Government Relations Update

Measuring progress in diversifying the scientific workforce

At workshop, scientific leaders focus on methods for tracking training and careers and evaluating diversity programs.

On May 24, 2012, the American Psychological Association (APA), as a member of the Collaborative for Enhancing Diversity in Science, joined in convening a workshop, Working Together to Develop Common Data, Measures and Standards, to address one of the main challenges to improving diversity programs: how to measure progress. Given the importance of this issue to federal funding agencies and private foundations, sponsors for the workshop included the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Sloan Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation. Scientists with expertise in measurement, statistics, training and interventions to promote diversity were joined by representatives from professional associations and federal agencies, many of which support or administer programs that seek to enhance ethnic minority representation in the sciences.

Recognizing that investments in diversity programs seek to ultimately create a workforce that more closely represents the demographics of the country at large, the goal of the conference was to strengthen efforts in developing common measures that would assist agencies and organizations in tracking scientists across their careers, identifying best practices for interventions and mentoring programs and leveraging the information that is currently collected to inform policy decisions.

Speakers included Yvonne Maddox, Deputy Director of NICHD; Larry Tabak, NIH Principal Deputy Director; and Cora Marrett, Deputy Director of NSF. Tabak noted that the NIH Advisory Council to the Director’s Working Group on Diversity on the Biomedical Research Workforce is expected to release its recommendations in mid-June.  Marrett pointed out that the Obama Administration has emphasized the need to identify evidence-based programs for strengthening diversity.

Participants spent the afternoon in five breakout sessions developing recommendations addressing the following issues:

  1. how best to use existing surveys or administrative data to track entry, retention and progress; 

  2. how to evaluate programs or interventions using common measures; 

  3. how to define demographic groups or subgroups to measure progress more precisely; 

  4. how to address privacy concerns or other barriers to get individuals to participate in data collection; and

  5. how to share best practices and research across the relevant stakeholder communities.

A full report of the workshop and the recommendations will be available later this year.