May 13, 2021
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is seeking information on how to enhance diversity and inclusion in the cancer research workforce, including enhancing the participation of individuals who are underrepresented in cancer research, such as underrepresented minorities (URM). This request for information (RFI) is part of NCI’s Equity and Inclusion Program convened to identify opportunities and priorities that will promote equity and social justice in three areas: 1) Enhancing Cancer Health Disparities Research; 2) Diversifying the Cancer Research Workforce; and 3) Ensuring an Inclusive and Diverse Community at NCI. This RFI is requesting input on Diversifying the Cancer Research Workforce.
URMs, including racial and ethnic minorities—Blacks/African Americans (B/AA), Hispanic/Latinos (H/L), American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders (NH/OPI)—represent a growing segment of the United States population. However, these groups are persistently underrepresented at every scientific level within NCI extramural research.
The U.S. demographics are becoming increasingly diverse. However, minority scientists and physicians are underrepresented in biomedical research fields. Moreover, there is a substantial funding gap in NIH extramural funding to institutions where the relevant principal investigator identifies as an URM. A study by Ginther and colleagues (2011) found that a B/AA scientist’s chance of receiving NIH R01 funding was about 50% less than that of a non-Hispanic White (NHW) scientist. This finding was corroborated by an internal NCI review, which showed that during fiscal years 2018 through 2020, institutions with URM scientists as the noted principal investigators were issued relatively fewer new R01 awards than institutions where a NHW was the identified principal investigator. These data demonstrate a racial/ethnic gap that may contribute to the lack of diversity in the biomedical scientific workforce and in NIH funding within the NCI extramural research community.
Recognizing these challenges, among others, the NCI Director has charged workgroups within the Equity and Inclusion Program to identify opportunities, make recommendations, and develop and implement strategies to increase diversity and inclusion in the cancer research workforce. This RFI is to solicit input from various stakeholders—including extramural grantees, staff, and researchers in academic institutions and industry, federal employees, and the public—that NCI may consider as it seeks to develop actionable recommendations that will enhance diversity and inclusion in the cancer research workforce ) and address the challenges faced by URM investigators, to the extent permitted by law. For example, the NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation, or “FIRST” Program, aims to enhance and maintain a culture of inclusive excellence in the biomedical research community. This RFI is to solicit input from the community to inform solutions as to how the promotion of equity and social justice can be implemented in the cancer research workforce on a variety of scales. The FIRST program provides an example of this on a larger, institutional landscape.
NCI seeks information and recommendations that will help identify best practices, challenges, resources, and opportunities to enhance diversity and inclusion in the cancer research workforce and promote equity and social justice in the NCI extramural research community, to the extent permitted by law. NCI seeks comments that address, but are not limited to, any of the following topics:
Lack of diversity in the extramural scientific workforce
• Identify strategies to address the lack of diversity in the research workforce
• Identify strategies to increase the hiring and retention of URM faculty
• Identify strategies to promote the transition from postdoc/early stage investigators (ESIs) to faculty level for URM
• Identify strategies to increase training for URM scientists
Disparities in NCI research funding
• Identify and address potential conscious and unconscious bias in the NIH peer review process
• Identify strategies to diversify NIH peer review panels, including by increasing URM representation
• Identify ways to reduce disparities in funding of ESIs and URM mid-career investigators
• Identify ways to increase R-type awards for institutions with a historical record of serving underserved populations or underrepresented students
• Identify technical assistance approaches to enhance R01 competitiveness
Challenges faced by URMs in the research workforce
• Identify innovative strategies to address the lack of extramural research mentoring opportunities for URMs
• Identify approaches to encourage senior leadership, e.g. Chairs and Deans, to support URM scientists
• Identify approaches to enhance the process, opportunities and pathways for promotions to leadership and senior positions
• Identify strategies to provide protected time for URM scientists to enable them to conduct research and write R01 grants
• Identify strategies for effective mentoring of URM scientists on grant writing, leadership, study section processes
• Identify approaches to help early-career scientists from URMs interested in scientific entrepreneurship (e.g., Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program participation)
Comments and recommendations on any additional issues relevant to this RFI that are not specifically mentioned above are also encouraged.
This RFI is specific to NCI. Therefore, we encourage responses to this RFI even if another response was submitted to an RFI on similar topics including the RFI through the NIH UNITE Initiative (NOT-OD-21-066).
How to Submit a Response
Responses will be accepted through July 15, 2021. Please limit your response to two pages or less. Responses must be e-mailed to NCI.RFI.DiversityandInclusionWorkforce@nih.gov. Please include NCI Diversity and Inclusion RFI and the Notice Number (NOT-CA-21-067) in the subject line. Responders are free to address any or all the categories listed above. The submitted information will be reviewed by NCI staff.
Responses are entirely voluntary and can be anonymous. If willing, you may indicate the environment to which your perspective pertains (e.g., academia institutions, extramural, intramural researchers, industry, and the public). No proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should be included in your response. Any identifiers (e.g., names, institutions, e-mail addresses, etc.) will be removed when responses are compiled. Only the processed, anonymized results will be shared internally with NIH staff members and any member of scientific working groups convened by the NCI, as appropriate.
NCI must consider many variables when planning and implementing its programs, including applicable legal restrictions, policies, the availability of appropriations, and agency priorities. This request is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation, a promise to implement any of the submissions, or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government. The NCI/NIH does not intend to make any awards based on responses to this RFI or to otherwise pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government's use of such information.
The NCI will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder's submission. The information provided will be analyzed and may be aggregated in presentations and reports. The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in any resultant solicitation(s).
National Cancer Institute (NCI)