Creating Safe, Diverse Environments for NIH-Supported Conferences

Funding News Edition: February 17, 2021
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To enhance diversity and maintain a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment for conference attendees, NIH recently released Updated Guidelines for Enhancing Diversity and Creating Safe Environments in Conferences Supported by NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements.

NIH encourages applicants of conference grants (R13/U13) to enhance diversity of conferences by increasing participation of women, underrepresented individuals from diverse racial and ethnic groups and disadvantaged backgrounds, and individuals with disabilities.

Submit Plans To Enhance Diversity

Applicants must include plans to enhance diversity while selecting committee members, speakers, panel discussants, and attendees. The review committee will assess the plans during the scientific and merit review of the application and consider the proposed plans as part of the overall impact score.

Awardees are required to report on the effectiveness of plans to enhance diversity of underrepresented groups in their annual Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) and the final RPPR.

Read Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity for additional details.

Guidelines for a Safe and Inclusive Conference Environment

As stated in Civil Rights Protections in NIH-Supported Research, Programs, Conferences and Other Activities, NIH conference organizers are expected to take steps to maintain a safe and respectful environment for conference attendees that is free from discrimination and harassment, sexual or otherwise.

Below are some examples of strategies that organizers can employ to prevent or mitigate the effects of discrimination and harassment.

  • Establishing a conference code of conduct with clearly stated expectations of behavior, systems of reporting, and procedures for addressing inappropriate behavior that is accessible to all attendees
  • Providing resources to support individuals who report incidents of harassment, including:
    • Personnel trained in advocacy and counseling
    • Legal or healthcare resource referrals
    • Procedures to ensure the safety of all conference attendees, up to and including removing a perpetrator from the conference
  • Conducting conference climate surveys specifically related to sexual harassment and professional misconduct

Additionally, NIH-sponsored conferences must be held at accessible sites. Conference registration websites and registration materials should provide a questionnaire that allows participants with disabilities to voluntarily identify special needs so conference organizers can make plans to accommodate those needs.

Grantees who are looking for NIH support for high-quality scientific conferences should consider the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (Parent R13, Clinical Trial Not Allowed). As explained in the February 8, 2021 Guide notice, NIH amended review criteria for the FOA so that applicants are required to include a Diversity Plan for evaluation as an additional review criterion.

For more information, read the latest Open Mike blog post Enhancing Diversity at NIH-Funded Conferences by Dr. Michael Lauer, NIH’s deputy director for extramural research.

Contact Information

Direct all policy-related questions to the Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration (OPERA).

Direct any program-related inquiries to, NIAID’s contact in the Office of Research Training and Special Programs.

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