Blog Archives

NIH Presents Report on Racism in Science, Launches UNITE Initiative to End Structural Racism in Biomedical Research

During a meeting of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) on February 26, 2021, NIH discussed new and ongoing efforts to eliminate agency structures perpetuating racism in the biomedical research enterprise. During the meeting, the ACD’s Working Group on Diversity (WGD) presented its Report on Racism in Science, a document that had been in development throughout the past year in the wake of nationwide protests condemning White supremacy and racial inequity, especially as it affects Black members of the scientific community. The WGD report presents several strategies and recommendations for the ACD to consider in addressing racism in science, organized into the four following themes:

  • Acknowledge racism and inequity & provide support to Black members of the scientific community
  • Conduct research to understand systemic racism in research studies and the scientific workforce
  • Monitor acts of racial bias and change the culture surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Make structural changes to mitigate the impact of racism and implicit bias in the scientific workforce

Although there was hesitation from some ACD members about the emphasis on racism against Black scientists instead of all under-represented groups in science, the findings and recommendations of the report were met with wide praise by the ACD. The report is available on the ACD website.

In addition to the WGD report, one new NIH effort discussed at length during the meeting was the establishment of the UNITE Initiative, a series of committees with membership across the NIH’s institutes and centers charged with addressing structural racism within NIH-supported science and identifying opportunities and recommendations to improve agency practices. The UNITE Initiative consists of five committees each aiming to address one of the following objectives:

  • U – Understanding stakeholder experiences through listening and learning
  • N – New research on health disparities, minority health, and health equity
  • I – Improving the NIH culture and structure for equity, inclusion, and excellence
  • T – Transparency, communication, and accountability with NIH’s internal and external stakeholders
  • E – Extramural research ecosystem: changing policy, culture, and structure to promote workforce diversity

Aligning with the stated objectives of the WGD report and the UNITE Initiative, NIH has released a request for information (RFI) seeking stakeholder input on NIH approaches to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in the biomedical research enterprise and expand research on health disparities. Comments may address aspects of the biomedical workforce, policies and partnerships at NIH, significant gaps in research areas, or any additional suggestions for the NIH to consider. Comments are due April 9, 2021 on the NIH submission website.

A recording of the ACD meeting is available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Administration Executive Actions: Equity & Inclusion

Another early Biden Administration executive order rescinded various Trump Administration actions that attempted to push back against perceived “political correctness” by actions prohibiting trainings and other activities that touch on white privilege, structural inequality, implicit bias, and other supposedly “divisive” concepts based on decades of social science research. President Biden’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government goes beyond simply revoking the Trump Administration policies and instead sets a policy of actively working to improve racial equity government-wide. The Executive Order outlines a systematic approach for accurately assessing “whether agency policies and actions create or exacerbate barriers to full and equal participation by all eligible individuals” and identifying strategies to remove barriers. The Executive Order also establishes an Interagency Working Group on Equitable Data to be co-chaired by the Chief Statistician and the Chief Technology Officer and tasked with facilitating the collection of detailed demographic data on ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status, or other key demographic variables in order to measure and advance equity across the government.

President Biden also signed several other Executive Orders intended to advance equity and inclusion, including orders prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation and combating bias against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NSF’s Kellina Craig-Henderson Answers “Why Social Science?”

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? post comes from Kellina Craig-Henderson, Deputy Assistant Director of the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Craig-Henderson wrote for NSF’s Science Matters blog about her experiences confronting stereotypes as an African American female scientist and about SBE’s new Build and Broaden program, which directs resources to researchers at minority-serving institutions. Read it here and subscribe.

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Posted in Update

AAAS Issues Draft Plan to Address Systemic Racism in the Sciences

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has released the first of three draft plans intended to address systemic racism in the sciences, Holding up a Mirror: Demographic Representation in AAAS Functions that Advance Careers. The plan outlines AAAS’s commitment and proposed actions to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion within its operations. Forthcoming draft plans will focus on AAAS programs and initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and engineering and on AAAS actions to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion with the AAAS as an organization. They are expected to be released by mid-September. Comments and suggestions may be submitted to suggestionsforaaas@aaas.org.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Scientific Community Responds to Racism and Police Violence through #ShutDownSTEM Campaign

On June 10, several academic and scientific organizations participated in the Shut Down STEM campaign, forgoing business as usual to instead reflect upon racism and police violence and its effect on science and research. Participants in #ShutDownSTEM took action in several ways, including the cancelling meetings, classes, and research activities, discussing potential methods to improve the research climate for Black researchers, and participating in a broader social media campaign using the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia. More information can be found on shutdownstem.com.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 23), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NSF Announces New Collaboration between SBE and Minority-Serving Institutions

On February 24, the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter announcing the new Build and Broaden initiative, a collaborative effort between the SBE Directorate and Minority-Serving Institutions. The initiative invites proposals for research conferences intended to promote ideas and partnerships in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences at Minority-Serving Institutions.

Conference proposals for Build and Broaden are due May 1, 2020. The Dear Colleague Letter and more information are found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 3), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NIH Seeking Comments on Inclusion Across the Lifespan II Workshop

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a Request for Information (RFI) seeking stakeholder input on a planned workshop on Inclusion Across the Lifespan, a policy intended to encourage inclusion of underrepresented participants in clinical studies. The Inclusion Across the Lifespan II Workshop is a follow-up to a 2017 workshop mandated by Congress in the 21st Century Cures Act. Comments will remain open until February 15, 2020. More information can be found in the NIH guide notice.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NIH Updates Diversity Statement

On November 22, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a notice updating the agency’s official statement on diversity in research settings. In a blog post by Deputy Director for Extramural Research at NIH Dr. Mike Lauer, the main reason for the updated statement was to expand the criteria for qualifying as an individual from a low socio-economic background. In the post, Lauer claims “this revised definition should better capture many scientists with a disadvantaged background, and be relatively easy to assess, ensuring we continue enhancing the diversity of the biomedical research workforce.” The updated diversity statement and the previous diversity statement can both be found on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 10), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases 2017 Report on Underrepresented Groups in Science and Engineering

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) released the 2017 edition of Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. The Congressionally-mandated report, which is released every two years, compiles data on the “participation of these three groups in science and engineering education and employment.” It reports on data across five categories: enrollment, field of degree, occupation, employment status, and early-career doctorate holders. The report digest, as well as more information on data sources and links to download the data in full are available on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 7), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

NIGMS Analyzes RFI Response on Modernizing Biomedical Graduate Education

On November 2, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shared its analysis of the input it received from the scientific community in response to a June 2016 request for information (RFI) (NOT-GM-16-109) on how to “catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education through NIGMS’s institutional predoctoral training program.” According to NIGMS, the comments received addressed 28 themes and fell into five categories: institutional and training-related issues, skills development, systemic issues within the research enterprise, careers, and administrative and review issues. The feedback around the issue of diversity and the role of institutional climate, one of the themes, included concern regarding the lack of diversity and the fact that it “…continues to be an alarming problem in biomedical research. Given our changing demographics, this is no longer a ‘minority problem,’ but rather a national emergency.” Another theme cited was the “strong support for interdisciplinary training in Ph.D. programs.” Additional details about the analysis can be found in the report.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 15), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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