Washington Update

FASEB Comments on NIH COSWD Draft Strategic Plan

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm
Thursday, February 24, 2022
On February 10, FASEB sent comments to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD) Office in response to a Request for Information on the COSWD draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2022 through 2026. In its comments, FASEB emphasized the need to include perspectives of marginalized scholars outside the NIH’s definition of diverse populations and the importance of routine communication with the extramural community.

The Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity includes individuals from racial and ethnic groups shown by National Science Foundation (NSF) to be underrepresented in health-related sciences, individuals with disabilities, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and women at the graduate level and beyond. FASEB appreciates this focus, yet other marginalized scholars remain excluded. Specifically, the COSWD strategic plan omitted mention of targets of harassment, including NIH’s efforts to end harassment and discrimination. There were also no explicit considerations pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) minority scientists, despite NIH’s intramural workforce data indicating SOGI individuals are more likely to experience harassment. Creating safe and inclusive environments is a path forward toward equity where all members of the scientific workforce can thrive.

Furthermore, NSF’s definition of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups uses broad categories that when disaggregated may reveal additional gaps in representation within the scientific workforce. Repeating a prior recommendation, FASEB urged NIH to consider underrepresented racial groups beyond the NSF definition to help achieve the ultimate goal of an equitable research ecosystem.

Finally, FASEB praised the COSWD’s Scientific Workforce Diversity Seminar Series as a means to discuss prescient topics with stakeholders across the entire scientific community. This excellent series demonstrates a creative way to reach extramural community members that do not typically have direct lines of communication with NIH. FASEB hopes NIH will build upon this momentum and continue to seek out audiences beyond the usual players. Only with enhanced communication will NIH be able to effectively communicate findings about improving diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility across the entire scientific ecosystem to improve environments for all.