Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH) Program Evaluation

The Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH) Program provides support for research, capacity building, and career development opportunities to meet the specific health needs identified and prioritized by American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Tribes and Tribally based organizations. In February 2021, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), initiated Tribal Consultation to seek input on the evaluation of the NARCH program. The Consultation was held virtually on June 14, 2021 and feedback received was presented to members of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council during its September 2021 meeting. NIGMS released its Tribal Consultation report in September 2021, summarizing the input received from Tribal leaders and the Institute’s responses.

Key Outcomes:

NIGMS intends to continue support for the NARCH program at or above current levels, and is actively exploring these initiatives to optimize the program and give AI/AN communities better control of their own designated research priorities:

  • Planning grants to provide Tribes without existing NARCH awards the resources required to develop a full NARCH application. These grants would provide support for Tribes to define their own research questions, develop plans on how to pursue and answer them, assess capacity building and training needs, and/or identify necessary consultants or collaborators in preparation for submitting a full NARCH application.
  • Grants to support the establishment or enhancement of Tribal Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). These grants would support establishing additional Tribal IRBs or enhancing the function of existing ones (e.g., through additional support for staff, systems, and training) to help reduce delays in the IRB approval process and reliance on external IRBs, giving Tribes greater autonomy over their own research processes.
  • A Tribal Technical Assistance and Resource Center program to provide technical and administrative support and expertise in applying for and administering NIH grants. These centers, which would be similar in concept to the Support for Research Enhancement Resource Centers (PAR-21-227), would provide training and consulting services to help Tribes establish or enhance their own Sponsored Programs Offices and to develop capacity for the financial administration of NIH grants.
  • New training grant programs to support students selected by Tribes or Tribal organizations obtain bachelor’s and doctoral/Ph.D. degrees and access research experiences, mentoring, and career development support. Undergraduate training grants (T34s), for instance, could provide tuition remission and stipends as well as research mentoring for either a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, including for students who start at 2-year Tribal colleges. Similarly, graduate training grants (T32s) would provide the same support for Ph.D. students, along with associated career development support.

In addition, NIGMS will consider guidance from Tribal leaders to improve the program by:

  • Releasing future NARCH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) with a receipt date every year to make funding announcements continuous rather than on the current skipped cycle.
  • Increasing emphasis in future NARCH FOAs on capacity-building, Tribal-led research, and career development projects.Reducing the complexity of NARCH applications and awards.
  • Soliciting more applications from Tribes and Tribal organizations for its early outreach programs, including the Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA).
  • Discussing with NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR) guidelines from the publication, “American Indian and Alaska Native Research in the Health Sciences: Critical Considerations for the Review of Research Applications.
  • Continuing to engage with Tribal Nations and AI/AN researchers through Tribal Consultation.

Read full Tribal Consultation Report.

This page last reviewed on October 4, 2021