The Scientific Training in Addiction Research Techniques (START) Program is a comprehensive research education program dedicated to enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the substance misuse research workforce. START specifically prepares investigators to access, analyze, and disseminate data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study at University of Vermont.
Due to multidimensional historical and social factors, there is limited diversity among leading researchers, which undermines innovation. There are very few scholars from underrepresented minority (URM) –racial and ethnic groups identified as underrepresented in biomedical research—and disadvantaged backgrounds –annual household income below the U.S. Bureau of the Census established low-income thresholds based on family size. Evidence suggest that a lack of diversity makes research careers less appealing to women and persons who are BIPOC.
Individuals who are BIPOC are underrepresented in substance misuse research, especially at premier research institutions. Consequently, these persons often lack sufficient role models and mentors. There is minimal sensitivity to their experiences at the faculty and administrative level. Cultural homogeneity among investigators particularly impedes efforts to resolve issues impacting URM and disadvantaged communities, which often suffer harsher consequences from substance misuse crises. Among those that do pursue research careers, there is a publication and funding award disparity between students and faculty who are traditionally represented in academia and those who are URM or first generation. The percentage of URM earning tenure and promotions to Full Professor has not proportionately increased compared to their rates of employment. The key to an inclusive, heterogeneous, and highly skilled research community is to develop comprehensive initiatives that recruit, train, and cultivate bourgeoning URM and disadvantaged scholars early in their professional careers.