Understand NIH Expectations for Conference Safety Plans

Funding News Edition: March 16, 2022
See more articles in this edition

NIAID supports scientific meetings, conferences, and workshops on topics related to our mission, prioritizing applications to fund open meetings and those that would provide funds for graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, and junior faculty members to attend.

Through NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (Parent R13, Clinical Trial Not Allowed), awardees can receive up to five years of funding. Applicants must request NIAID’s written permission to apply at least six weeks before the submission deadline, as described in our Conference Awards SOP.

Last month, NIH introduced a policy change for Conference Awards: Plans To Promote Safe Environments at Conferences Supported by NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements.

The New Requirement

Beginning with applications submitted for the April 12, 2022 deadline, applicants selected for funding must submit a “Plan To Promote Safe Environments” as part of the just-in-time process.

The Plan To Promote Safe Environments should detail how conference organizers will ensure a safe and respectful setting for all attendees by providing an environment free from discrimination and harassment. It must include:

  • A statement of commitment to provide a safe environment
  • Expectations for behavior, including a list of behaviors considered harassing (specific emphasis on harassment—sexual, racial, ethnic, or otherwise)
  • Instructions for participants to confidentially report alleged violations of those expectations to conference organizers
  • A description of how conference organizers will assess allegations and the consequences for anyone found to be in violation
  • Information telling individuals who have questions, concerns, or complaints related to harassment to contact the conference organizer or the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
  • Information about how to file a complaint with HHS OCR
  • An explanation that filing a complaint with the conference organizer is not required before filing a complaint of discrimination with HHS OCR, and that seeking assistance from the conference organizer does not prohibit an individual from filing a complaint with HHS OCR
  • Details on how an individual can notify NIH about concerns of harassment, including sexual harassment, discrimination, and other forms of inappropriate conduct at an NIH-supported conference

Separate from the safety plan itself, you will need to provide NIAID with a written description of how your safety plan will be communicated to conference attendees as well as your planned procedures for documenting allegations and resulting actions.

Again, successful applicants will fulfill the requirement as they Respond to Pre-Award Requests (“Just-in-Time”). This occurs after peer review but before an award is made, generally prompted by a request from an NIAID grants management specialist to the applicant.  

Current conference award grantees are not required to submit a safety plan at this time; however, we encourage all conference organizers to develop one as it represents a practical way to satisfy NIH’s Updated Guidelines for Enhancing Diversity and Creating Safe Environments in Conferences Supported by NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements.

Contact Us

Email us at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

Content last reviewed on