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NIH Program to Address Structural Racism

The US National Institutes of Health has launched a new initiative aimed at combating structural racism in biomedical research, the agency has announced.

Through its new UNITE initiative, the agency plans to address structural racism through five committees that aim to better understand stakeholder experiences, improve NIH and extramural research culture, examine health disparities and equity as well as improve transparency and communication. As Science notes, NIH has been faulted for racial bias in funding — the 2011 Ginther report found Black researchers were funded at lower rates than white researchers.

"To those individuals in the biomedical research enterprise who have endured disadvantages due to structural racism, I am truly sorry," NIH Director Francis Collins says in a statement. "NIH is committed to instituting new ways to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, and identifying and dismantling any policies and practices that may harm our workforce and our science."

Science adds that while some researchers are encouraged by Collins' announcement, others wish for more concrete actions, such as pledging to fund Black researchers at the same rate as white researchers.

The NIH notes that the UNITE initiative is in line with a Biden Administration executive order to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in the federal workforce.