March 1, 2021
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
This Notice is a Request for Information (RFI) inviting feedback on the approaches NIH can take to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion within all facets of the biomedical research workforce, and expand research to eliminate or lessen health disparities and inequities.
Review of this entire RFI notice is encouraged to ensure a comprehensive response is prepared and to have a full understanding of how your response will be utilized.
The ability of NIH to remain at the forefront of biomedical research and to ensure that scientific discoveries truly benefit all depends upon diverse skill sets, viewpoints, and backgrounds. Events of the past year sparked a national discourse around social justice and systemic racism, and have brought into focus ongoing inequities in biomedical research and healthcare – from training and recruitment to funding to the support and administrative functions, in addition to shaping the type of research supported. The notions of recruitment, training, and advancement equally apply to the support and administrative staff that sustain the research enterprise, without whom NIH could not achieve its mission. Further, COVID-19 has amplified existing systemic challenges regarding prevalence, diagnosis, and treatment of illness within historically marginalized and under-resourced communities, as the disease is disproportionally affecting under-resourced and vulnerable populations, particularly those from Black/African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latino populations. As a global leader in biomedical research, NIH carries a weighted responsibility to address the systemic challenges and barriers affecting the NIH workforce and NIH-supported biomedical community that hinder the progress necessary to support true health equity. Enhancing workforce diversity and equity across the biomedical enterprise are critical steps to achieving progress. NIH acknowledges the experiences of those affected by race-based discrimination and is committed to eliminating racial and ethnic inequities within our workplace, the NIH-supported external scientific workforce, and the NIH-funded research portfolio. NIH leadership established the UNITE initiative, a new effort that involves all 27 NIH Institutes and Centers and the Office of the Director, to promote and advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion. Ultimately, NIH strives to foster a biomedical research community and an NIH workplace that are free from hostility and discrimination grounded in race, sex, or other federally protected characteristics. In addition, NIH seeks to promote research to inform and address the breadth of health disparities/inequities, which continue to contribute to increasing morbidity and mortality. The current priorities of the UNITE effort are outlined below:
Request for Comments
To ensure that the broad perspective of the biomedical research community informs the development of and aligns with NIH’s future plans and approaches, this RFI invites stakeholders throughout the scientific research, advocacy, clinical practice, and non-scientific communities, including the general public, to comment. In particular, NIH is interested in comments from higher education administrators, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, biomedical faculty (especially early stage), scientific societies and advocacy organizations, community partners, academic institutions (especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other institutions that have shown a historical commitment to educating students from underrepresented groups), and racial equity organizations on strategies to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion within the scientific workforce and advance health disparities research.
Specifically, with this RFI, NIH seeks input on practical and effective ways to improve the racial and ethnic diversity and inclusivity of research environments and diversity of the biomedical research workforce across the United States, to the extent permitted by law. This RFI will assist NIH in identifying, developing, and implementing strategies that will allow the biomedical enterprise to benefit from a more diverse and inclusive research workforce and a more robust portfolio of research to better understand and address inequities in our existing system. While it will be important to understand further the fundamental and systemic barriers, the primary focus of this RFI is on the actions and solutions – through policy, procedure, or practice – NIH should consider in order to promote positive culture and structural change through effective interventions, leading to greater inclusiveness and diversity. Please also include potential metrics for evaluating success of the suggested actions or solutions, where possible. Input is requested on approaches and strategies that can be implemented in the short-term (e.g., within the next three to six months), as well as those that can be implemented within the next one to three years.
The NIH seeks comments on any or all of, but not limited to, the following topics:
All Aspects of the Biomedical Workforce
Policies and Partnerships
NIH encourages organizations (e.g., patient advocacy groups, professional organizations) to submit a single response reflective of the views of the organization or membership as a whole.
How to Submit a Response
All comments must be submitted electronically on the submission website.
Responses must be received by 11:59:59 pm (ET) on April 23, 2021.
Responses to this RFI are voluntary and may be submitted anonymously. You may voluntarily include your name and contact information with your response. If you choose to provide NIH with this information, NIH will not share your name and contact information outside of NIH unless required by law.
Other than your name and contact information, please do not include any personally identifiable information or any information that you do not wish to make public. Proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should not be included in your response. The Government will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion. Other than your name and contact information, the Government reserves the right to use any submitted information on public websites, in reports, in summaries of the state of the science, in any possible resultant solicitation(s), grant(s), or cooperative agreement(s), or in the development of future funding opportunity announcements. This RFI is for informational and planning purposes only and is not a solicitation for applications or an obligation on the part of the Government to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. Please note that the Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for use of that information.
We look forward to your input and hope that you will share this RFI opportunity with your colleagues.
Please direct all inquiries to: UNITEInitiative@nih.gov