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NIH UNITE Continues to Grow and Flourish

July 14, 2023

Note: Summarized here is the most recent NIH Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) discussion of UNITE. However, it is recognized that the recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision regarding affirmative action may be at the front of consciousness. NIH adheres to federal law and does not make funding decisions based on race. NIH awaits further evaluation and interpretation of the SCOTUS decision to determine whether there is the need to modify any current policies or practices.

On February 26, 2021, at a special meeting of the ACD, NIH unveiled the UNITE initiative to foster equity across all NIH activities, with a focus on racial and ethnic equity. It has been satisfying to see UNITE develop from a fledgling effort with disparate inputs and viewpoints to a cohesive initiative that is on course for continued contributions to the biomedical and behavioral research ecosystem.

I have had the privilege of co-leading the initiative since its inception. On June 8, 2023, at the fifth ACD meeting since UNITE's launch, Larry Tabak, D.D.S, Ph.D., Acting NIH Director, enumerated some tangible outcomes from UNITE since the publication of the UNITE Progress Report for Fiscal Year 2021–2022.

The developments noted by Dr. Tabak are as follows:

Dr. Tabak also highlighted the Institutional Excellence in DEIA Prize Competition that the COSWD team is leading on behalf of UNITE and NIH. As a reminder, registration to participate in the competition closes September 12, with entries due September 26. A webinar for registrants is scheduled for September 14.

Finally, Dr. Tabak spoke about the UNITE Request for Information reports, published with the unveiling of the UNITE listening sessions and available on the UNITE website. I know that my UNITE colleagues are busily tracking ongoing activities to be assured that we are addressing all items identified by this outreach.

It is a pleasure to be intimately involved with this dynamic initiative to spur widespread, systemic change, both within and beyond NIH. However, the beauty of UNITE is that its approaches to addressing seeming disparities are of broad benefit to the scientific community.

Additional UNITE efforts are in development. Stay tuned for a detailed update on UNITE at the December Advisory Committee to the Director meeting.