Dismantling Structural Racism

NLM stands with NIH Director Francis Collins in establishing new ways to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, and identifying and dismantling any policies and practices that may harm our workforce and our science. This work is just getting started and I encourage you to respond to a Request for Information that NIH issued seeking input on the approaches NIH can take to advance this goal. Comments can be submitted through the submission website and must be received by April 9, 2021.

The NIH has long supported programs to improve the diversity of the scientific workforce. Yet those efforts have not been sufficient to achieve racial equity across the biomedical research enterprise. This month, NIH launched an effort to end structural racism in biomedical research through a new initiative called UNITE. UNITE is an acronym that reflects the multidimensional approach that NIH is taking to address this complex problem.

UNITE:

  • Understanding stakeholder experiences through listening and learning
  • New research on health disparities, minority health, and health equity
  • Improving the NIH culture and structure for equity, inclusion and excellence
  • Transparency, communication, and accountability with our internal and external stakeholders
  • Extramural research ecosystem: changing policy, culture and structure to promote workforce diversity

NLM is committed to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion with regard to structural racism and all aspects that make us who we are and take into account from where we came. We are grounded in the belief that advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion improves the quality of science and engenders more robust knowledge representations and more culturally-competent means of supporting investigations and delivering health information.

Through our intramural research and extramural programs, we are supporting research to identify and mitigate bias in data sets and analytic tools, and enhancing the diversity of young scholars preparing to enter the fields of biomedical informatics, computational health, and data science.

In addition to actively participating in NIH-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, we are turning to the NLM staff to garner ideas about how NLM should specifically create an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion within our Institute. Last week, more than 150 people attended a special conversation between NLM staff and leadership where we learned many things and shared ideas ranging from improving recruitment to understanding implicit bias.

The NLM leadership has taken up the challenge and will work with our creative staff to set a path forward to promote inclusive excellence, and create a workplace that is diverse, inclusive, equitable, and respectful of the talents of everyone.

NLM is committed to supporting NIH in identifying and dismantling any policies and practices that may harm our workforce, our science, and society at large. This is just the beginning of our journey to improve the NIH and everyone’s health by ending structural racism in biomedical research. 

I invite you to join us in this journey too.

Author: Patti Brennan

Director, US National Library of Medicine

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