NIH All About Grants Podcast: Diversity Plans for Conference Applications
>> From the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, this is "All About Grants".
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>> Kosub: Hello and welcome to another edition of NIH's "All About Grants" podcast. I'm your host, David Kosub, with the NIH's Office of Extramural Research, and today we're going to be talking about how NIH is encouraging diversity within the conferences that we support, and we have with us Dr. Paula Goodwin, she is a Program Administration Officer with the NIH's Office of Extramural Research and she will be telling us everything we need to know about this topic. Paula, thanks for being with us.
>> Goodwin: Thank you, David. Happy to be here.
>> Kosub: Great. So let's jump right in. Can you tell us, like, what are the diversity plans and what might be different about them now?
>> Goodwin: Yes. So with our previous funding opportunity, Funding Opportunity Announcement for NIH Supported Conference Grants, we asked applicants to submit plans for achieving appropriate representation, so that was an effort to look at the field or the discipline and to make sure that you had appropriate representation in terms of women and other groups participating in the conference. So the diversity plans are replacing those plans for appropriate representation. The diversity plan is going to allow applicants to really focus on strategies to increase overall diversity in all aspects of the conference including selection of the organizing committee, the panelists, composition of the audience, so whereas appropriate representation, it was more about making sure that you had representation and maintaining, you know, the status quo, that enhancing diversity, really want organizers to think about going beyond what already exists. So in these plans, you're giving the opportunity to consider the conference that you have in the geographical area that the conference is going to be held in. You're going to look at all aspects of the conference, you know, not just the composition of the audience, but all aspects of the conference, and you're going to be able to propose strategies and plans that will be effective in enhancing the participation of people from diverse backgrounds including those who are traditionally underrepresented in the science.
>> Kosub: And where would someone find the diversity plan and the application, or where would it be put?
>> Goodwin: So with the new instruction, diversity plans will be included as a separate attachment. So we ask applicants to include a separate attachment, more than one page, where they're able to, you know, consider the geographic area that the conference is going to be held, you know, the size of the audience, and other factors and really explain to us specifically those plans to enhance diversity and aspects of the conference. It is also in that one‑page plan where you have the opportunity if you've been successful, you've employed strategies before that have been successful in enhancing diversity where you can speak to that issue also, so they will be a separate attachment and they are called diversity plan dot pdf, and it's required in all applications for R13, U13s, beginning with the April 12th application due date.
>> Kosub: Yeah, great, so you just touched on some of this, but what other tips would you give to someone to strengthen their application? Like what else should be in there?
>> Goodwin: To strengthen the application in terms of the diversity planning, you really want to think about the conference. We really want it to be a conscious thought, you know, what are the conference ‑‑ you know, what groups ‑‑ if you look at the overall participation the composition of the audience, you know, how could you make it more diverse or make sure that there's inclusion of people from people of diverse backgrounds. So tips would be to, you know, really think about the discipline, you know, the topic that you're addressing, where you are holding the conference. You know, who has been underrepresented ‑‑ underrepresented in these conferences? And really think about that when devising strategies to think about, you know, how you're going to make it more diverse and make sure that you're hearing diverse perspectives within that conference.
>> Kosub: Well, on a nuts and bolts issue, how am I to actually go about getting more diversity in the individuals that participate in these conferences that NIH is funding?
>> Goodwin: The advice I would give is that just as you build a scientific team when you, you know, perhaps need statistical expertise or someone to bring a specific expertise to the table, that you also think about, you know, when you're building your team for the conference, that you consider bringing on investigators who have experiences in enhancing diversity. In fact, with the reissued FOA, we're asking that applicants now describe key personnel's experiences enhancing diversity within the bio sketch. So this is going to be taken into consideration when reviewers are investigating or affecting investigators. So a key step in how you go about enhancing diversity is to bring people on board who have those experiences and who can lend that expertise to you as you build your conference and propose a plan for your conference.
>> Kosub: Great. And you touched on the reviewers. How are they going to be assessing if the diversity plan is acceptable or not?
>> Goodwin: Just as you're looking at different strategies and the success of those strategies and you're factoring in, you know, where the conference is going to be held, the proposed topics of the conference, the size and composition of the conference, they're going to be looking at all those factors to assess whether or not, you know, what you propose to NIH as a way to enhance diversity, if that's actually acceptable, so when you're sitting down and you're thinking about those various strategies and those other facts that will affect, you know, who or how you go about enhancing the diversity, the reviewers will also be looking at that and determining, again, whether it's acceptable or unacceptable ‑‑ you know, where you enhance diversity within the conference, how many aspects, but certainly looking at the factors that you consider when you're deciding how and when you're going to enhance diversity.
>> Kosub: Great. And after an award is actually made, how do recipients, like, report on their progress to let us know that what they did was effective or not?
>> Goodwin: Yes. Great question. So as part of the changes to the reissued FOA, we do have the diversity plan, which will be a separate attachment, and where you describe sort of the plans to enhance diversity. So we also ask when you're describing those plans, that you're thinking about how do you assess the effectiveness of those plans? And that's important because, for award recipients of NIH conference grants, they will be required now to report on their annual progress report the effectiveness of its plans. So as you're setting it up, how do you measure that it's been successful, that you've achieved what it was that you intended to achieve in regards to diversity? So when you're reporting to us, you're going to report on that. So how did you achieve it? Did you meet the goals that you had planned? Was it successful? Was it not successful? You know, perhaps why wasn't it, or your speculation as to why it wasn't. But we really want people not just to provide a plan, but really to think about long‑term like how you're going to assess the plans, and, you know, certainly if you were to apply for another application, you know, that would factor in how you create your plan.
>> Kosub: Wonderful. So now we can have the opportunity to kind of get some closing thoughts. What might you like to leave with our audience about the topic on enhancing diversity in supported conferences?
>> Goodwin: Right. So as you're well aware, NIH has an interest in diversity. We know, as I said before, that science is enhanced and strengthened when we have people with different life experiences and backgrounds that can lead to different perspectives. It's very beneficial when we're addressing sort of these complex scientific problems. So by not focusing on diversity, we miss out on pools of highly‑talented scientists and individuals who can help NIH to fulfill its mission and to ultimately improve the public's health. So we know that there are certain groups that are underrepresented in biomedical sciences including women, certain racial ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. So what we're hoping to be a part ‑‑ and with the conference grants is that we're hoping to focus applicants and recipients on enhancing diversity, and we're hoping that these changes that we've made through the NIH funded conference grants are part of a larger effort to diversify the biomedical workforce. So it's just a start. You know, it's with NIH Conference Grants, but certainly the larger issue is overall to enhance diversity in the biomedical workforce, so we hope that this is a step in the right direction in doing that.
>> Kosub: Great. Great. Thanks, Paula. Greatly appreciate this opportunity to hear more about R13 and U13‑funded conferences and how NIH plans to enhance diversity within them. For those interested please definitely check out the R13, U13 grants page, it has a lot of wealth of information from various resources, funding opportunities, information about review and so much more. This has been David Kosub with NIH's "All About Grants". Thank you.
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