What Can We Do to Combat Anti-Black Racism in the Biomedical Research Enterprise?

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The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, in addition to the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on African Americans, are wrenching reminders of the many harms that societal racism, inequality, and injustice inflict on the Black community. These injustices are rooted in centuries of oppression—including slavery and Jim Crow, redlining, school segregation, and mass incarceration—that continue to influence American life, including the biomedical research enterprise. Despite leading an NIH Institute whose mission includes building a diverse scientific workforce, at NIGMS we’ve struggled with what an adequate response to this moment would be, knowing that the systems that mediate the distinct and disparate burdens Black students, postdocs, and scientists face are complex and often aren’t easily moved with the urgency that they demand. With that in mind, below we share thoughts on what each of us who is in the majority or in a position of power can do to help break the cycles of racial disparities that are woven into the fabric of the biomedical research enterprise and that limit opportunities Link to external web site for Black scientists Link to external web site.

Institutional structures, policies, and cultures Link to external web site, including those in the biomedical research enterprise, all contribute to racial inequality and injustice. This fact was laid bare for us by the responses to the request for information (RFI) we issued in 2018 on strategies to enhance successful postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity. Respondents cited bias and discrimination—including racism—most frequently as a key barrier to postdoctoral researchers attaining independent faculty positions.

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Seeking Feedback on Our New Strategic Plan

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UPDATE: The deadline for responding to the request for information has been extended to July 31.

As I described in my last post, we recently released a progress and outcomes report [PDF] highlighting the work we’ve done to meet the goals and objectives of the NIGMS 2015-2020 strategic plan [PDF].

We’re now beginning development of a new strategic plan that will describe NIGMS’ overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics in support of the Institute’s mission over the next 5 years.

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Funding Opportunity: NIGMS Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants

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We’re pleased to announce that the NIGMS Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Predoctoral Institutional Research Training Grant (T32) for the basic biomedical sciences has been reissued (PAR-20-213). This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) continues our efforts to ensure biomedical graduate research training keeps pace with the rapidly evolving biomedical research enterprise. The goal of the T32 program is to develop a diverse pool of scientists with the technical, operational, and professional skills needed to advance their chosen fields and transition into productive careers in the biomedical research workforce.

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Reflecting on Our Strategic Priorities

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In my first post as NIGMS director in 2013, I discussed the need to develop a new strategic plan to guide our efforts and to ensure that we invest taxpayer money as efficiently and effectively as possible. Our current strategic plan emerged as a product of collaboration between all functional units of our Institute, with valuable input from external stakeholders, and it’s been used to guide management decisions at NIGMS for the last 5 years.

Since publication of this strategic plan in 2015, the Institute has undertaken programmatic and organizational changes to better achieve the goals set forth in the plan. I therefore wanted to reflect on these activities as we consider our priorities for the next 5 years.

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Policy on Late Submissions of NIGMS Applications Due in May 2020

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Because many people in the research community are facing considerable challenges trying to juggle various responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak, NIGMS will accommodate late application submissions for due dates in May 2020 for all NIGMS-specific FOAs (see NOT-GM-20-029). For applications submitted through June 30, 2020, institutions do not need to request advance permission or provide a cover letter to justify a late submission to these FOAs. Applications with due dates prior to May 25 should use FORMS E and those with due dates on or after May 25 should use FORMS F, regardless of the date of submission.

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NIH Global Recruitment for Health Scientist Administrators

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UPDATE: The job links have been posted on the NIGMS Job Vacancies page.

On May 18, NIH will open a global recruitment for Health Scientist Administrators. A global recruitment is a way NIH hires for common positions by creating a single announcement in USAJobs.gov Link to external web site, which can be used by any institute or center with an approved vacancy. Applying to a global recruitment means that, with a single announcement, hiring officials throughout NIH will have access to your application.

While we do not have an approved vacancy now, we may have vacancies in the future. If you have a broad knowledge of the biophysical sciences, chemistry, biochemistry, molecular, cellular and structural biology, experimental and computational approaches, and experience working with relevant scientific communities, organizations, and institutions, we encourage you to apply to the global announcement. If your application is determined to be qualified for the recruitment, it may remain active for at least 3 months. This means that if NIGMS receives approval to recruit for additional positions in the near future, our selecting officials will be able to view your application.

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New Webinar Series for the NIGMS Training Community

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UPDATE: Additional webinars have been announced. View the full schedule.

We’re pleased to announce a new webinar series for students, postdocs, and faculty. Each hour-long webinar will include a 10- to 15-minute presentation by the speaker followed by a moderated question and answer session. Our hope is that these webinars will enhance our trainees’ ongoing learning experiences. 

The webinar series kicks off next Monday, May 4, and a tentative list of dates and speakers is below. As plans are finalized, additional details will be posted on our website.

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Webinar for Graduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (G-RISE) Program (T32) Applicants

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UPDATE: The slides [PDF] from the G-RISE webinar are now available.

Are you preparing a grant application for the Graduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (G-RISE) institutional research training program? Please join us for an informational webinar about the program and application components, and the opportunity to ask us questions:

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020, 12:00-2:00 p.m. ET

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New NIGMS Web Resource on Safety in the Lab and Other Training Environments

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The safety of trainees and other lab workers from accidents, violence, harassment, and inappropriate behavior is a high priority for NIGMS. Because the Institute has such a large training and workforce development portfolio, we feel that we should play a central role in promoting the development of a robust culture of safety in biomedical research training environments.

As part of this effort, we recently announced the availability of supplements for research education, training, and career development grants to enhance laboratory safety curricula and to build a culture of safety in biomedical research training environments (NOT-GM-20-016). To provide additional resources to enhance safety, we have now launched an NIGMS website highlighting laboratory safety training and guidelines. On this page, you’ll find links to a number of online resources including:

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