On his first day in office President Biden signed an Executive Order described thusly by the NYT. I am having difficulty finding a link to the exact text right now. [Edited to Add: The Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.]
“The president designated Susan E. Rice, who is the head of his Domestic Policy Council, as the leader of a “robust, interagency” effort requiring all federal agencies to make “rooting out systemic racism” central to their work. His order directs the agencies to review and report on equity in their ranks within 200 days, including a plan on how to remove barriers to opportunities in policies and programs. The order also moves to ensure that Americans of all backgrounds have equal access to federal government resources, benefits and services. It starts a data working group as well as the study of new methods to measure and assess federal equity and diversity efforts.”
Well, the NIH doesn’t have to take 200 days to “review and report”. They’ve already done so in
Ginther, D.K., Schaffer, W.T., Schnell, J., Masimore, B., Liu, F., Haak, L.L., Kington, R., 2011. Race, ethnicity, and NIH research awards. Science 333(6045), 1015-1019.
Hoppe, T.A., Litovitz, A., Willis, K.A., Meseroll, R.A., Perkins, M.J., Hutchins, B.I., Davis, A.F., Lauer, M.S., Valantine, H.A., Anderson, J.M., Santangelo, G.M., 2019. Topic choice contributes to the lower rate of NIH awards to African-American/black scientists. Sci Adv 5(10), eaaw7238.
So we can skip the 200 days worth of can kicking, Dr. Collins, and move straight to the fixing part. The “ensure” part. The “equal access” part.
This means funding research on topics that are important to Americans of all backgrounds, including African-American ones. Equally. This means pumping up the budget of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). It also means holding the other ICs responsible for taking on their share of these projects and not just shrugging them off into NIMHD.
It means funding not just white American science teams that work on these topics but funding teams of African-American investigators. Equally.
It also means not just funding African-American professors to work on topics of relevance to the health interests of African-Americans but rather equalizing the funding chances of African-American PIs who choose to work on any topic at all.
It’s time to go big. Forces within the NIH who have been trying to do good on this should feel empowered to shout down the nay sayers and to hold the foot draggers to account.
Forces outside the NIH who have been trying to do good on this should likewise feel empowered to hold Susan Rice, their Senators and Congress Reps to account.