The NIH recognizes a unique and compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences research workforce. The NIH expects efforts to diversify the workforce to lead to recruitment of the most talented researchers from all groups; to improve the quality of the educational and training environment; to balance and broaden the perspective in setting research priorities; to improve the ability to recruit subjects from diverse backgrounds into clinical research protocols; and to improve the Nation's capacity to address and eliminate health disparities. To achieve these goals, the NIH aims to support bold, innovative approaches to enhance the diversity of the biomedical workforce and stimulate wide-spread culture change throughout the biomedical research community. An additional goal is to benefit a larger number of trainees than the number that can be reached by other ongoing activities at NIH by promoting synergy between the ongoing NIH supported diversity activities.
In 2012, the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce provided concrete recommendations toward improving the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities, people with disabilities, and people from disadvantaged backgrounds (collectively referred to as Under-Represented Groups, or URGs) across the lifespan of a biomedical research career from graduate study to acquisition of tenure in an academic position or the equivalent in a non-academic setting (http://acd.od.nih.gov/Diversity%20in%20the%20Biomedical%20Research%20Workforce%20Report.pdf). Influenced by these recommendations, NIH is undertaking a variety of activities both internally and in its support of extramural institutions. One component of this comprehensive response to the Committee’s recommendations is the establishment of the "Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce". This program, to be launched and piloted through the NIH Common Fund, is intended to support transformative and innovative approaches to unify and strengthen institutions and faculty dedicated to the recruitment and retention of diverse scientists. The long-term goal of this program is to catalyze a systematic culture change in the biomedical research training environment to have a broad impact on scientists from underrepresented backgrounds. To achieve this goal, this program is intended to synergize with ongoing efforts to enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce, and successful approaches developed by this program will be broadly disseminated to have an impact at a national level.
The program will consist of a series of integrated initiatives:
The Common Fund is currently soliciting applications for six month planning grants for BUILD (RFA-RM-13-001) and NRMN (RFA-RM-13-002), with the first awards to be issued in September 2013. These planning grants provide the opportunity for awardees to think creatively about strategies and approaches they could develop to stimulate culture change resulting in a significant enhancement of the diversity of the biomedical research workforce. These awards are intended to position awardees to prepare applications for the multi-year implementation grants for BUILD and NRMN (anticipated solicitation in late 2013, anticipated awards in late 2014). Applications for the Coordinating and Evaluation Center (CEC) will be solicited in mid-2013 with awards made in mid-2014.
Other initiatives emerging from the ACD recommendations are being explored elsewhere at NIH. These initiatives include efforts to ensure fairness in peer review, implementation of an NIH Steering Committee Working Group on Diversity, and recruitment of an NIH Chief Officer of Scientific Workforce Diversity.
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