This past September, my colleague and I published a paper in the journal eLife on inequalities in the support of scientists designated as Principal Investigators (PIs) of NIH Research Project Grant (RPG) awards. We found that funding inequality among PIs has increased over the past 25 years, but may have decreased modestly in more recent years. We also found greater levels of inequality across organizations.
The NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD) Office is hosting a seminar and virtual forum on faculty cohort recruitment programs and other evidence-based strategies as tools to foster diversity. The first event will be on December 8, while the second will be in February 2022. Both events are open to NIH staff and the public.
Diversity is inextricably tied to the success of the NIH mission, thus ensuring diversity within the extramural biomedical research workforce is of utmost importance. We are aware that NIH’s recent decision to rescind a “Notice of Special Interest” (or NOSI) – intended solely to call attention to the presence of a specific funding opportunity announcement and encourage researchers from underrepresented groups to apply – may have caused some to question this commitment. While the spirit of the NOSI was laudable, it may have led to an impression that by linking demographic characteristics to grant proposals, applications supporting scientists from underrepresented groups would be automatically prioritized for funding. Read on for more.
Reminder: NIH Encourages Applications Supporting Individuals From Underrepresented Ethnic and Racial Groups as Well as Individuals With Disabilities
In this notice, NIH reaffirms its commitment to supporting a sustainable and diverse biomedical research workforce. Diversity within the NIH-supported scientific workforce fosters innovation, enhances global competitiveness, improves the quality of research and research outcomes.
Twice since the onset of the public health emergency we have taken a look at the number of research applications submitted together with some demographic information on the affiliated scientists. We are continuing to follow this analysis again here, focusing on NIH R01-equivalent and RPG application patterns during April 9 and August 8 over the past five years.
Since launching in 2017, NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) is continuing to address longstanding challenges faced by researchers trying to embark upon and sustain independent research careers as well as to promote the stability and diversity of the biomedical research workforce. Today, we are sharing data on our progress towards increased support for ESIs and other targeted groups.
In this NIH All About Grants episode, Dr. Paula Goodwin with the NIH Office of Extramural Research discusses the Diversity Plan, why it is required for conference grant applications, some things to consider when putting a plan together, how reviewers will assess it, and more.
I am proud to join my NIH colleagues today in reaffirming our commitment to fostering a diverse biomedical research workforce and ending structural racism at NIH, the institutions we support, and anywhere where NIH research activities take place. Working together, we can continue identifying and dismantling any policies, practices, or other impediments that may harm our supported workforce and science. We encourage you to join us in this effort. Please take a moment to read the statement below from the NIH Director on achieving racial equity in biomedical research and visit our new webpage, which includes more on the UNITE initiative. You are also welcome to share your thoughts and ideas to our Request for Information directly with us here.
Extensions for Early Career Scientists Whose Career Trajectories Have Been Significantly Impacted by COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with extensive mitigation measures, has adversely affected progress in many biomedical research settings. Evidence from multiple sources, including a survey NIH issued to its supported extramural research workforce last fall, indicates legitimate concerns about career trajectory for early career scientists, including those with caretaker responsibilities. An article by Dr. Erin Gibson and her colleagues argued for a “reset” with focus on early career investigators. One point I took away from this paper is that a reset does not necessarily mean for us to go “back to normal” after the pandemic is over, because that time may have favored certain investigators and disfavored others (something I reflected on in this video and this blog).
Hearing your concerns, NIH issued a Guide Notice last week detailing our approach to support early career scientists whose career trajectories may have been significantly affected by the pandemic as funding will allow). Specifically, NIH is providing an opportunity for recipients in their last year of NIH Fellowship (“F”) and NIH Career Development (“K”) awards who have been impacted by COVID-19 to request extensions. Such extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, within the existing constraints of available funding. We encourage you to read the Guide Notice and if appropriate reach out to NIH staff as directed.
At NIH, we have and continue to focus not just on gender equity but on ensuring greater diversity in all aspects of the biomedical workforce. This means, that along with women, members of racial and/or ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are also included. To help ensure that the nation remains a global leader in scientific discovery and innovation, NIH needs the richness and breadth of varied perspectives that comes from having a pool of highly talented scientists from diverse backgrounds.
In that spirit, today we released a guide notice (NOT-OD-21-053) that updates guidance for NIH R13/U13 Conference Grant applicants and recipients.