Fostering Diversity and Inclusiveness in Alcohol Research

While I typically use this space to discuss science advances or provide health information, right now I would like to mention something just as important—and critical to the future of our research and our health: the need for inclusiveness and diversity in our alcohol research community.  

 

As we know, the NIAAA research portfolio focuses on health topics that touch the lives of almost every family and community across America. Recognizing that, we need to ask ourselves—does our community of researchers reflect the diversity of the communities we serve? And if it doesn’t, how can we improve that representation?

 

Early in my tenure at NIAAA, I established a list of priorities that I continue to share with my staff. One key priority targets the inclusiveness and diversity of NIAAA’s biomedical workforce, and we have efforts underway to improve in this area. In the meantime, I am happy to announce an immediate, necessary, and concrete step that we are taking at both NIAAA and NIH.  

 

NIH Director Francis S. Collins recently announced his commitment to changing the culture and climate of biomedical research to create an inclusive and diverse workforce. To that end, Dr. Collins has pledged to only accept speaking invitations at meetings and conferences if the organizers have taken diversity and inclusiveness seriously in selecting the speakers and developing the agenda.

 

I applaud this decision and am honored to make the same commitment when evaluating my own public speaking invitations. Therefore, aligned with Dr. Collins’s stance and NIAAA’s ongoing efforts, when I receive invitations to attend and present at events, I expect an inclusive playing field for scientists of all backgrounds. I will carefully review each opportunity, share my commitment with meeting organizers, and decline to participate if inclusivity is not evident from the agenda.

 

The alcohol research field abounds with talented and dynamic researchers of all backgrounds. By insisting on their presence on panels and in major speaking roles, we can help ensure that more researchers will have opportunities and platforms to present their work and that the field will enjoy the subsequent richer discussions that reflect these diverse perspectives.

 

All types of research—alcohol research included—advance best when new ideas and viewpoints are brought to the table. I hope that this new criteria for accepting invitations will help extend a warm welcome to that table for the many gifted scientists who may not have always felt embraced and appreciated.

 

When thinking about the meetings and conferences I will attend in the future, I am energized by the prospect of the fruitful, enriching, and field-changing deliberations that we can expect—and by the thought that we will continue to find ways to bring diverse voices to the table.

 

August 13, 2019
 

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