Scientific Workforce Diversity

A woman in a lab coat and goggles experimenting in a lab.

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.”

— Marie A. Bernard, M.D.
NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity


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

Programs in the Extramural Community and Beyond

Learn more about these efforts.

This page last reviewed on January 20, 2022