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April 28, 2022
Improving the NIH Culture and Structure for Equity, Inclusion, and Excellence
UNITE Co-Chairs’ Corner
The ambitious charge of the UNITE I Committee is to change the NIH organizational culture and structure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the NIH workforce. Embracing the motto “Together, We Are Stronger”, the committee has prioritized the scientific mission of the NIH and a commitment to seeking lasting improvements in the following ways:
- Revised Manual Chapter: 1311 – Preventing and Addressing Harassment and Inappropriate Conduct
- Defined and included PMAP elements related to Racial and Ethnic Equity for senior leadership at all NIH Institutes
- Ensured the transparent release of internal workforce demographic data
It is often said that “we are a data-driven organization” and this is true. However, data are often not readily accessible. Working with our colleagues in the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), the Office of Human Resources (OHR), and the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD), members of UNITE led an effort to bring transparency to internal workforce demographic data as well as data related to training, awards, advancement, and workforce experience. Going forward we will support the creation of processes to allow for the collection of demographic data for extramural leadership, as well as recruitment data for Title 42 applicants, setting NIH up for better transparency. Indeed, we have already seen progress in that the 2022 NIH Director’s awards will include a category devoted to mission support that is open to all GS 1–12 employees. Finally, by understanding the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, and applicant flow of current staffing, NIH will be better positioned to identify and address hiring disparities that impair the NIH mission.
Racial and Ethnic Equity Plans (REEPs)
A major activity in addressing the I Committee’s charge with respect to cultural change will be the creation of Racial and Ethnic Equity Plans (REEPs). All NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) are expected to create and implement individual REEPs by May 1, 2022. Each plan will apply the Racial and Ethnic Equity Lens (REEL) Framework to its IC’s workforce, structures, and systems. The plans will identify and provide a framework to dismantle any racial and ethnic disparities and enhance the diversity of its workforce. As part of the process, there are three main objectives. First, the REEP must be established with the appreciation of a need for a new approach and adopting the REEL at the Institute level. Second, preparation begins with leadership commitment, addressing established infrastructure, engaging stakeholders, and identifying focus areas. Last, the REEP must be managed through the implementation process. Actions will be tracked for progress, and information will be shared among the ICs. Recognizing the REEP is a three-step process with various objectives and goals, it is mission critical that the plans are seen as a fluid and sustainable. Consequently, it is expected that each IC’s plan will change and evolve with time.
NIH Anti-Racism Steering Committee (ARSC)
The NIH Anti-Racism Steering Committee (ARSC) was conceived by the I Committee, modeled in part after the highly successful Anti-Harassment Steering Committee, as a self-assembling group of NIH staff with a dedicated commitment to ending structural racism. To this end, we worked to establish guidelines and mechanisms of collaboration with ongoing I Committee efforts. The graphic below provides the organizational structure for the different programs broken out by their various initiatives. Each of the programs will report their decisions and policy plans to the I Committee to increase transparency and ensure progress.
Next steps in Improving the NIH Culture and Structure for Equity, Inclusion, and Excellence
The I Committee is working with the U Committee to review information gathered at listening sessions for stakeholders, including tenure track investigators. By examining IRP recruitment, retention, and mentoring strategies, the goal is to develop recommendations to diversify our biomedical workforce. We are working with OHR on ideas to expand upon the myriad NIH leadership-development programs, as well as further develop new mentoring programs. An exciting new NIH partnership with the Howard University College of Medicine has been approved and is in development for implementation by the Fall of 2022.
As the implementation and progress plans continue for the I Committee, the policies and practices in place will continue to guide suggestive actions. NIH should expect to see more faces from underrepresented groups and the culture of diversity and inclusion will prevail within each Institute. NIH will continue to grow as a place to work that strives for excellence, while maintaining a work culture and structure of equity and inclusion.
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Authored by the UNITE I Committee Co-Chairs
This page last reviewed on June 16, 2022