Launch: Inclusive Grantmaking Initiative

Health Research Alliance Launching Ambitious Inclusive Grantmaking Initiative

DEI action plan impacts more than $1 billion a year in funding

JUNE 2, 2022–The Health Research Alliance (HRA), a consortium of more than 100 nonprofit funders which collectively award more than $1 billion annually, is announcing the launch of an Inclusive Grantmaking Initiative aimed at increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the biomedical workforce and fostering equitable research that accelerates scientific discovery while decreasing health disparities.

Through this new initiative, HRA is inviting biomedical research funders to join together to develop and implement inclusive grantmaking strategies that can be used consistently across all funding organizations. The strategies will be observed, measured, and continually improved. The implementation of the tested strategies will enhance and expand the effectiveness of HRA’s member organizations’ existing efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within their staff, boards, review panels, portfolios, scientific workforce, and the healthcare system.

As a recently published HRA and HRA member-authored commentary in the Nature Medicine journal notes, the goals of this new initiative are to both amplify HRA members’ efforts to measurably advance DEI in their grant programs and to debunk the idea that these types of initiatives put scientific excellence at risk.

“HRA and our member organizations are dedicated to the mission of maximizing the impact of biomedical research to improve human health. HRA members’ commitment to inclusive grantmaking will not only advance discovery but will also lead the way in diversifying the biomedical research ecosystem, and maximizing the impact of research funding,” said Maryrose Franko, PhD, Executive Director of HRA. “These are significant changes that will make a major impact on the work of HRA members and their grantees and, we believe, the entire field in the months and years to come.”

The Nature Medicine commentary outlines three overarching strategies for advancing equity and putting inclusive grantmaking into effect:

  • Collecting demographic data, which allows funders to evaluate diversity within their programs and track the effectiveness of any strategies implemented to increase equity and inclusion across the grants cycle;
  • Increasing the diversity of applicant pools, including by broadening the distribution of funding announcements to include direct outreach to underrepresented groups; and
  • Reducing bias in peer review by publications and grantmaking organizations, starting with collecting and analyzing demographic data of applicants and awardees to determine whether any populations are underfunded.

“We are proud to stand with HRA and our fellow HRA members in forging a solid foundation to ensure that inclusive grantmaking becomes the accepted standard for our field,” said Mariell Jessup, MD, Chief Science and Medicine Officer at the American Heart Association. “We urge all funders of biomedical research to join in this important initiative.”

“Inclusive grantmaking is a priority of the HRA,” said Sindy Escobar Alvarez, Chair of HRA’s Board of Directors and Medical Research Program Director at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “This initiative will provide a structure for member organizations to collaborate, learn, and disseminate lessons, which has the potential to impact thousands of researchers in biomedicine and, more broadly, to improve peer review.”

HRA and its member organizations understand the importance of regularly evaluating the DEI initiatives they implement to determine whether their outcomes match the goals. The Nature Medicine commentary notes that it is incumbent on funders to “share their successes as well as failures in order to learn from one another so that a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive biomedical workforce is rapidly achieved.”

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About the Health Research Alliance
Incorporated in 2005, the Health Research Alliance (HRA) is a collaborative membership organization of over 100 nonprofit nongovernmental funders of biomedical research. HRA members have a shared interest in maximizing the impact of biomedical research to improve human health. To date, HRA members have invested well over $21 billion in biomedical research and training.

Arlyn Riskind
[email protected]