These have been difficult times. Like all of you, we at NINR have been horrified at the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the recognition that there have been so many others. The protests, marches, vigils, and other events over the last few weeks have prompted us to reflect on racism and unequal justice in our society, what we at NINR have and have not done in the past as an organization and as individuals to address these issues, and what we can and will do moving forward.
At NINR, our mission is focused on people, with a goal of ensuring positive health outcomes and quality of life for everyone. Along with the rest of NIH, we are dedicated to reducing the impact of health disparities through the research and training that we support. In fact, NINR is one of the top supporters of health disparities research at NIH as a percentage of budget. However, it is all too clear that there is much more work to be done. Even today, as we monitor the COVID-19 data, we see clear disparities—African Americans are among the groups disproportionately affected with negative outcomes and complications of the disease. We will continue to focus on reducing disparities by funding research aimed at understanding this disparate impact of illness and mitigating these health disparities.
We also know that research is most successful when it is inclusive and incorporates different perspectives. Building a scientific workforce that contributes knowledge, experiences, and ideas from every corner of our society is essential to our success. We remain committed to diversification of the workforce in both the training of nurse scientists and the consideration of our personnel and advisory groups.
We have made some progress, but if we are honest with ourselves, we know it’s nowhere near enough. At NINR and as a scientific community, we all need to do better. In the coming months, we need to have tough conversations about creating a better future—and take steps to make that future a reality. That is why NINR plans to start by doing the following:
- Amending the charge of the NINR Training Pathways Working Group of the National Advisory Council for Nursing Research to include recommendations on increasing the diversity of trainees and early-stage investigators (ESIs)
- Reviewing our ESI programs to consider mechanisms to increase opportunities for African-American and other underrepresented nurse scientists who are building their research programs
- Evaluating our technical assistance processes to ensure guidance on the application and grant process is reaching minority-serving institutions, professional societies, and organizations
- Ensuring our post-review decision-making process is equitable and inclusive
At NINR, we look forward to working with the nursing science community to build a dialogue around preventing and eliminating discrimination and health disparities, while advancing diversity and equality.
Tara A. Schwetz, Ph.D. (Acting Director, NINR) and the NINR Leadership Team