Status of Intramural Minority Scientists
Final Report of the Committee
Background and Goals
At the request of the Director of NIH, the NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research appointed a committee of intramural scientists to examine the status of underrepresented minorities in NIH's Intramural Research Program (IRP-NIH). The committee was to provide a comprehensive view of the issues involved in the recruitment and retention of minorities. The committee included tenured and nontenured scientists and administrative professionals from NIH's Offices of Education and Equal Opportunity and Institute, Center, and Division (ICD) Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officers. The charge to the committee was to document the numbers and percentages of underrepresented minorities among the ranks of tenured and nontenured scientists, to investigate the reasons for this underrepresentation, and to suggest solutions to the problem. The committee was asked to examine the status of minorities in the staff fellowship program, in other programs that train or employ nontenured scientists, and among the ranks of tenured scientists.
The committee used databases about tenured and nontenured scientists (as of Oct. 1, 1992) that were constructed from information supplied by ICDs of NIH, the Division of Personnel Management, and the Division of Commissioned Personnel. The racial and ethnic status of each scientist was obtained and self-verified by the scientists via a race and national origin form. The data that were used in evaluating recruitment, training, and tenure programs and for conversion to tenure were obtained from the NIH Office of Education.
Tenured and nontenured scientists from underrepresented minority groups (as defined by the American Association of Medical Colleges) were contacted and asked to complete surveys and participate in interviews. A control group of nonminority and nontenured scientists also participated in the study. Results of both the interviews and surveys are summarized here. In addition to quantifying the representation of minority scientists, the committee gathered information on the experiences and perceptions of minorities in the IRP-NIH.
A. Representation of underrepresented minorities on the intramural scientific staff of NIH.
As of Oct. 1, 1992, there were 1,148 tenured intramural scientists at NIH. Of these, 25, or 2.18%, were identified as underrepresented minorities; 0.70% were Black and 1.48% were Hispanic. There were no tenured Native American or Alaskan Native scientists. All eight tenured Black scientists were U.S. citizens when they came to NIH, whereas only 8 of 17 tenured Hispanic scientists were U.S. citizens when they came to NIH. Nine were educated abroad and came to NIH as visiting researchers. Thus, only 16 (8 Black and 8 Hispanic) scientists (or 1.39%) of the 1,148 tenured intramural investigators were U.S. citizen members of minority groups.
Of the 3,200 nontenured scientists at NIH on Oct. 1, 1992, 165, or 5.15% were identified as underrepresented minorities. Eighty-one (2.53%) were Black, 83 (2.59%) were Hispanic, and 1 (0.03%) was a Native American. Considering only U.S. citizens, there were 61 Blacks, 31 Hispanics, and 1 Native American among the 3,200 nontenured scientists, or 2.9 percent of the total.
B. Recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities.
The programs established by the Office of Education and by the component institutes of NIH to recruit and retain minority scientists were reviewed by the committee. Efforts to recruit underrepresented minorities appear to be most effective when they are aimed at high school, college, and medical students. For example, 32% of high school summer interns at NIH in 1992 were underrepresented minorities, as were 22% of college undergraduate interns and 25% of medical students.
Minority targeted programs such as the Minority Access to Research Careers program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and other institute-initiated programs accounted for 43% of all minorities recruited to summer internships at NIH, whereas the much larger general summer internship programs contributed 57%. The percentage of minority students in the summer internship group varied considerably among the institutes; for those with greater than 25 students, the percentage ranged from 7% (National Eye Institute) to 39% (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases).
At the postdoctoral level, there are few targeted minority-recruitment initiatives. Although many positions are nationally advertised and minority applications are encouraged, there is no NIH-wide effort to target and reach minority M.D. or Ph.D. scientists.
Both tenured and nontenured scientists felt that effective recruitment efforts for underrepresented minority scientists have not been implemented. Nontenured scientists expressed concern that there were few role models among tenured scientists, and the majority of the nontenured minority scientist interviewed noted serious deficiencies in their mentoring relationships with their supervisors. Many untenured minority scientists experienced feelings of isolation from peers and noted an absence of an effective network of minority scientists on the NIH campus. Few had received explicit information regarding NIH tenure procedures, and few had a clear understanding of their own status with respect to tenure-track and tenure potential. Although most underrepresented minority scientists felt that NIH offered significant opportunities for training and productive career development, many also felt that minority scientists were not readily accepted as peers and at times, experienced overt discrimination. All expressed the opinion that explicit training and periodic evaluation of supervisors with respect to racial and gender discrimination, mentoring, and recruitment of minorities should be required.
After analyzing the data gathered in interviews and surveys, the committee recommends the following:
* Create a full-time position for a Director of Minority Science Faculty Development within the Office of the Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR). This person would be responsible for reviewing, monitoring, and initiating efforts to recruit and retain minority scientists and would be specifically charged with overseeing the implementation of this report. The incumbent would be assisted by an Advisory Committee on Minority Science Faculty Development.
* Maintain data on the racial and ethnic origins of all intramural scientists through the NIH Division of Personnel Management.
* Require each ICD Scientific Director to provide a yearly report to the Office of the DDIR on the ICD'S efforts to increase participation of minorities in its intramural program.
* Require each intramural site-visit team to specifically address the representation of minority scientists in the laboratory or branch under review and to evaluate programs and plans to increase minority scientists representation, conversion to tenure, promotion, retention, and research support. The quality of mentorship in the laboratory or branch should be a necessary factor in the site-visit evaluation. The site-visit report should be provided to the Office of the DDIR.
* Require all supervisors in the IRP-NIH, as part of their yearly performance review under the EEO critical element, to document their efforts to increase the recruitment of minority scientists for open positions and to document efforts to retain minority scientists in their area of responsibility. Efforts are to be documented in a detailed fashion.
* Consider applicants for postdoctoral fellowship programs that encumber full-time equivalents at NIH under the NIH Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program (FEORP) policy.
* Require annual training for all intramural scientists in areas concerning cultural diversity, race discrimination, attitudes and behaviors, prevention of sexual harassment, and mentoring.
* Implement a program for loan forgiveness for underrepresented minority scientists in IRP-NIH, consistent with the 1993 legislative reauthorization of NIH.
Establish a position for recruitment of minority scientists in the Office of Education, NIH. The recruitment office would take responsibility for establishing new programs and amending existing programs to increase recruitment of minorities to internship programs, predoctoral and postdoctoral research positions, and tenured faculty positions NIH-wide.
The recruiter's activities would include programs to
1. Maintain a database on all underrepresented minority students and postdoctoral scientists who work at NIH to track their career progress.
2. Develop a mailing list and database of minority predoctoral and postdoctoral scientists nationwide and regularly provide them with information on positions available at NIH.
3. Establish a network for underrepresented minority scientists on the NIH campus as a way to increase support and communication for nontenured scientists.
4. Develop and implement a program, with designated funding, to foster faculty exchange and recruitment of students for internships from historically Black colleges and universities, from predominantly Hispanic colleges and universities, and from institutions that have significant numbers of Native American students.
5. Develop programs for improving the mentoring of postdoctoral scientists in IRP-NIH.
In addition, encourage and recruit scientists from African countries to participate in the Fogarty Visiting Program.
In considering alternatives for new recruitment efforts, the Office of Education should be given adequate resources to implement NIH-wide those existing programs (particularly those aimed at summer internships and early postdoctoral training) that have successfully recruited minority scientists to selected NIH institutes.
C. Retention and Promotion
The ICDs should:
1. Advertise and open up for competition all tenure-track positions under FEORP guidelines.
2. Ensure representation of underrepresented minorities on promotion and tenure-review panels, site-visit teams, and boards of scientific counselors.
3. Provide orientation to all postdoctoral fellows regarding NIH tenure-track policies and tenure processes at the time the fellows enter IRP-NIH.
4. Ensure the participation of underrepresented minorities as speakers and participants in scientific programs organized and/or sponsored by the ICD.
D. Additional Concerns
1. Among the concerns voiced by minority scientists were the following. The health problems of minorities should be addressed by the IRP-NIH. The ICDs should be committed to ensuring proportional representation of minority patients in NIH's clinical programs. The committee strongly encourages the Office of Research on Minority Health to involve intramural scientists in the planning of regular NIH conferences on minority health. NIH should organize an initial national conference addressing the problem of underrepresentation of minority scientists in biomedical research.
2. The particular problems experienced by minority women scientists should be addressed by NIH's Women Scientist Advisors and the Committee on the Status of Intramural Minority Scientists.