Washington Update

NIH Launches Initiative to Address Structural Racism in Biomedical Science

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, March 11, 2021

On February 26, the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened for a special meeting to discuss recent efforts guided by the ACD Working Group on Diversity, including a report on racism in science and a new initiative aimed at strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion at NIH.

The ACD Working Group on Diversity’s report, Racism in Science, reflects a series of deliberations held throughout the summer of 2020 regarding the effects of systemic racism on the scientific workforce. Four themes were identified as key touch points for acknowledging, understanding, monitoring, and mitigating the impact of structural racism and implicit bias on the scientific workforce. For each theme, the Working Group suggested several strategies for potential action.

Informed by the Working Group report and related efforts, NIH also announced the launch of a new initiative to end structural racism and racial inequities in biomedical research called UNITE. The initiative consists of five committees composed of NIH staff passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion with each addressing one of the following specific aims:

U – Understanding stakeholder experiences through listening and learning

N – New research on health disparities, minority health, and health equity

I – Improving the NIH culture and structure for equity, inclusion, and excellence

T – Transparency, communication, and accountability with internal and external stakeholders

E – Extramural research ecosystem: changing policy, culture, and structure to promote workforce diversity.

To engage the extramural community in this effort, NIH issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input on ways the agency can advance and strengthen racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in the biomedical research workforce and advance health disparities and health equity research. Comments must be submitted via the RFI website by April 9, 2021.