Is there funding for research on minority health issues, specifically for the Indian/Pakistani groups?

E-mail etiquette

Looking for funding for research on minority health issues, particularly the Indian/Pakistani minority groups.[Firyal]

Dear Firyal,

According to the National Science Foundation's most recent surveys, over 6500 Indian-born researchers received their doctoral degrees from U.S. universities between 1988 and 1995. By 1993, Indian-born faculty--primarily in math and computer science disciplines--made up almost a quarter of science and engineering faculty in the U.S. higher education system. The NSF did not have any specific information on Pakistani groups studying or working here in the States.

It's understandable that you may have had a little difficulty rounding up grants and funding opportunities specifically for Indians or Pakistanis, because the definitions of "minority" classifications are blurred. So, the first step toward locating and securing grants for minority research is to ensure you are eligible to apply, and that means understanding which minority designations apply to Indians and Pakistanis.

The U.S. State Department of Commerce gave me a more definitive definition of which groups Indians and Pakistanis fall into: "... persons who indicated their race as "Asian Indian" and persons who identified themselves as Bengalese, Bharat, Dravidian, East Indian, or Goanese" are considered "Asian Indians." "Other Asians" include Bangledeshi, Nepali, Sri Lankan, and Pakistani groups. As an entire group, the term "Asian" embraces "Chinese," "Filipino," "Japanese," "Asian Indian," "Korean," "Vietnamese," and "Other Asian" populations. So instead of only looking specifically for "Indian" or "Pakistani" eligibility requirements, broaden your search by seeking out minority grants that include "Asians."

Having said that, it is unclear from your question whether you want to know of grants that Indian and Pakistani researchers can specifically apply for, or whether you want funding to study Indian/Pakistani health problems. In addition, it is unclear whether you want funding for foreign nationals--i.e., Indian- born scientists--or U.S. citizens/permanent residents who are of Indian/Pakistani ethnicity.

As always, one of the first places to look for health-related grants is the National Institutes of Health. They provide many opportunities for underrepresented groups and have implemented their Initiatives for Underrepresented Minority Investigators--an institute-wide effort to promote research among minority scientists--"from high school to the faculty level."

Officials explain in the NIH document, Research Supplements for Underrepresented Minorities that "underrepresented minority students and investigators are defined as individuals belonging to a particular ethnic or racial group that has been determined by the grantee institution to be underrepresented in biomedical or behavioral research." So check with the appropriate institute before applying for minority awards to make sure you are eligible.

Use GrantsNet to search for current grant programs and opportunities--type in keywords such as "Indian" or "minority" to identify appropriate funders and programs. Another online resource to find minority funding opportunities is through ScienceWise's MOLIS Web site (Minority On-Line Information Service); however you may find that MOLIS's goals are geared more toward institutions than individuals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service also provides a useful list of different organizations and their funding initiatives for underrepresented groups.

The Office of Minority Health Resource Center in the Office of Public Health and Science offers a great breakdown of minority funding opportunities, grants, and institutions that participate in such minority initiatives, which I think you will find very useful. Check out their Highlighted Funding Opportunities for more information.

I hope this has been useful. Good luck in your search.

--The GrantDoctor

Dear Readers,

I receive so many e-mails similar to this short, blunt, example that I am led to believe that many scientists out there are in need of e-mail etiquette lessons and advice on how to properly explain what they want to know. Although the GrantDoctor is willing to tolerate such requests, it is unlikely that a program officer or a funding agency administrator will appreciate such terse e-mails or be impressed by your communication skills. Indeed, grant applicants can really shoot themselves in the foot if they do not properly address agency personnel.

I strongly suggest, therefore, that you apply to your electronic communications the same standard procedures you would use to write job applications or cover letters. Begin with a "Dear So-and-So"; make sure the grammar and punctuation are correct throughout; include all the pertinent information (but not too much information ...); and always end with a "Sincerely" or, at the very least, a "Thank You."

Get into the habit of writing concise, logical e-mails early on, and you'll soon find that communicating your ideas and problems will become easier. Follow two simple guidelines when asking for information: 1) Be explicit in your requests--To fully investigate the question posed above, I need more information than the fact that you want grants in biology. Is this grant for you or for your students? Where do you live? Are you a U.S. citizen or a foreign national? What types of grants are you looking for?--and 2) Use e-mail etiquette! Following both guidelines will make your requests less ambiguous which, in turn, improves the chances that you will find the information you seek.

Good luck and happy e-mailing.

-- The GrantDoctor

Due to the high volume of questions received, The GrantDoctor cannot answer all queries on an individual basis. Look for an answer to your question published in this column soon! Thank you!