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The American Cancer Society's (ACS) Diversity in Cancer Research (DICR) Program is led by the Extramural Discovery Sciences team. The DICR program aims to improve diversity and inclusion in the cancer workforce by increasing the number of under-represented minorities (URM) trained as cancer researchers.
The DICR program’s first initiative is an internship program that targets URM undergraduate students to expose them to cancer research as a strategy to ultimately increase the number of URM people who enter the cancer research field.
The program’s long-term goals are to advance diversity and inclusivity in the cancer-research workforce and to drive greater innovation, problem-solving, and collaboration.
The DICR Internship program was made possible by the generous support of the DeLuca Foundation and an endowment
from Elizabeth and Phill Gross and their family.
The DICR Internship Program provides training and educational opportunities to encourage the pursuit of biomedical careers.
For 10 weeks, undergraduate-student interns engage in hands-on research and are mentored by accomplished investigators in cancer research labs or in clinical or community settings at leading research institutions, such as teaching hospitals, universities, medical schools, and cancer centers.
Interns work in a collaborative environment with other scientists and experience the day-to-day world of cancer research while participating in research projects.
Throughout the year, interns also actively engage in planned, longitudinal career-development and networking activities.
Interns are expected to complete post-internship surveys in a thorough and timely manner.
Diversity in science is critical because it invigorates problem-solving, drives innovation, and better equips the scientific community to address inequities that exist in cancer prevention, treatment, and care.
The lack of diversity within the scientific workforce is a known issue.
The National Science Foundation reports that certain racial and ethnic groups are under-represented at many career stages in health-related sciences, particularly people from these populations: African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander groups. Collectively, these groups are considered under-represented minorities (URM) in science.
There is a documented disparity in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant application pools. Data from the NIH’s R01 grants in 2013 and 2018 showed that significantly fewer applications were submitted from certain racial and ethnic groups. Specifically:
URMs made up only 6% of applicants for American Cancer Society (ACS) research grants, with only 3% Hispanic/Latino applicants, for the fall 2019 and spring 2020 peer review cycles.
There is a clear opportunity to improve engagement and inclusion for scientists whose racial or ethnic background is under-represented in biomedical research.
The internship is a paid work experience. Students who are selected receive a weekly stipend of $500 for 10 weeks, totaling $5,000 for the summer internship. Each intern will receive an allowance up to $500 to offset housing and travel costs or cover expenses related to networking and career-development activities.
No academic credit is awarded for the completion of this summer program.
Internship eligibility is guided by the NIH definition of underrepresented minorities in science based on race and ethnicity.
No. The DICR Internship program is limited to undergraduate college students—rising sophomores, juniors, seniors, or even recent graduates.
DICR internships are administered through the ACS national Institutional Research Grants (IRGs) program. The IRG is a block award to individual institutions to enable them to give small grants to beginning academic investigators who do not yet have national, peer-reviewed research grant support.
To ensure nationwide opportunities for college-level interns and drive administrative cost savings, the internship program will serve as a supplement to current IRG grants. All IRGs have already been vetted by the ACS rigorous peer review process and found to be outstanding environments for cancer research and for mentoring early-stage investigators. As such, leveraging these partnerships makes sense from scientific, administrative, fiscal, educational, and career development/mentoring perspectives.
There is an annual call for competitive, supplement applications. Selection of IRG grantee institutions for the DICR program supplements will be based upon nationally competitive peer review conducted by the ACS according to established guidelines and policies.
Yes. ACS welcomes people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds to serve on our peer review committees. At least 20% of members for the IRG internship-selection committee will come from racial and ethnically diverse backgrounds, even when committee rosters change and at the end of members’ 4-year terms.
On July 1, 2021, the ACS announced institutional recipients for the supplemental IRGs. Eight IRGs applied. All 8 were approved for supplemental funding. Each IRG selected 4 interns, for a total of 32 interns. The IRGs include:
In June 2022, the ACS expects 83 interns to participate in the DICR Internship program and to complete the program in May 2023. Twelve IRGS applied, and all 12 were approved for funding. These institutions include:
The competitive supplement IRG awards will be announced no later than July 1, 2022 and will be posted on cancer.org.
All applications are due October 15, 2022.
Every IRG institution awarded supplemental funding for the DICR internship will use an institutional selection committee to choose 4 to 8 DICR interns. Each university sets its own criteria and process for intern applications and review.
IRG institutions also pair interns with mentors, making an effort to align the student's interests with the research mentor’s expertise.
To ensure a robust offering of opportunities for participating interns, the ACS is not limiting mentorship to investigators with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds. IRGs have the opportunity to develop co-mentoring arrangements to pair students with investigators from diverse backgrounds who may not be at the IRG institution.
ACS will monitor the program on an ongoing basis. Our analysts will conduct periodic in-depth reports. The program evaluation will include both short- and long-term measures of success, with data collection at both the IRG and national levels.
The collected data will help us identify the successes of the program, including but not limited to:
ACS will also study the data to determine if there are any system-imposed barriers and modify the program as needed to achieve excellence in inclusivity.
Starting in 2023 and for the next 10 years, the goal is to provide funding to partner institutions to facilitate a minimum of 100 biomedical research internships a year to undergraduate students. That’s a projected total of 1,000 interns over 10 years.
Institutions are required to submit a specific COVID-19 contingency plan in the mini-proposal.
For more information about the DICR Internship Program and DICR Institutional Development Grant: DiversityEDS@cancer.org