The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) UNITE, a think tank that identifies and addresses structural racism in NIH and the biomedical research enterprise, began taking steps in February 2021 to address disparities across NIH and the medical community. The think tank’s actions included revising the selection process for NIH director’s awards and establishing a new program to provide additional training opportunities to employees of color, according to UNITE’s first progress report.

UNITE’s other approaches include:

  • Establishing a listserv to advertise NIH jobs to a broader group of candidates
  • Publishing demographic data about NIH’s workforce on UNITE’s website
  • Hiring chief diversity officers to focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts
  • Developing racial and ethnic equity plans to identify and track areas for improvement

The think tank’s leaders committed to promoting further equity by adding it as a critical measure for annual performance evaluations, Brenda Robles, manager of the NIH’s Clinical Center social work department’s language interpreter program, said.

“This demonstrates we have a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and that we’re all participating in this,” Robles said. “There is unity and strength in diversity, diversity of thinking, and racial diversity.”

UNITE committees include more than 80 volunteer members at all seniority levels across NIH. Each has a unique mission but works collaboratively to “develop methods that enhance equity across the scientific enterprise,” allowing UNITE to make significant progress in a short amount of time.