Collaborating Authors

A view from my basement


On 6 January, when I first walked through the doors of our beautiful living monument to science on New York Avenue in downtown Washington as the American Association for the Advancement of Science's new chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals, I had plenty of ideas for how my first 90 days, 6 months, and year on the job would go. I articulated this vision on the editorial page of the 31 January issue of Science in the context of “Envisioning Tomorrow's Earth,” the theme of our 2020 Annual Meeting. I noted the extraordinary advances of our era, including treating and curing disease and deepening our understanding of the Universe. I also identified some of the critical topics of our time in prioritizing the need to safeguard the scientific ecosystem for diverse voices and inclusivity and leverage the power of all great minds. At the time that editorial went to press, the United States had fewer than 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor were alive. When we gathered in Seattle in February to envision tomorrow's Earth, most of us had no idea how the tomorrows we were about to experience would change our Earth forever. COVID-19 is now a global pandemic that has infected more than 7 million people, killed more than 400,000, and fundamentally changed the way the world operates. The tragic and needless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have brought to the fore the need for decisive and lasting action to declare the importance of Black lives, voices, and contributions to all aspects of our society—and, central to our work at AAAS, to the STEM ecosystem. Almost every generation has arrived at similar moments of opportunity born of tragedy. AAAS is uniquely positioned as an organization to be at the forefront of these generation-defining issues, and we are taking action to make sure these moments do not slip away. Science, engineering, and medicine are not immune to the discrimination, subjugation, and silencing of minority people and voices. We are too often unwitting perpetuators of the status quo, and the reasons are deeply ingrained in the systems that govern the conduct of these fields. When we hold up a mirror to the scientific enterprise, we see that it is not only politicians and law enforcement that need to be reminded that Black lives matter. On 10 June, AAAS participated in a grassroots movement called #ShutDownSTEM with the goal to get our community to stop business as usual and consider the facts—and, with those facts in hand, to act. Despite so many in our community being learned and well-read, outside of the social science circles that have studied this issue for years, few of us know very much about the systemic racism that has kept generations of Black Americans from realizing success in the STEM workforce. #ShutDownSTEM encouraged us to take responsibility in our own lives and circles of influence to be actively anti-racist and to recognize the time and space required for our Black colleagues to heal. #ShutDownSTEM is just one step toward following through on fulfilling the hope for positive change in our community and across society. Other steps are already under way within AAAS, and many more have yet to be conceived. For decades, under the leadership of Shirley Malcom, AAAS has been at the forefront of the discussion about making the STEM enterprise more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. As an African American growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1950s and 1960s, Malcom went through segregated schools that were underresourced because of the assumption that no scientists or engineers would ever be produced from within their walls. She defied those odds, eventually completing her doctoral work in ecology at Penn State, dedicating her life's work to achieving equality in STEM education and the workforce, and going on to serve as a member of the National Science Board, a trustee of two of our nation's most prestigious research universities, and a world-renowned leader in the conversation that we've been having for quite some time—but to which too few have paid sufficient attention. Progress to increase the participation and advancement of underrepresented groups in STEM has been incremental. For the past 10 years, AAAS, with the support of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), has convened the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM. Each year, more than a thousand undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented communities come together to share their research and develop their careers—with the goal of broadening participation in STEM fields. In describing the kind of experience that ERN attendees have, Malcom has said, “For some students it's their first time on a plane, never mind their first time presenting at a scientific meeting.” For the past 3 years AAAS has convened, also with NSF support, the HBCU Making and Innovation Showcase. The event brings together more than 80 students and faculty from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for 2 days of workshops and training on invention and entrepreneurship. The students are divided into teams that create an innovative solution to a community problem that relates to one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This year's winning team, comprised of students from Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, conceived a network of communication devices for use during natural disasters and other emergency situations. Convenings like ERN and the HBCU Making and Innovation Showcase have surely helped. Bit by bit, person by person, they have encouraged many students and professionals who might have otherwise abandoned STEM careers to stay the course, knowing that their voices and contributions are valued and essential to the long-term success of the STEM enterprise. As Malcom posited in her 9 May 2019 testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: “How do we ensure a steady flow of talent for STEM while also responding to the larger need for a workforce and citizenry with knowledge and skills to address emerging challenges and opportunities? We can only do this by expanding that pool of talent, tapping into the vast well of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities currently underrepresented in STEM.” We must acknowledge that our efforts thus far have fallen short of what is truly necessary: systemic change that transforms institutions—not just individuals. We must tackle the issue where it is most oppressive: deeply ingrained institutional systems. Through AAAS's SEA (STEM Equity Achievement) Change program, institutions of higher education commit to a self-reflection process with the aim of disentangling themselves from practices of the past that made inequities possible—indeed, almost inevitable. The program incentivizes institutions' alignment with SEA Change principles by publicly recognizing them for their commitment to and creation of sustainable systemic change through self-assessment. “It's a transformative national vision,” said Paula Rayman, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, who chairs the SEA Change advisory board. Now more than ever, we must embrace transformative national visions over piecemeal, individual-focused interventions. The rapid response of AAAS and Science to the COVID-19 pandemic also has been notable. Science and its family of journals provide credible, evidence-based information, share the latest research, and disseminate up-to-the-minute, science-informed news coverage. Our editorial team continues to deliver seminal papers showing how the structure of the coronavirus informs vaccine development and how the virus bonds to human cells, exploring the beginning of new therapies, and examining how the public health system and social distancing can mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Journalists at Science are covering the science and responses to the pandemic around the world, often highlighting aspects that are picked up by mainstream news outlets. Among AAAS programs focusing on COVID-19 is SciLine, which connects journalists with vetted scientific experts. SciLine began 2020, its second full year of operation, with plans that included two “boot camps”—one to help journalists understand the science behind key electoral issues and another for reporters covering adolescent health. In the space of about 2 weeks, the SciLine team quickly pivoted to organizing a series of online media briefings for journalists on COVID-19 and developed a resources webpage to provide ready-to-use quotes from scientists. SciLine also enlisted Margaret Hamburg, past president of AAAS, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and former health commissioner of New York City. On one day in April, from her home office, Hamburg conducted interviews with 20 local TV stations and 13 local radio stations across the country. In doing so, she reached nearly 1.6 million people in 17 states with timely, accurate, and authoritative scientific and public health information. AAAS's Science and Technology Policy Fellowships program has adopted virtual platforms to connect with current policy fellows and to open doors for the incoming cohort of scientists and engineers. The program, which places some 280 scientists and engineers in federal agencies and congressional offices each year, places a high value on in-person professional development and networking, switching to virtual convenings at a time when the need for fellows to provide scientific and technical advice is greater than ever. The team recently conducted thousands of interviews virtually for the incoming class and is preparing to host a virtual orientation in the fall. For the team that produces the AAAS Annual Meeting, moving from in-person to virtual convenings has been top of mind. After announcing that the February 2021 meeting would be a virtual event, the team has not looked back, rolling out an entirely new format for scientific symposia that serves as a model for other organizations. The Science for Seminaries program, part of our Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion, which assists theologically diverse seminaries to integrate science into their required courses of study, also adjusted the focus of one of its recent discussions, shifting it to an examination of the science behind the spread of COVID-19 when audiences sing or speak in loud voices, such as at worship services. These initiatives display the amazing number of influential audiences we reach as a scientific society. Researchers, policy-makers, journalists, science communicators, students, seminarians—all of these groups play critical roles in our mission to advance science and serve society. I have not stepped foot in AAAS headquarters in downtown Washington since 13 March—which means I have now spent more time leading AAAS from my basement or my kids' playroom than I have from my office. Even so, I am more confident than ever in the vitality of our mission and in those working daily to execute that mission. We will be a force for science, a force for good, and a support for one another. Our programs, publications, and advocacy are critical to a better and more just world, and what we do during this time will define a generation. My 31 January Science editorial called on us all to rise to the challenges of our time to ensure that the next generation has the opportunity to rise to theirs. On so many levels, those words ring truer today.

Societies take a stand against harassment with new initiative


At the AAAS meeting, Hamburg said scientists must address cultural shifts in their fields. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has joined 77 leading academic and professional societies in a new group to address sexual harassment in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). The Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM, launched 15 February, acknowledges the unique role that professional societies have in setting standards and taking action on sexual and gender harassment in the sciences, its leaders said at the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. "We need to put our positions on the record," said AAAS senior adviser Shirley Malcom during a panel session that announced the consortium. "Harassment of any kind is death to our enterprise. We are trying to attract and encourage talent, but when we don't provide a climate that is safe, we either push them out or we don't get them in to begin with."

AAAS drafts plan to address systemic racism in sciences


The American Association for the Advancement of Science has released two parts of a draft plan that directs the organization to strengthen its advocacy on behalf of diversity, equity, and inclusion—while taking a hard look at its own demographics and related policies. AAAS's “Addressing Systemic Racism in the Sciences” plans were developed by AAAS CEO Sudip Parikh and AAAS leadership, after discussions inside and outside the association prompted by a year that Parikh calls “an opportunity born of tragedy.” Protests over police brutality against Black people in the United States and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and brown communities are sharp reminders that no part of society is immune from discrimination, Parikh said. “We haven't yet held a mirror to the scientific enterprise, and we may not like everything we see.” AAAS is holding up that mirror with a report that will be published in late October, compiling demographic data on the association's Fellows, Science & Technology Policy Fellows, award recipients, Science authors, and AAAS governing bodies. These groups are critical to supporting diversity, Parikh said, because they represent the ways in which “AAAS functions as a career advancement enabler in science and engineering.” The report by Jen Sargent and Marietta Damond in the Office of Membership provides a baseline accounting of diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender. Because most of the data are self-reported by individuals, there are gaps in coverage, said Damond. For instance, the Science family of journals authors and reviewers had the smallest amount of available data, with gender data available for 13% of the group (before using a statistical estimate that brought coverage up to 53%) and race and ethnicity data available for only 12% of the group. Although the data are “messy,” Parikh acknowledged, there are still some notable trends that shed light on how AAAS's practices may encourage or discourage diversity. For instance, “the S&T Policy Fellows look like America. It's extremely diverse, it's got great gender parity, has good geographic diversity,” he said. “For the honorary Fellows, the East and West Coasts and white males are overrepresented.” S&T Policy Fellows apply for the fellowship program, while honorary Fellows are nominated by colleagues, which could account for the difference, Parikh said, noting that the data offer a glimpse at how “baked-in” policies often can exclude minorities in science. “Those policies, they do their work even if the people who are carrying them out have no racist tendencies, and it's the system itself that actually causes the problem,” he said. To bring these policies to light, AAAS will undergo the SEA Change self-assessment, said Shirley Malcom, AAAS senior adviser and the program's director. SEA Change provides support to universities and colleges as they transform campus cultures, policies, and procedures that disadvantage or exclude participation in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine. Malcom and her colleagues are seeking support to modify and adapt SEA Change for educational and professional organizations, she said. “Some of the societies we work with in SEA Change—disciplinary groups and professional societies—have said, ‘we don't think we can subject our community to something we're not willing to undergo ourselves.’” SEA Change will move the AAAS demographic reports “beyond the numbers to how did we get to those numbers,” Malcom said. “What are our processes in place that would support either diversifying those numbers or may be a barrier to diversifying those numbers?” “This requires a certain amount of reflection,” she added. “We're not going to move forward unless we're honest about what we find and what it requires us to do.” The second part of the draft plan, released in September, discusses how AAAS programs and initiatives can help increase diversity and equity throughout the scientific enterprise. Under the plan, AAAS will advocate for increased salaries for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, mentor training, and funding for government and industry science programs for minority students. The need for a financial safety net for young scientists has grown with COVID-19. The pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on women and people of color in the sciences, who are most likely to bear the brunt of a collision between career advancement and family and health responsibilities, said Malcom. At the same time, more scientists are speaking bluntly and publicly about the impacts of racism in their fields. “We have not had that in the past, and so I live in hope that we are at a different place,” she said. Encouraging diversity is more than a moral issue, Parikh said. Countries like China and India draw on “huge human capital” for their scientific enterprises, and it makes competitive sense that the United States should expand its own pool of talent, he noted. “If we're only pulling from the East and West Coasts, and we're only pulling from communities that can afford to go into the sciences, then we are fighting with one hand tied behind our back in that global competition.” The third part of the AAAS plan, which looks at diversity within the AAAS staff, will be shared in late 2020. For the AAAS leadership, the most important part of the plans is to keep them moving forward beyond the draft stage. Parikh recalled that AAAS had a similar moment of opportunity in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when students and younger scientists protested at the association's Annual Meetings for more inclusive policies. After the 1969 meeting, a Committee on Young Scientists was formed. Students began to attend Board meetings, and AAAS developed its first signature programs in education and advocacy. But the committee disbanded within a few years, leaving many of the diversity issues it raised unaddressed, said Parikh. “My takeaway from that is that you have to keep up momentum, you can't stop talking about the issues at hand.”

Concrete steps to diversify the scientific workforce


The recent events that precipitated the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the disproportionately devastating impact of COVID-19 on many communities of color are stark reminders of the pernicious effects of systemic racism on all aspects of our society, including science, medicine, and public health. The lack of diversity in the scientific and health professions—a longstanding manifestation of racism—can no longer be ignored, excused, or attributed to uncontrollable factors. We write at this moment of reckoning to explain what is lost by a lack of diversity; to describe some promising efforts to achieve it; and to propose urgent, larger-scale actions that political and institutional leaders, educators, and scientists can take to redress the inequities that pervade our professions. African American, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples have historically been underrepresented in the research enterprise, with their proportions declining as they progress from undergraduate to graduate school to faculty positions (see the figure, top). The glacial pace of the increase in the percentage of minority PhDs over the past two decades, if extrapolated, suggests that it will take many more decades for the workforce to reflect the makeup of the US population (see the figure, bottom). To wait so long for an equitable outcome should be unacceptable to us all. Some who defend the status quo claim that a lack of diversity does not compromise the quality of science or the likelihood of making discoveries that improve human well-being. We strongly disagree. Why? First, because any barrier to entry into STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields weakens science and carries unacceptable opportunity costs. By limiting the pool from which future scientists are drawn, the full range of talent is reduced, and progress is slowed. Second, when science is more inclusive, the range of questions asked will broaden, as happened when women began to enter the biomedical profession in larger numbers in the 1970s and 1980s ([ 1 ][1]). As an example, a more diverse group of geneticists might have prevented the large human genetic databases from becoming so highly skewed toward European ancestry genomes, limiting their power to identify genetic determinants of disease in other groups ([ 2 ][2]). Third, barriers to the inclusion of specific demographic groups limit the potential impact of science on society. Today, the reluctance of minority communities to participate in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines or even to receive vaccines that have been rigorously tested and approved ([ 3 ][3]) reflects an understandable skepticism of medical authority that arose from historic injustices toward African American and Hispanic communities. For scientific advances to be widely accepted throughout an increasingly diverse US population, both the composition and leadership of our scientific and medical communities must become much more representative. Last, the US census projects that by 2045, no single group, as defined by the US government, will hold a majority ([ 4 ][4]). In 2018, only 50% of the population under 18 years of age was white—with 25% Hispanic, 14% African American, and 5% Asian American—and the white proportion continues to drop every year. As Congress has recognized, the US will be unable to compete in the global arena in the future if it fails to draw talent from its diverse citizenry. The tendency to prefer and to value people most like oneself is a deeply held human trait, one that needs conscious monitoring to overcome. Scientists are not singularly resistant to the phenomenon of implicit or unconscious bias, which can affect all aspects of professional life: hiring, evaluation, promotion, citation practices, and grant funding ([ 5 ][5]). For example, data suggest that African American grant applicants for funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) face racial bias in the awarding of grants ([ 6 ][6]), with African American applicants receiving grant review priority scores that were 10 percentile points lower than scores for white or Asian American applicants, substantially reducing their chances to receive funding. Despite the efforts of the NIH leadership to understand these findings, the discrepancy has never been fully explained, and the difference in success rates (the “funding gap”) has never been closed. The NIH recently announced a new initiative, UNITE, a multipronged effort to end structural racism and its consequences at the NIH, including inequities in evaluations of grant applications ([ 7 ][7]). A commitment of this kind is a first and laudable step to making meaningful progress. In an attempt to rationalize the lack of diversity in the scientific workforce, some have argued that science is a meritocracy, and that the absence of diverse voices, although unfortunate, largely reflects the limited diversity of the pipeline of trainees. This passive view—delegating the problem to a metaphorical pipeline outside of our control—ignores actions that the scientific community can take to address systemic racism and its consequences. During the past few decades, several programs have aimed to increase the inclusion of minorities in science. Although well-meaning, many of these have been either ineffective or not conducted at a scale adequate to substantially change national percentages. We urgently need more and bolder efforts. Fortunately, we can now build on some recent programs that have had notable success in training minority scientists who are now pursuing productive careers in research. These programs appear to have three key features: reducing the sense of isolation by using cohorts to create communities, making strong institutional and individual commitments to mentoring, and removing barriers to research careers by providing full financial support during training. For example, since 1993, hundreds of undergraduates from the University of Maryland Baltimore County's (UMBC) Meyerhoff Scholars Program have gone on to receive MDs and PhDs in STEM fields ([ 8 ][8]). The program relies heavily on a cohort model, in which Meyerhoff scholars form a community that provides mutual support and encouragement; students receive intensive personal advising and counseling by UMBC faculty; and they enjoy access to laboratory opportunities, starting in their freshman year. The program is now being replicated, with promising outcomes, at a number of other research universities ([ 8 ][8]). Another successful model is the Specialized Training and Advanced Research (STAR) program at the University of California, Los Angeles ([ 9 ][9]). This program attracts physicians nearing the end of their clinical training to study for a PhD in a variety of research fields. Although not designed as a minority-serving program, it has capitalized on medical schools having been more successful than graduate programs in attracting minority students. By removing financial burdens that often discourage medical trainees from considering substantial engagement in laboratory research, and by building a strong sense of community that counters the isolation that minority students often experience in the sciences, the program has been successful in directing physicians into research. Another approach that universities have successfully used to diversify their faculty is cluster hiring, in which searches are designed to attract a group of faculty of color over a short period of time. This approach exploits features of the cohort model, including building a community that provides mutual support, encouragement, and peer mentoring. Recognizing the effectiveness of such approaches, in January 2020 the NIH announced the $241 million Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) initiative. The FIRST program has allowed approximately a dozen universities and medical schools to expand their faculty in emerging areas of research, with a requirement that every person hired must have a track record of working to promote an inclusive culture in science ([ 10 ][10]). One should not underestimate the role that money plays in the choices that students make to become scientists. The pay gap between whites and African American, Latinx, and Indigenous people, coupled with long-standing and often unwritten discriminatory policies, has prevented generations of minority Americans from accruing appreciable property and other forms of wealth ([ 11 ][11]). Without the security that such family assets provide, it is much more difficult to embark on PhD or MD training that may not lead to an attractive salary for many years—often while carrying substantial student debt. ![Figure][12] Race and ethnicity in the biomedical research workforce (Top) Demographics by career stage in 2016. The red line denotes the proportion of the specified race and ethnicity in the US population in 2016. (Bottom) Growth in Black and Hispanic PhD recipients over time. The dashed line indicates a linear best-fit trendline. Data are from ([ 15 ][13]). GRAPHIC: H. BISHOP/ SCIENCE BASED ON S. TILGHMAN ET AL. We recommend three approaches to redress this situation: a major federal initiative to diversify the scientific and engineering workforce, a reshaping of institutional culture to welcome underrepresented minorities into STEM research, and grant-funding policies that immediately address current inequities. ### A coordinated federal program to diversify the scientific workforce President Biden has strongly signaled his intention to seek remedies for past racial injustice in this country. At the same time, he has forcefully declared his commitment to scientific solutions to the nation's problems, and he has elevated the role of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) by seeking to place its director, nominee Eric Lander, in his Cabinet, an unprecedented action. We call on President Biden to take an even bolder step in support of both equity and science by proposing legislation that would establish and fund a broad interagency National Science and Engineering Diversity Initiative (NSEDI). And we call on Congress to pass such a bill once submitted for consideration. We recommend that OSTP, reporting directly to the President, organize a programmatic planning process for NSEDI, establish a long-range national strategic plan for diversifying the scientific workforce, and coordinate the distribution of funds to the relevant federal agencies to carry out these plans. A comprehensive effort for diversifying the STEM workforce will require actions that affect and provide support for all components of the scientific enterprise: K-12, college, and graduate education; professional training programs; employment in the public and private sectors; and research grants in many fields. Therefore, NSEDI will need to be developed in conjunction with all of the federal science agencies that participate in the National Science and Technology Council, as well as with the Small Business Administration and the Department of Education. Although it is premature to estimate NSEDI's budget until extensive planning has been undertaken, it seems prudent to expect, on the basis of examples of the anticipated activities (see the box), that an effective program will require an annual new Congressional appropriation of at least 10 billion dollars for several years—a substantial sum but only about 2% of national spending (public and private) on research and development and less than 8% of the federal government science budget. To ensure that NSEDI's programs are working appropriately, Congress should require that an external advisory board be established that develops evidence-based measures to evaluate NSEDI's projects, recommends changes in its portfolio and budget, and reports regularly on the diversity of the nation's scientific workforce. ### Reshaping institutional policies As important as federal funding will be, there are also steps that academic institutions must take to effect an enduring change in the culture of science. The criteria for hiring and promotion of all scientists—from junior faculty to senior administrators—should include evidence of a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Institutions should also take steps to diminish the “minority tax” that is imposed on faculty of color engaged in diversity efforts by ensuring that such programs are led, at least jointly, by nonminority faculty. Moreover, offices and programs established to enhance the careers of minority scientists should be empowered with clear reporting structures to leadership, as well as with administrative and financial support. #### Possible programs to diversify the workforce Colleges, universities, and research institutions should take steps to educate faculty, students, and staff about the history of racism in the United States and provide training for those who serve as mentors and advisers for minority scientists at all career stages. For example, the Center for Improvement of Mentored Experience in Research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison designs training modules that are used by many institutions across the country (). Mentors need not be sought solely within a single laboratory, department, or institution but can be found within the national mentoring networks being generated by scientific and engineering societies. Experimental approaches for bringing about change in the culture of science should be encouraged, and the impact of programs designed to expand the participation of minority scientists should be regularly assessed to identify the most successful strategies. ### NIH policies to redress structural racism Our first two recommendations are directed to the broad scientific enterprise irrespective of field. Their adoption will take time, and their full impact will not be felt for many years. As biomedical scientists driven by the “fierce urgency of now,” we propose three immediate steps that our major source of funding, the NIH, could take that do not require either Congressional action or a culture change in academia. 1. Address financial barriers faced by minority scientists The NIH Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research is a targeted mechanism that allocates extramural funds to support scientists from diverse backgrounds before establishing an independent research program ([ 12 ][14]). We recommend that these grant supplements be paired with a student loan repayment program to reduce the financial burdens of advanced education and training. This would repay up to $50,000 annually of qualified educational debt for minority PhD and MD students. In addition, the application process and evaluation criteria for these Research Supplements should be standardized across NIH institutes, and the length of support should be increased to at least 3 years to enable adequate time for securing individual grant funding. 2. Close the gap in NIH funding of grants for minority scientists The funding gap for African American scientists has been estimated by one of us to be equivalent to about 25 research project grants and 25 smaller exploratory grants per year ([ 13 ][15]). We recommend that the NIH director establish, through the Common Fund, a Demonstration Project (DP) designed to eliminate the gap within 5 years. Eligibility should be similar to the requirements for other DPs and follow the guidelines for the NIH Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research. 3. Expand funding for businesses that employ minority scientists Currently, 4.8% of the NIH research project grant budget is directed toward small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs ($1.1 billion annually). In 2019, only 3.5% of these SBIR/STTR grants were awarded to principal investigators from minority groups ([ 14 ][16]). We recommend that the OSTP establish a goal of at least 5% for minority participation in the NIH SBIR/STTR programs. We propose ambitious, concrete steps for political and institutional leaders, educators, and scientists to take in the immediate future. But we acknowledge that even a successful implementation of these policy recommendations will fall short unless society addresses the broader issues of racism that produce the inequities in the first place. 1. [↵][17]1. J. Stone, 2. V. W. Pinn, 3. J. Rudick, 4. M. Lawrence, 5. M. Carlyn , J. Womens Health (Larchmt.) 15, 234 (2006). [OpenUrl][18][PubMed][19] 2. [↵][20]1. A. C. Need, 2. D. B. Goldstein , Trends Genet. 25, 489 (2009). [OpenUrl][21][CrossRef][22][PubMed][23][Web of Science][24] 3. [↵][25]1. B. Farmer , “COVID vaccine trials move at warp speed, but recruiting Black volunteers takes time,” Kaiser Health News, 2020; . 4. [↵][26]1. S. L. Colby, 2. J. M. 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Going beyond eloquent words


As the United States steadies itself, recovering from COVID-19 and preparing for future crises, it must draw upon what Eric Lander, the nominee for director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), called “America's greatest asset…our unrivaled diversity.” To achieve this goal, OSTP must have the resources and authority to go beyond eloquent words and deliver solid accomplishments for the nation and world. Diversity is a double-edged sword. When complementary talents and perspectives come together, leaps in understanding are more likely and disruptive technologies are born. But there is also a vulnerability. When seized upon to divide (with talk of quotas in a zero-sum game), diversity can be used to generate fear and stoke division in ways that increase inequities and stifle substantive debate. In the scientific enterprise, explicit acts of racism and sexism still exist and cause harm. However, it is often the less obvious factors—divisive rhetoric, obsolete policies (such as overreliance on standardized tests), and willful blindness to inequitable treatment (such as smaller startup budgets for female academics)—that cement many of the injustices that have sprung from the nation's segregated history. These opaque forces are so ingrained that we scarcely realize their implications for minorities and women in science. Over the past year, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (of which I am the chief executive officer; AAAS is the publisher of Science ) has held a mirror up to its own functions. We have listened carefully to scientists, consulted with experts, and analyzed existing data. Chief among what we have discovered are stark demographic contrasts between programs and awards that are applicant-based and those that are nomination- based. We fall short when it comes to recognizing the contributions of underrepresented members of the scientific community. Transparently sharing these data enables accountability. AAAS and other institutions must be held responsible by the community for meaningful change. Insisting on inclusion of underrepresented groups neither sacrifices scientific excellence nor diminishes the accomplishments of those who have historically dominated the sciences. Highlighting the previously ignored does not invalidate the already admired. But this change requires that the scientific community increase attention and support for those who have been disadvantaged. I have received letters from scientists attacking AAAS's focus on diversity, stating that race has no scientific basis and scientists should ignore it. But race and patriarchy are powerful social constructs with societal consequences that cannot be overlooked. Alondra Nelson, OSTP deputy director for science and society and former AAAS Board member, stated that “science at its core is a social phenomenon. When we provide inputs to the algorithm; when we program the device; when we design, test and research; we are making human choices…It matters who makes those choices, it matters who they're thinking about when they do.” Avoiding these conversations amounts to advocating the status quo—and the United States would be weaker for it. Institutions also must push for policies that enable diversity across the enterprise. Often, these policies do not seem directly related to diversity, equity, or inclusion. But increasing pay for graduate students and postdocs and providing them with employee-like benefits and protections; achieving open access publishing policies that do not place the financial burden of publishing on authors; improving training and standards for mentorship, and providing safe and supportive workplace cultures—these policies do affect the retention of diverse scientists without sacrificing scientific excellence. The reasons for ensuring the diversity of science transcend the obvious moral imperative. Diversity of thought derived from diversity of experience gives America a critical advantage in the global competitive landscape. This is key to making the discoveries that will improve everyone's health, inventing the technologies that will grow the economy, and meeting the formidable challenges of this era. Without the innovative boost from a diverse population, the United States will be hard-pressed to compete on sheer numbers of scientists and engineers. The new OSTP leadership will need the resources and clout to go beyond symbolic gestures. Dr. Lander and Dr. Nelson must receive bipartisan support, funding, and authority to create a national science and technology strategy that ensures a scientific workforce capable of building on the exceptional diversity that is the country's greatest asset.