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Measuring Diversity of the National Institutes of Health–Funded Workforce

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Abstract

Purpose

To measure diversity within the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded workforce. The authors use a relevant labor market perspective to more directly understand what the NIH can influence in terms of enhancing diversity through NIH policies.

Method

Using the relevant labor market (defined as persons with advanced degrees working as biomedical scientists in the United States) as the conceptual framework, and informed by accepted economic principles, the authors used the American Community Survey and NIH administrative data to calculate representation ratios of the NIH-funded biomedical workforce from 2008 to 2012 by race, ethnicity, sex, and citizenship status, and compared this against the pool of characteristic individuals in the potential labor market.

Results

In general, the U.S. population during this time period was an inaccurate comparison group for measuring diversity of the NIH-funded scientific workforce. Measuring accurately, we found the representation of women and traditionally underrepresented groups in NIH-supported postdoc fellowships and traineeships and mentored career development programs was greater than their representation in the relevant labor market. The same analysis found these demographic groups are less represented in the NIH-funded independent investigator pool.

Conclusions

Although these findings provided a picture of the current NIH-funded workforce and a foundation for understanding the federal role in developing, maintaining, and renewing diverse scientific human resources, further study is needed to identify whether junior- and early-stage investigators who are part of more diverse cohorts will naturally transition into independent NIH-funded investigators, or whether they will leave the workforce before achieving independent researcher status.

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