Washington Update

NIH Forum Highlights Fostering Cohort Recruitment

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm
Thursday, March 31, 2022
On February 23 and 24, National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosted a virtual forum on fostering cohort recruitment as part of the Scientific Workforce Diversity Seminar Series. Speakers highlighted the importance of inclusive excellence during recruitment, as well as throughout the workplace culture to retain talented scholars. NIH is leading the way with the UNITE initiative to end structural racism and its Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation cohort program.

Respect for colleagues’ diverse perspectives and experiences was a key theme to fostering an inclusive environment. Allowing everyone to bring their whole identity to the workplace and engage and communicate respectfully helps create a sense of belonging. When recruiting faculty, programs should aim to give candidates a reason to want to come to a specific place beyond the science. Those stronger ties to the community and value of cultural identity can entice scholars not only to join a specific program, but also to stay. Building and sustaining supportive environments goes beyond academic scholarship; creating genuine relationships helps cultivate a community where all can thrive.

In addition to valuing the whole person, systems and structures may also need to change. Programs should not expect to bring candidates in to make them fit into the status quo. Instead, leadership must be invested in promoting diversity and adjust policies and practices as needed. Climate surveys; equitable hiring practices; revision of promotion and tenure criteria to value work in diversity, equity, and inclusion; and flexibility around work conditions can all help attract and retain diverse scholars.

Cohort recruitment efforts at Harvard Medical School, University of Kentucky College of Education, Wayne State University Integrative Biosciences Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of California, San Diego were discussed as potential models throughout the virtual forum. Less traditional cohort methods, such as creating cohorts within an institution across departments made up of faculty already hired at Duke University and cohorts that are geographically distributed in the Native Investigator Development Program, were also presented as effective strategies. View the recording of the first day here and the second day here to hear about these individual programs.

The next NIH Scientific Workforce Diversity Seminar will discuss how diversity impacts science, held on May 17 from 1 pm to 2:30 pm ET.