NIH Director Francis Collins is leading the biomedical research community toward greater diversity and inclusivity, and I stand in full support. The call by Dr. Collins for “a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities,” is a welcome message to researchers who are women or who are from other underrepresented groups. They are hearing that they can and should have a role in shaping the direction of our collective research endeavor in the place where it forms: the scientific meeting.
As director of NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, I have worked with Institute staff to ensure that we attract, support, and help to build a diverse and inclusive scientific workforce. Although there are many more women in the biomedical sciences than when I started in the field, a significant gap still exists between research participation and leadership opportunities for women.
Therefore, aligned with Dr. Collins’s stance and NIDCR’s ongoing efforts, I will be examining the composition and diversity of invited speakers and panels at scientific conferences before accepting speaking opportunities. Building a diverse and inclusive cohort of scientific leaders that reflects the changing demographics in science and in our broader society is a goal that NIDCR shares with our colleagues across NIH.
Martha J. Somerman, DDS, PhD
Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research