NIH Shares Data on Investigators with Disabilities

Funding News Edition: February 01, 2023
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In a December 13, 2022 blog post, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Dr. Mike Lauer provided Data on Researchers’ Self-Reported Disability Status. We provide a brief overview here.

To ensure a strong and diverse workforce and better understand workforce composition and participation in NIH programs, NIH regularly assesses the sex/gender, race, and ethnicity of its supported researchers.

Investigators may self-report their disability status along with the aforementioned demographic characteristics on their eRA personal profile. This allows NIH to learn more about researchers with disabilities in the NIH-supported scientific workforce.

Dr. Lauer points out that NIH began posting information related to disability status on the NIH Data Book this past February. The data available at this time are limited to the number of principal investigators (PIs) with disabilities supported on certain grants in fiscal year (FY) 2021. More data on disability status are under consideration for release via the Data Book.

The Data

With regard to the number of PIs with disabilities designated on NIH applications and awards over time, the percentage of PIs self-reporting a disability decreased from 2.0 percent in FY 2008 to 1.3 percent in FY 2022.

These data dovetail with other previously published data that indicate that the proportion of NIH-supported researchers reporting disabilities is considerably lower than what is generally found in the U.S. population.

For reference, the CDC’s Disability and Health Overview notes that 26 percent of adults in the United States have some type of disability. NIH’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion identifies at Data Analytics that 85.7 percent of NIH staff report having no disability.

We encourage you to explore the data (and methodology) for yourself.

By the Numbers

Table 1. Number of PIs designated on research grant applications and awards self-reporting a disability: FY 2008–2022 reports on categories such as Number of PIs Not Reporting Disability, Number of PIs Missing Disability, and Number of PIs Reporting Disability.

Table 2. Number of PIs designated on research grant applications and awards broken down by disability category: FY 2008 to 2022 focuses on researchers self-reporting a disability, specifically breaking it down by the type of disability. The number of researchers reporting a hearing, mobility/orthopedic, visual, or multiple disabilities trended downward between 2008 and 2022, while the number reporting other disabilities trended upward.

Table 3. Number of unfunded and funded PIs: FY 2008 to 2022 provides data on the number of researchers who were funded (i.e., designated as PI on an NIH grant) or unfunded (i.e., designated as PI on unsuccessful applications) according to their disability reporting status. Similar to Table 2, in general, the number of researchers (be they funded or not) reporting a disability went down between 2008 and 2022, while the number of researchers with other disabilities increased.

Looking Ahead

Going forward, NIH will continue assessing and sharing data related to researchers with disabilities and looking forward to considering the recommendations from the NIH Advisory Commitee to the Director subgroup.

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