April 29, 2022
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH (NIH)
This Notice is a Request for Information (RFI) inviting comments and guidance to be considered during the development of a prize competition to recognize institutions of higher education that have implemented innovative and successful programs or interventions for enhancing faculty and student diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
The Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity team (hereafter COSWD) is located within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and is part of the NIH Office of the Director. The COSWD reports directly to the NIH Director. The COSWD’s central organizational position aligns with its NIH-wide mission to be the agency’s thought leader in the science of scientific workforce diversity by using evidence-based approaches to catalyze cultures of inclusive excellence. As these cultures of inclusive excellence mature, the COSWD ultimately aims to enable NIH and NIH-funded institutions to benefit from a full range of talent, fostering creativity and innovation in science.
An extensive body of research supports the concept that scientific workforce diversity is essential to accomplish the NIH’s mission of discovery and innovation to improve human health (Nielsen et al., 2017; Valantine and Collins, 2015; Smith-Doerr et al., 2017; Freeman and Huang, 2015; Haynes et al., 2020; Kozlowski et al., 2022). The longstanding NIH investment in research training to enhance workforce diversity at the early stages of the training pathway has contributed to building a diverse pool of highly-qualified biomedical, behavioral, and social science doctoral recipients. While there has been a notable increase in the number of scientists from underrepresented groups (URG, including women) who have earned doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM), their representation remains less than equitable (National Science Foundation, 2021). Furthermore, the problem is increasingly more pronounced at the postdoctoral training through independent faculty stages where increasing evidence demonstrates significant attrition of these talented scientists from the NIH-funded research workforce (Gibbs et al., 2016). Starkly, extrapolation of current trends suggests that without new and effective strategies, it will take nearly 50 years for women to reach parity among full professors (Valantine et al., 2014; National Science Foundation, 2019) and centuries for underrepresented racial/ethnic groups to reach parity among medical school faculty with the current recruitment pool (U.S. Medical School Faculty Trends: Percentages). This representation gap is primarily driven by institutional cultures lacking necessary elements of inclusion and equity and sending the message to specific groups that they do not belong in science (Price EG et al., 2009; Pololi LH et al., 2013).
To address this critical situation, NIH has initiated a multi-pronged effort to enhance its work to diversify the biomedical research workforce by expanding its extramural investment in workforce diversity. As previous approaches that focus on individuals have only slowly “moved the needle,” targeting systemic change through institutional transformation is necessary. NIH institutes and centers remain committed to increasing and sustaining the diversity of the biomedical research workforce through a focus on institutional culture change. The UNITE Initiative, publicly unveiled in February 2021 and established to identify and address structural racism within the NIH-supported and the greater scientific community, has been leading these efforts. One of the foci of UNITE is the extramural research ecosystem: changing policy, culture, and structure to promote workforce diversity. In keeping with this focus, on behalf of UNITE the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD) office, is leading the collaborative development and implementation of a prize competition to reward and promote inclusive excellence at academic institutions.
As per a recommendation from UNITE, NIH is considering a prize competition to reward and promote inclusive excellence. Prize competitions are a tool for incentivizing the achievement of scientific and technological innovation by offering monetary or nonmonetary benefits (e.g., recognition) to competition participants. Inclusive excellence refers to scientific environments that can cultivate and benefit from a full range of scientific talent. This potential prize competition aims to acknowledge transformative cultures, systems, projects, and processes that institutions of higher education have developed to achieve inclusive excellence by creating research environments that promote and value a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. These elements are essential to ensure equity and the elimination of structural barriers to success among students and faculty in the research enterprise.
Another objective of this prize competition is to seek best practices for implementing institutional approaches that lead to successful transformative and enhanced culture change and advancement of students and faculty from underrepresented groups in biomedical and biobehavioral disciplines in institutions of higher education. This potential prize competition would seek to highlight practices that have resulted in measurable change and created a more inclusive environment for students and faculty.
The COSWD is considering conducting this prize competition using the statutory authority granted to federal agencies under Section 105 of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Reauthorization Act of 2010, P.L. 111-358, codified at 15 U.S.C. 3719 (the “America COMPETES Act”), as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, P.L. 114-329 (AICA).
Request for Comments
This RFI seeks input from stakeholders throughout the scientific research community; diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) experts, researchers, and the general public. Other interested members of the public are also invited to respond.
The COSWD seeks your perspective on any or all of, but not limited to, the following topics as they relate to the potential prize competition:
Structure of the prize competition
Dissemination of winning submissions
Reasons for and Potential Barriers in Applying
The COSWD asks that you please submit any other comments or recommendations for NIH to consider concerning DEIA programmatic efforts that are best practices to effect culture change.
How to Submit a Response
Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically to the NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity Office at: COSWDPrizeCompetition@nih.gov
Responses must be received by 11:59:59 pm (ET) on July 28, 2022.
Responses to this RFI are voluntary. 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.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.
NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity Office