Building a Diverse Scientific Workforce: Collaboration for a Competitive and Healthy Nation, a Congressional briefing co-sponsored by Research!America and organized by Collaborative for Enhancing Diversity in Science, took place yesterday. The event was very well attended with more than 100 people in the room.
Dr. Raynard Kington spoke about the NIH’s efforts to increase the diversity among grant recipients. He said that despite 30 years of work, the diversity is not increasing, so the agency and institutions need to be more creative about solutions. When looking at 2008 grant recipients, 1.7% are African American, 3.5% are Hispanic and 17% are part of other minority groups (primarily Asian).
Given that the make-up of the U.S. population is changing rapidly, NIH is examining models of the scientific workforce and educational milestones to determine when and where programs need to focus on retaining minorities in science. He said we should be prepared for uncomfortable evidence and ready to discuss it openly.
Wanda Ward of NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate spoke about their 60 programs to broaden participation in STEM by women, minorities and people with disabilities. She said NSF is looking across the agency to see how they can make an even more robust commitment to these programs. She emphasized that we need to think about this as essential to intellectual capacity building in the U.S. by making sure that all Americans are engaged in science and research.
Finally, Art Coleman of EducationCounsel LLC gave the legal perspective about programs to enhance diversity in the sciences. His primary message was that facts rather than ideology need to drive the decisions, because the evidence shows that diversity in educational settings and in the workforce advances thinking and ultimately makes us more competitive.
–Emily Connelly, director of science policy at Research!America