HRA Regional Meeting: Metro DC [October 16, 2018]

The theme of the October 2018 Regional Members Meeting (hosted by HHMI) was Diversity and Inclusion.  After an active networking breakfast, Dr, Hannah Valantine, NIH’s first Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, kicked off the meeting.  Dr. Valantine presented compelling data as to why diversity matters.  For instance, her data showed that papers written by a diverse group received more citations and published in journals with higher impact factors, demonstrating that diversity improves the quality of science.

Dr. Valantine described NIH’s various efforts such as the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative, the National Research Mentoring Network, and the Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC).  The CEC implements the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC)’s vision and design of activities and evaluates the training and mentoring interventions that BUILD and NRMN awardees implement.  She also introduced us to a valuable tool – the NIH Scientific Workforce Diversity Toolkit.  This toolkit addresses the 4 “Keys to Scientific Workforce Diversity” articulated in a paper by Valantine and Collins (PNAS 2015: Oct 6;112:12240-2).  These 4 keys are (1) diversify the talent pool, (2) unbiased talent searches, (3) outreach and networking, and (4) mentoring relationships.  Her presentation went into detail on how NIH is implementing strategies to address these 4 very critical areas including actionable items for HRA members.

  • Judy Gaven then described HHMI’s Hanna H. Gray Fellows program. This program supports Early Career Scientists for 4 years as a postdoc and 4 more years as a faculty member.
  • Michelle Jones-London introduced the audience to OPEN, NIH’s Office of Program to Enhance Neuroscience Workforce Diversity, and the myriad of NINDS OPEN Pathways that support individuals and institutions from the predoc stage through new faculty. She highlighted 2 specific awards: the Blueprint DSPAN award (an F99/K00 for 3rd or 4th year PhD students) and the Diversity BRAIN Initiative award (K99/R00) which is an advanced postdoctoral career transition award to promote diversity.
  • Patricia Frustace rounded out the program by presenting the American Society of Hematology’s evolving efforts toward increasing diversity and inclusion. She walked us through establishing the Minority Recruitment Initiative designed to both recruit medical and graduate students to hematology research and retain academicians via the postdoc fellow awards. She detailed lessons learned as they evaluated the programs and made changes to increase success.