Washington Update

FASEB Expresses Concern About Lack of Diversity on Key NIH Advisory Committees

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, November 15, 2018

In a letter to Francis Collins, MD, PhD, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), FASEB expressed concerns about the lack of diversity on key federal advisory committees, specifically the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD). While commending Dr. Collins’s active engagement of these external, nonpartisan bodies to provide advice on important issues facing NIH and the biomedical research community, FASEB presented data indicating that several of these committees are composed mostly of white men.

Of specific concern is the ACD, frequently charged with developing recommendations on the agency’s most pressing issues, including biomedical workforce, peer review, and more recently, sexual harassment. While these initiatives often depend on the efforts of ad hoc task forces and working groups, FASEB expressed deep concern about the lack of diversity among voting ACD members. At this writing, the ACD roster consists of 12 members, only two of whom are women. Four ACD members remain ad hoc (non-voting), further reducing the representation of women to one.

FASEB noted that the ACD charter provides an opportunity for Dr. Collins to address this lack of diversity through eight open seats, and cited the Next Generation Researchers Initiative Working Group as a model for ensuring broad perspectives among voting ACD members. FASEB acknowledged the challenges  ensuring broad representation among its own leadership, and offered to work with its member societies to identify candidates for consideration on the ACD and other NIH advisory committees.