at Vanderbilt? Here’s how to find examples at your own institution:

Visit NIH RePORTER, put your university into the “Organization” field,” and then under the “Project Details” heading, put “S” into the last of the little boxes that make up a project number:

This will return a list of all supplements at your institution, sorted by PI.  It doesn’t differentiate between different kinds of supplements, so many may not be diversity supplements and you will need to skim the abstracts to see what kind they are, but it gives you a place to start.  Once you’ve identified PIs of diversity supplements on your campus, you can then get in touch with them to see if they have other advice or perhaps could let you see their grant text.


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1 Comment

I absolutely love this summary of the supplement program. I feel that this resource is underutlized but so rewarding. Will share with my colleagues!

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