Request for Information (RFI): Advancing Scientific and Workforce Diversity in the BRAIN Initiative
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

May 29, 2020

Response Date:
August 31, 2020

Related Announcements

NOT-OD-20-031 - Notice of NIH's Interest in Diversity

NOT-MH-20-071 - Notice to Extend the Response Date for NOT-MH-20-051

Issued by

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


This Request for Information (RFI) seeks input on how NIH might enhance scientific and workforce diversity within the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

The principal objective of this RFI is to seek input on how the BRAIN Initiative can broaden participation to create greater research team heterogeneity through the inclusion of talented scientists from diverse backgrounds. In general, the NIH seeks to enhance participation of women and individuals from groups traditionally underrepresented in the biomedical workforce (NOT-OD-20-031). In addition to gender and the categories identified in NOT-OD-20-031, the NIH BRAIN Initiative seeks input on ways to support teams that include researchers with varied professional and educational backgrounds and at different career stages, as well as those from different institution types (e.g., research-intensive, undergraduate-focused, minority-serving etc.), and encouraging greater geographic and regional heterogeneity.


Research shows that diverse teams working together and capitalizing on innovative ideas and distinct perspectives outperform homogeneous teams. Scientists and trainees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences bring different perspectives, creativity, and individual enterprise to address complex scientific problems. There are many benefits that flow from a diverse NIH-supported scientific workforce, including: fostering scientific innovation, enhancing global competitiveness, contributing to robust learning environments, improving the quality of the researchers, advancing the likelihood that underserved or health disparity populations participate in, and benefit from research, and enhancing public trust.

The importance of scientific and workforce diversity was recently emphasized in a report from the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD), with the assistance of the ACD’s BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0. The committee’s report, The BRAIN Initiative 2.0: From Cells to Circuits, Toward Cures, was accepted by the ACD in October 2019 and its recommendations to NIH will help guide implementation of the BRAIN Initiative. The report recommends that the BRAIN Initiative continue to recognize that enhancing diversity of the research workforce is a scientific imperative. It should continue to recruit and support students, postdocs, and investigators from diverse backgrounds in NIH BRAIN Initiative-funded projects. These include individuals from groups underrepresented in health-related research.

As part of an effort to address diversity representation, the NIH BRAIN Initiative is seeking input from the scientific community about factors that may contribute to the lack of heterogeneity in research teams. The NIH BRAIN Initiative also seeks information related to the approach that researchers and institutions are using to advance scientific workforce diversity and inclusion.

Information Requested

The BRAIN Initiative is eager to be on the leading edge of efforts to enhance scientific and workforce diversity and recognizes the importance of considering various approaches and potential barriers associated with such efforts. Specifically, the BRAIN Initiative seeks input from BRAIN awardees and the broader scientific community on factors that may limit or discourage participation from certain groups or institutions. In addition, information about novel or existing practices that might be employed to promote inclusion in BRAIN Initiative Programs is welcome.

Stakeholder feedback is requested on any or all, but not limited to, the following topics:

    • Developing or enhancing partnerships and collaborations among investigators from research-intensive institutions and institutions that focus on underserved or underrepresented populations, but have limited research resources
    • Creating effective outreach and recruitment opportunities to research institutions that have not historically competed for BRAIN funding
    • Furthering practices that promote diverse applicant pools and research teams for the BRAIN Initiative (e.g., women, individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, geographic location, various career stages and academic levels etc.)
    • Strategies to enhance BRAIN Initiative workforce diversity and inclusion
    • Understanding challenges or potential concerns that may arise as a result of implementing novel practices that promote inclusion
    • Developing metrics and evaluation strategies to examine the outcomes of increased diversity efforts

Submitting a Response

All comments must be submitted via email and/or as an attached electronic document. Please address your response to: by August 31, 2020 . Include the Notice number in the subject line. Response to this RFI is voluntary. Responders are free to address any or all the categories listed above and/or to provide feedback on any relevant issues. The submitted information will be reviewed by NIH staff.

This request is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government. The 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 NIH will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder's submission. However, responses to the RFI may be reflected in future funding opportunity announcements. The information provided will be analyzed and may be aggregated in presentations and reports. Respondents are advised that the Government is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted. No proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should be included in your response. The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in any resultant solicitation(s).


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