Request for Information (RFI): Input into the Deliberations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce

Notice Number: NOT-OD-12-031

Key Dates
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Response Date: February 24, 2012

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)


This Notice is a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) requesting input into the deliberations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce.


The Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) has established a working group to examine diversity in the biomedical research workforce (see for charge and roster) and provide concrete recommendations to the ACD and the NIH Director on ways to enhance diversity throughout the various research career stages, particularly with regard to underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce has considered the evidence presented in Race, Ethnicity, and NIH Research Awards published in the August 2011 edition of Science and additional data provided by the NIH. This data shows that R01 applications from Black or African American PhD applicants between 2000 and 2006 did significantly worse than those applications from White applicants, even after controlling for observable characteristics. The article and a corresponding policy piece by NIH Director Francis Collins and NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak can be found at

The Working Group would like to gather input from various sources, including extramural and intramural researchers, academic institutions, industry, and the public, to help inform the development of recommendations to present to the ACD and the NIH Director on actions the NIH can take to increase the diversity of the biomedical research workforce.
In its initial deliberations, the working group identified the following issues as important to consider when developing recommendations:

  • Biomedical Research Workforce Pipeline
    • The appropriate transition points where NIH’s training, career development and research grant programs could most effectively cultivate diversity in the biomedical research workforce
      • Entry into graduate degree programs
      • Transition from graduate degree to post-doctoral fellowships
      • Appointment from a post-doctoral position to the first independent scientific position
      • Award of the first independent research grant from NIH or equivalent in industry
      • Award of tenure in an academic position, at the NIH, or the equivalent in an industrial setting
    • The role of mentorship in the training and success of biomedical researchers throughout their careers
      • Development of relationships between professional societies, institutions, and individuals to develop mentoring programs
      • Creation and expansion of institutional mentoring programs
      • Mentoring of applicants and preparation of applications prior to submission
    • The influence of role models whose qualities and characteristics can positively affect the training and success of underrepresented biomedical researchers through their careers
    • The role of NIH messaging in encouraging underrepresented researchers to apply for NIH fellowships and grants
    • The role of institutional infrastructure support and climate as a factor in the success of underrepresented researchers
  • Factors in the Review Process
    • The potential role of institutional affiliation, academic pedigree, and various conscious and unconscious factors on review outcomes
      • Exploration of the possible influences of racial, ethnic, gender, affinity, or other biases
      • Research on the NIH Peer Review system to determine appropriate methods or interventions to identify and if necessary redress bias, including efforts to anonymize applications or test the effects of unconscious bias training on outcomes.

Information Requested

To ensure a thorough and comprehensive evaluation of the issues underlying the diversity of the biomedical research workforce, input is being sought from the biomedical research community, including students, postdoctoral fellows, scientists, scientific societies, and NIH grantee institutions, as well as from the general public. Input is sought for each of the areas identified above and any other items the working group might consider.

  • For any of the areas identified above and any other specific areas you believe are worthy of consideration by the working group, please identify the critical issues(s) and impact(s) on institutions, scientists, or both.
  • Please identify and explain which of the issues you identified are, in your opinion, the most important for the working group to address and why
  • Please comment on any specific ways you believe these or other issues would or should affect NIH policies or processes.

Response to this RFI is voluntary. Responders are free to address any or all of the above items.

Please note that the Government will not pay for response preparation or for the use of any information contained in the response. All responses will be available, including name of the responder. In addition, NIH will prepare and make available a summary of all input received which is responsive to this RFI.

How to Submit a Response

All comments must be submitted electronically to Responses to this RFI will be accepted through February 24, 2012. You will see an electronic confirmation acknowledging receipt of your response, but will not receive individualized feedback on any suggestions. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government’s use of such information.


Specific questions about this RFI should be directed to the following e-mail address: