NHGRI Proposes Action Agenda for Building Diverse Genomics Workforce

April 22, 2021 by Alec Stone MA, MPA, Former ONS Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

Thanks to the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute (https://www.genome.gov/) (NHGRI), cancer treatments and cures once out of reach are now closer than ever. So is our understanding about the human condition. As part of its latest strategic vision (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2817-4) for the future of human genomics, NHGRI announced an action agenda to substantially enhance the industry’s workforce diversity (https://www.genome.gov/news/news-release/NHGRI-proposes-an-action-agenda-for-building-a-diverse-genomics-workforce) by 2030.

In 2020, NHGRI established an internal Genomic Workforce Diversity Working Group (https://www.genome.gov/about-nhgri/leadership-initiatives/diversity-in-genomics-workforce), which developed the action agenda. Vence L. Bonham Jr., JD, senior advisor to the director on genomics and health disparities and associate investigator of the social and behavioral research branch, chaired the working group.

“Studies have shown that enhancing the diversity of the research workforce fosters innovation and creativity, which arise from the variety of perspectives that emerge when not everyone is thinking in the same way,” Bonham Jr. said (https://www.cell.com/ajhg/fulltext/S0002-9297(20)30449-3). “To build on the remarkable metamorphosis of the field over the last three decades, enhancing the diversity of the genomics workforce must be embraced as an urgent priority.” 

The agenda first called for a survey to collect baseline data on the existing demographic landscape of the U.S. genetics and genomics workforce, which was launched in mid-to-late January and closed in March 2021. Results will be disseminated (https://www.ashg.org/membership/diversity-inclusion/genetics-and-genomics-workforce-survey-faqs/) through written reports, journal publications, and presentations at American Society of Human Genetics meetings throughout the year.

The agenda’s goals are to develop and support (https://www.genome.gov/about-nhgri/leadership-initiatives/diversity-in-genomics-workforce):

NHGRI will also evaluate its investments and funding (https://www.genome.gov/careers-training/Funding-to-Promote-Diversity-in-the-Genomics-Workforce) in diversity to measure effectiveness and guide improvements that maximize impact (https://www.genome.gov/about-nhgri/leadership-initiatives/diversity-in-genomics-workforce).

"To reach its full potential, the field of genomics requires a workforce that better reflects the diversity of the U.S. population,” NHGRI Director Eric Green, MD, PhD, said. "Fostering an appropriately diverse genomics workforce of the future requires an immediate and substantial commitment of attention and resources. Our new action agenda aims to bring both short- and long-term changes that will make genomics a more inclusive discipline.”

Genomics is at the forefront of innovative cancer care, unlocking opportunities that have implications for every level of oncology nursing. For a comprehensive list of genomics resources, visit the ONS Genomics and Precision Oncology Learning Library (https://www.ons.org/learning-libraries/precision-oncology), or submit your questions, comments, and thoughts (https://clinicalhelp.ons.org/) to the ONS Genomics Advisory Board. If you have genomics expertise, apply (https://communities.ons.org/volunteeropportunities/volunteer-opportunity-details?VolunteerOpportunityKey=54dcb5b4-c35b-4bd3-b266-14042867f4bb&returnurl=https%3A//communities.ons.org/home) for various opportunities to work with the ONS Genomics Advisory Board.

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