DR. VALANTINE'S FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Hannah A. Valantine, MD Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity
Understanding the depth and scope of diversity issues can be difficult without the appropriate metrics to provide a broader grasp of the problems. This month’s issue highlights extensive analyses and recommendations uncovering or addressing gender disparities within the scientific workforce. Additionally, we highlight a novel effort by our office and NIH colleagues to track diversity metrics, empowering intramural research programs to address issues as they arise.
A recent report, authored by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), identified several disparities involving women surrounding the publication process. The analysis assessed more than 700,000 manuscripts submitted to RSC. Compared to the proportion of submitting female first authors in the RSC community (37%), women were underrepresented as corresponding authors (27%) and as RSC reviewers, despite equivalent rates of accepting invitations to review. Among published articles, it was found that men are less likely to cite papers authored by women. The RSC suggests a complex interaction, involving reviewer and corresponding author underrepresentation, submission rates, and other seemingly isolated issues could contribute to the disenfranchisement of women throughout publishing pipeline.
In December 2018, I attended a conference at Cold Spring Harbor focused on addressing two major challenges within the STEM workforce—gender bias and sexual harassment. Best practices and high impact policy changes were identified during the meeting and published in a recent Science article. The recommendations for change are framed around strategies to achieve two major goals. 1) Ending sexual harassment by treating sexual harassment in a manner parallel to scientific misconduct including investigator disclosure of harassment findings and settlements to funding agencies and potential employers, and establishing mechanisms to protect the careers of harassment victims. 2) Breaking the power of bias through transparency in start-up packages, salaries, and internal grant funding; fostering work-life balance through family-friendly policies; advancing the careers of women; and promoting and ensuring effective mentorship. I anticipate that these strategies for change will be widely disseminated and implemented at US academic biomedical research institutions.
Metrics Matter: The NIH Scientific Workforce Diversity Research Network Pilot
To take an active role in addressing disparities, our office in collaboration with a few NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs), is piloting the NIH Scientific Workforce Diversity Research Network. This approach relies on a metrics-based system to monitor diversity and equity in our intramural research workforce. Using an online platform, our office and IC partners can input, monitor, and share metrics of diversity and equity—providing opportunities to assess our programs' impacts on measurable outcomes. Importantly, both SWD and institutes can also use the platform to develop and share their “turn-the-curve" plans among institute members and across the agency. The goal is to create a learning community where effective practices are identified and broadly disseminated. The program is in its infancy, but it reflects our firm belief that tracking data, with an eye towards implementing evidence-based strategies, is one of the most effective approaches in supporting scientific workforce diversity.