What is the NIH UNITE initiative about? How can you become involved? The UNITE initiative was established to identify and eliminate structural racism in biomedical research, and was publicly unveiled February 26, 2021, at a special meeting of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD). On Friday, December 10, 2021, UNITE committee members provided an update to the ACD on progress and future directions for the initiative. Among the exciting advances presented were plans to further enhance health disparities research, internal NIH efforts to role model institutional culture change to achieve racial and ethnic equity, and plans for new funding opportunities to enhance diversity of the scientific workforce. In addition, committee members captured the ethos of UNITE through The Power of an Inclusive Workplace Recognition Project—the latest effort to promote a sense of inclusivity and belonging among the NIH workforce and scientific community by diversifying art and images within NIH buildings and digital spaces.
How can you become involved in this important initiative? UNITE invites external stakeholders from the biomedical research community who work in diverse settings to participate in its online listening sessions. Sessions began on December 1 and continue through February 2022. To date, more than 1,400 people have registered to participate, and UNITE hopes many more will sign up to lend their voices for the remaining events.
UNITE welcomes participants from all levels of the biomedical research community and those who partner and collaborate with research teams. The listening sessions are organized by audience, including people employed by or affiliated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, tribal communities, and foundations and professional societies. There is also a session for students and trainees and one for research staff.
Readers can view the listening session schedule and register now for the one that best aligns with their affiliation. All registrants will receive a Zoom link the day before their scheduled session.
UNITE is committed to understanding the perspectives and experiences of the full range of contributors to the biomedical research enterprise. Through the listening sessions, UNITE seeks to deepen its knowledge of the issues and challenges underrepresented groups face in the scientific workforce.
Listening session discussion topics include the following:
- changing culture to promote equity, inclusivity, and justice
- improving policies, transparency, and oversight
- strengthening career pathways, training, mentoring, and the professoriate
- ensuring fairness in review and funding deliberations
- enhancing funding and research support for diverse institutions and historically under-resourced research areas
- identifying structural racism in the biomedical research enterprise
UNITE will foster an environment where participants feel safe contributing their perspectives candidly, rather than seeking group or consensus advice in the sessions. An independent contractor will capture detailed notes, which will not include identifying information.
The input UNITE receives will inform the development of its priorities and an action plan. If you have questions about the listening sessions or require a language interpreter or reasonable accommodation (e.g., closed captioning) to participate, please contact UNITEInitiative@nih.gov.
We look forward to your input.