Inclusive Grantmaking Initiative


The Health Research Alliance (HRA) has long been committed to increasing the diversity of the scientific workforce and decreasing health disparities. A lack of diversity adversely impacts researchers’ promotion rates, grant funding attainment, mentorship opportunities, and representation in leadership positions. In addition, troubling health disparities result from socioeconomic inequity, bias, and structural racism. Striving for a more diverse healthcare workforce not only improves patient care outcomes, but also allows organizations to be more productive, creative, and innovative.

In an effort to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) among HRA members and across the wider biomedical research funding community, we have developed a number of learning communities. For example, within our Grants Administration Learning Community we are exploring strategies to decrease bias in peer review. Within our Open Science Learning Community, we are investigating how best to comply with open science requirements in ways that don’t compound inequities.

To bring these many diverse yet synergistic endeavors together, we have created a singular effort: the HRA “Inclusive Grantmaking Initiative” (IGI). Through the IGI, we are working across all of our learning communities and with the wider biomedical research funding community to learn, share, and implement successful strategies to eliminate racism, discrimination, and bias not only in research but across the broad healthcare ecosystem.

HRA Member Survey—Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion:

HRA surveyed its member organizations in April 2021 about DEI policies and practices within their organizations, in order to provide learning opportunities, develop resources, and identify tools to amplify members’ efforts to advance DEI in grant programs and processes. The survey explored three specific areas:

Demographic Data

Member organizations were asked if they engage in demographic data collection of their applicants or other stakeholder groups, and if so, which groups of applicants/stakeholders. Specifically, members were asked: what demographic data they collect (categories and subcategories); for whom; the period of time of the data collection; and what reference schemes are utilized to determine the demographic category options for collection. In addition, members were asked what groups are included in the organization’s working definition of an underrepresented minority, how collected data is used, and if formal data-use policies exist and are reviewed by legal counsel.

View PDF Report here.

Diversity Strategies

To increase diversity, HRA member organizations were asked about their motivation to make changes in their grant selection processes and any gaps they have identified. Survey questions sought specific details regarding DEI programs currently in place; strategies being used to increase diversity in grant applicant and awardee pools; evidence of success; and whether feedback has been received on behalf of any strategies. Additional questions related to international applicant participation and encouraging continued participation or resubmission in grant competitions.

View PDF Report here.

Peer Review

HRA member organizations were asked to describe any strategies in place to reduce bias in peer review, and whether demographic data is shared with reviewers. Specifically, members were asked if they assess quality of reviews, and/or if they conduct any form of blinded peer review; if they have any strategies for diversifying governance, advisory, or other external leadership roles; and if they have any strategies to support or increase visibility for awardees from underrepresented minorities.

View PDF Report here.

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