Updated Guidelines for Enhancing Diversity and Creating Safe Environments in Conferences Supported by NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements
Notice Number:
NOT-OD-21-053

Key Dates

Release Date:

January 22, 2021

Related Announcements

PA-21-151 - NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (Parent R13 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

NOT-OD-21-055 - Notice of Changes in the Review Criteria for Applications Submitted for NIH Support for Scientific Conferences (R13 and U13)

NOT-OD-03-066 - Guidelines for Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in NIH-Supported Conference Grants (Rescinded)

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

NOT-OD-15-152 - Civil Rights Protections in NIH-Supported Research, Programs, Conferences and Other Activities

Issued by

Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)

Purpose

PURPOSE

This Notice provides updated guidance on enhancing the diversity of conferences supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (under the R13 and U13 activity codes) and replaces previous guidance in NOT-OD-03-066 Guidelines For Inclusion Of Women, Minorities, And Persons With Disabilities In NIH-Supported Conference Grants. It also reiterates the expectation that organizers of NIH-supported conferences maintain inclusive, safe, and respectful environments for all attendees and provides examples of strategies to accomplish this expectation.

POLICY

Diversity

NIH encourages conference grant applicants to enhance diversity by increasing the participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups, in the planning, implementation, and participation in the proposed conference. Underrepresented groups include individuals from nationally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and women (see NIH Notice of Interest in Diversity, NOT-OD-20-031, for additional details).

Conference grant applicants (R13/U13) must include plans to enhance diversity during the selection of organizing committees, speakers, other invited participants, such as session chairs and panel discussants, and attendees. Plans to enhance diversity will be assessed during the scientific and technical merit review of the application. Though the proposed plans will not be scored individually, they will be considered in the overall impact score.

Conference grant awardees will be required to report on the effectiveness of plans to enhance diversity of underrepresented groups in annual Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPR) and the Final-RPPR.

Safe and Inclusive Environments

As stated in NOT-OD-15-152, Civil Rights Protections in NIH-Supported Research, Programs, Conferences and Other Activities, consistent with existing federal civil rights laws, it is expected that organizers of NIH-supported conferences and scientific meetings take steps to maintain a safe and respectful environment for all attendees by providing an environment free from discrimination and harassment, sexual or otherwise. It is expected that organizers of NIH-supported conferences employ strategies that seek to prevent or mitigate the effects of discrimination and harassment, sexual and otherwise.Below are examples of strategies, which are not inclusive of all strategies, that could be employed to support a safe environment (conference organizers should consider additional strategies as appropriate):

  • Establishing a conference code of conduct with clearly stated expectations of behavior, systems of reporting, and procedures for addressing inappropriate behavior. The code of conduct and reporting mechanisms should be clear and accessible to all meeting attendees.
  • Providing resources to support individuals who report incidents of harassment, including:
    • personnel trained in advocacy and counseling
    • referrals to legal or health care resources
    • procedures for ensuring the safety of all conference attendees, up to and including removing a perpetrator from the conference
  • Conducting conference climate surveys specifically related to sexual harassment and professional misconduct

Additionally, all NIH sponsored and/or supported conferences must be held at accessible sites, as outlined by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and, as applicable, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Conference registration websites and registration materials should provide a questionnaire that will allow participants with disabilities to voluntarily identify any special needs, so that conference organizers can make plans to accommodate these needs.

BACKGROUND

NIH provides support for scientific meetings, conferences, and workshops (hereafter “conferences”) that are relevant to its scientific mission and to public health, typically under the R13 and U13 activity codes. The NIH recognizes that the value of conferences is enhanced when persons from diverse backgrounds and perspectives are included in all aspects of conference/meeting planning and when attendees are assured of a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment free from discrimination, harassment, and other barriers that might prevent or inhibit one’s participation.

Per NOT-OD-20-031 Notice of NIH's Interest in Diversity, NIH’s ability to ensure that the nation remains a global leader in scientific discovery and innovation is dependent upon a pool of highly talented scientists from diverse backgrounds who will help to further the NIH’s mission. Supporting a diverse scientific workforce fosters creativity and innovation, helps to ensure that different perspectives are considered when addressing complex scientific problems, and ultimately improves the quality of research. Additionally, section 402(h) of the Public Health Service Act, 42 U.S.C. 282(h), directs NIH to provide for an increase in the number of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds in fields of biomedical and behavioral research.

NIH is also committed to changing the culture of science to end sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in NIH-funded activities. Harassment, in any form, is detrimental and presents obstacles that hinder an individual’s ability to fully participate in science. Only in safe, respectful, and inclusive environments can individuals achieve their fullest potential and support the mission of the NIH.

Civil Rights Enforcement
The Civil Rights Division (CRD) in the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) promotes and ensures equal access to, and the opportunity to participate in programs funded by HHS. CRD carries out this mission by enforcing Federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age and sex in programs and activities that receive financial assistance from HHS. OCR ensures compliance by investigating complaints, conducting compliance reviews, providing technical assistance, and conducting outreach nationwide. For more information, see OCR and civil rights enforcement.

Individuals with questions, concerns or complaints related to any of the civil rights laws are encouraged to contact OCR. OCR has regional offices which enforce the regulations in designated states and territories. The addresses and telephone numbers of the OCR regional offices can be found on the OCR contacts webpage.

Inquiries

Please direct all policy-related inquiries to:

Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration (OPERA)

Division of Grants Policy

GrantsPolicy@OD.NIH.GOV

Please direct all program-related inquiries to:

The appropriate contact listed under the R13/U13 Contacts and Special Interest website or to the R13 mailbox:R131@mail.nih.gov.


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