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Got Debt? National Institutes of Health Seeks Applications for Loan Repayment Programs

With growing concerns about attracting and maintaining the next generation of scientists, NIH is undertaking an effort to attract additional applications for its five Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs), which pay up to $35,000 per year of qualified educational debt as well as the corresponding federal taxes for post-doctoral scientists as they pursue research careers.

By Karen Studwell

With growing concerns about attracting and maintaining the next generation of scientists, NIH is undertaking an effort to attract additional applications for its five Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs), which pay up to $35,000 per year of qualified educational debt as well as the corresponding federal taxes for post-doctoral scientists as they pursue research careers. The new campaign, “Strength in Numbers,” seeks to reach out to individuals from a broader scope of biomedical and behavioral disciplines, including psychology. NIH currently funds LRPs in the following five areas: Clinical Research, Clinical Research for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds, Contraception and Infertility Research, Health Disparities Research, and Pediatric Research.

Since the inception of the NIH’s LRPs in 2000, APA’s Science Government Relations Office staff have worked with the NIH Director’s Office to track the success of psychologists competing for those funds. Based on the NIH data, psychological researchers have traditionally been well-represented in the LRPs. On average, 22 percent of the new and continuing awardees in the past four years are psychologists and 25 percent of those supported psychologists are minority researchers. Perhaps not surprisingly, psychologists continue to be essentially absent in the area of contraception and fertility research, but they continue to play an important role across the four other programs. Please refer to tables 1 and 2 for details.

When unveiling the Strength in Numbers campaign last week, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni stated, “It is the energy and enthusiasm of promising postdoctoral scientists that pushes forward the frontiers of medical research and discovery. We hope that our continued investment in new scientists today, through the Sixth Annual Loan Repayment Program application cycle, will provide the support these researchers need to meet the nation’s health challenges of tomorrow.”

To qualify, applicants must possess a doctoral-level degree, devote 50 percent or more of their time to research funded by a nonprofit organization or government entity (federal, state, or local), and have educational loan debt equal to or exceeding 20 percent of their institutional base salary. Applicants must also be U.S. citizens or permanent residents to be eligible.

NIH is currently receiving applications for the LRPs and the deadline for applications is December 1, 2007. More information about the LRP eligibility requirements and how to apply can be found on the NIH Loan Repayment Programs website.

TABLE 1: FUNDED PSYCHOLOGISTS: 2003-2006
Fiscal year Totals Clinical Research Pediatric Research Clinical Research Disadv. Bkgds. Health Disparities Research
Contraception & Infertility Research
Total Psych. Funded Total Funded Total Psych. Funded Total Funded Total Psych. Funded Total Funded Total Psych. Funded Total Funded Total Psych. Funded Total Funded Total Psych. Funded Total Funded
2003 276 1193 181 727 53 299 4 33 38 121 0 13
2004 308 1407 202 834 46 313 5 43 55 200 0 17
2005 316 1600 191 942 62 393 5 35 57 209 1 21
2006 375 1651 231 945 62 403 7 36 75 245 0 22
Totals 1275 5815 805 3448 223 1408 21 147 225 775 1 73
TABLE 2: FUNDED PSYCHOLOGISTS MINORITY DISTRIBUTION: 2003-2006
2003 2004 2005 2006
American/Alaskan Indian 4 5 5 6
Asian 9 7 11 15
African American 29 29 30 44
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0 0 3 0
Latino 13 25 25 28
Totals 55 66 74 93