You are here
Scientific Workforce Diversity
The NIH director appointed the first Chief Officer of Scientific Workforce Diversity and established the NIH Scientific Workforce Diversity Office in 2014 to lead NIH’s efforts to diversify the nation’s scientific workforce, expand recruitment, and support retention. These were established in response to recommendations by the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) based on input from the Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Workforce. The working group was charged with examining the factors that contribute to the current state of diversity in the scientific research workforce. The working group also was tasked with examining the findings and implications of an NIH-commissioned study that found that African American or Black applicants were less likely than whites to receive NIH research funding. NIH established several key programs in response to the ACD recommendations.
“As a woman of color in science, I have seen the missed opportunities to take advantage of the full spectrum of scientific talent. It is profoundly important for all members of the biomedical workforce to feel included, welcome, supported, and that they have a fair and equal opportunity to pursue their passion for research and scientific discovery; our institutions and society must take steps to eliminate threats that create barriers such as structural racism, incivility, harassment, and bias.”
SWD’s mission is driven by the belief that a diverse workforce can lead to greater scientific innovation, creativity, and productivity. However, structural racism inhibits the potential of a diverse workforce. Underrepresented groups still face inequities, disparities, and challenges, especially among early-stage investigators and other budding scientists. Guided by its Strategic Plan, SWD seeks to:
- Expand scientific workforce diversity as a field of inquiry
- Build and apply evidence related to diversity outcomes
- Understand the role of sociocultural factors in biomedical recruitment and retention
- Sustain nationwide workforce diversity with seamless career transitions
- Promote the value of scientific workforce diversity
The UNITE initiative calls for an increase in funding for SWD to enable the development of new programs and the enhancement of diversity in the NIH intramural program through targeted recruiting efforts.
Programs Within NIH
- Each year the NIH Distinguished Scholars Program (DSP) recruits a group of investigators to the NIH Intramural Research Program to provide them with mentoring and other professional development activities that foster research and career success. DSP aims to build a more inclusive community by reducing the barriers to the recruitment and success of principal investigators from diverse backgrounds, including groups underrepresented in biomedical research.
- The Future Research Leaders Conference (FRLC) provides early-career scientists an opportunity to showcase their research to the NIH scientific community and NIH leadership. From this experience, participants gain insights on how to develop independent research careers. The event focuses primarily on post-doc and junior-faculty level investigators.
- The Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) offers training and education for future researchers and physician-scientists:
- Across the agency, NIH Institutes and Centers are developing and implementing diversity programs.
Programs in the Extramural Community and Beyond
- Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce, also known as the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC), is an NIH-wide program that supports effective approaches to improve training and mentoring across the consortium with the goal of increasing the participation and persistence of individuals from diverse backgrounds in the biomedical research pipeline, as well as on transforming the culture and efficacy of biomedical research training and mentoring nationwide. The DPC consists of three integrated initiatives:
- NIH’s Division of Biomedical Research Workforce (DBRW) provides tools and resources to cultivate a skilled and diverse biomedical research workforce.
- Since 2019, the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) has initiated a number of efforts to mitigate bias, both at the individual and systemic levels. In response to multiple calls from the external community for NIH/CSR to address racial disparities in NIH funding and potential bias in peer review, CSR held three public forums in July 2020 on Racial Disparities in Peer Review and more.
- NIH launched the Common Fund’s Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program to establish and sustain scientific environments that include, cultivate, and benefit from a full range of talent using a cohort recruitment model. Results from FIRST will inform future NIH efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biomedical research workforce.
This page last reviewed on March 1, 2021