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Identifying Diverse Talent with SWD’s Recruitment Search Protocol

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3 years 1 month
05.14.21 By Marie A. Bernard
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A fundamental component of our SWD mission is to diversify the scientific workforce by addressing the myth that outstanding diverse talent is in short supply. To this end, our Office has developed a Diversity Toolkit with four building blocks: These include expanding diversity of the candidate pool, proactive outreach to diverse talent, mitigating bias in search processes, and developing/sustaining mentoring relationships and sponsorship.

Today, we’re excited to share more information about the first of these foundational elements—our office’s evidence-based method of diversifying the talent pool and finding highly qualified candidates using our SWD Recruitment Search Protocol.

Recruiting Diverse Talent: Debunking the Myths

Despite decades of robust diversity and inclusion efforts, many myths related to recruitment still prevail. One such example is, "no diverse candidates could be identified for the position." Search committees frequently rely on established professional networks and word-of-mouth recommendations to identify potential candidates, a practice that disproportionately favors the current majority and creates legacies of non-diverse hiring.

Further, research demonstrates that half of all doctorates are women, and doctorates earned by individuals from underrepresented groups grew 9-fold over the past 20 years. As noted by Gibbs et al, "if two-thirds of U.S. medical schools hired and retained just one faculty member from an underrepresented group per year for 6 years, there would be racial/ethnic parity within the assistant professor pool within one tenure cycle."

Many robust sources of exceptional diverse talent exist. Talent sourcing strategies, such as our SWD Recruitment Search Protocol, can be used to identify such talent.

SWD Recruitment Search Protocol Approach

SWD enhances diversity during recruitment by advising NIH-wide scientific search committees on positions ranging from early career tenure-track investigators to senior leadership roles. Using evidence on recruitment best practices, we developed a Recruitment Search Protocol to help scientific leadership identify highly qualified candidates (both senior and early-career) from diverse backgrounds. Our protocol has supported identification of leadership candidates in the extramural community as well as various positions in our NIH intramural community.

SWD Recruitment Search Protocol
Identify top authors in a given field

Use a bibliometric approach to develop a ranked list of authors in a field of interest based on their publication history. Consider eliciting support from your institution’s informationist for this step. Several publicly-available online sources can be used to generate the initial dataset, including Web of Science, iCite, Scopus, SciVal, PubMed, and Google Scholar. Although the number of authors will vary depending on the field of study, we recommend oversampling during the initial search to ensure that the protocol yields sufficient representation of women and individuals from a range of racial/ethnic backgrounds. On average, we recommend initially identifying approximately 100 candidates during this step.
► Learn more about Step 1

Collect and organize the data

Collect and organize additional parameters about each of the candidates from Step 1, ensuring that all data containing personally identifiable information (PII) is appropriately secured. Some parameters, such as first/last name and institution, will be readily available. Other parameters, such as citations per publication and race/ethnicity, may require in-depth research.
► Learn more about Step 2

Add details and fill in gaps

Use additional search strategies to add data and address informational gaps from step 2—for example, description of funding history (through NIH RePORTER), leadership activities, and other professional activities and services
► Learn more about Step 3

Solicitation Package

Create a comprehensive solicitation package with the following materials and deliver to the search committee:

  • Overview of candidates
  • Solicitation list (contact information with PII appropriately secured)
  • Candidate summary (bibliometrics, grant history, and candidate’s value proposition, including qualitative information)
  • Candidate biosketch that limits potential for bias (i.e., does not include photos and unnecessary personal information) and highlights key accomplishments and research interests
  • Candidate CVs and resumes

Also provide the committee with a detailed search strategy that thoroughly describes the steps taken to identify each of the candidates, to improve process transparency and increase the likelihood that others will adopt the practice at their institutions.

Want more information? Check out our demo or reach out directly to SWD

Progress to Date

Since we developed and initiated this strategy over five years ago, our office supports approximately 45 searches every year. Using this three-step Recruitment Search Protocol, we identify an average of 10 potential candidates for consideration by search committees, thus prioritizing highly qualified candidates over a large number of candidates. We are excited to continue to share this approach with wider audiences who may wish to increase and diversify the pool of highly qualified candidates for scientific positions in the biomedical research workforce.

Dr. Bernard’s Parting Thoughts

Our SWD Recruitment Search Protocol is a tested methodology for search committees at NIH and in our extramural community to identify exceptional talent from diverse backgrounds. Using this strategy and others, our office continues to widen and deepen our ways of thinking and practice and to focus on advancing institutional accountability for lasting change. We encourage you to utilize this resource as part of your toolkit to increase inclusive excellence at your businesses, institutions, and agencies!

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