From the Deputy Director for Intramural Research
Equal Pay for Equal Work: A Concept Across Many Boundaries
BY NINA F. SCHOR, DDIR
NIH has made substantial progress in the past several years toward recognition and correction of inequities in many different arenas. Although this progress can never be as rapid or as complete as would be optimal, it has been achieved in ways that are perhaps more likely to be conducive to durable culture change than if it were instantaneously imposed by an external force.
In light of this fact, I am thrilled to announce that, through careful observation, discussion, consensus building, and action, the NIH Intramural Research Program has begun a process that will correct long-standing inequities in stipends awarded to our summer student, postbaccalaureate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral scientist colleagues.
In the short time I have been at NIH, I have seen shifts in workforce and leadership demographics, salary equity, and trainee educational pedigree that let me know we are moving, however slowly, in the right direction. I have seen, too, and perhaps most impressively, major shifts in the comfort level of our workforce in making important observations and asking critical questions aloud and in public forums.
For many years, the magnitude of stipends awarded to the junior members of our scientific workforce has depended upon the institute or center (IC) in which they choose and are chosen to do their work. Sometimes, scientists doing the same mentored work in different ICs have been accorded markedly different stipend support.
Now, thanks to an effort spearheaded by Sharon Milgram, Director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education, and Darryl Zeldin, Scientific Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, stipend ranges at every level will move toward equity across NIH ICs beginning this coming fiscal year and will be uniform across NIH by 2025. This plan has been approved by the NIH scientific and clinical directors, the Office of Intramural Research, and Lawrence Tabak, who is Performing the Duties of the NIH Director.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are words that have had broad and deep meaning since their linguistic inception. In some societies with populations that are minoritized and marginalized, those words might have somewhat different, more narrow implications. But what is humane, civil, good, and right should apply to us all and not be defined only in one or two spheres.
The Intramural Research Program should feel good that our leaders recognized and called out publicly that our junior scientists were not equitably supported across NIH and that this inequity and the resultant inadequacy of stipends for some held the potential to limit the diversity of scientists working across our institutes and centers. We should be proud that they acted on this recognition to accord equal pay for equal work regardless of venue or organizational unit affiliation.
This action will enable scientists of diverse economic, personal, and social circumstances to join us and focus on what they come to NIH to develop—their careers in, and contributions to, science. To be sure, we have a long way to go. But oh my, what an exciting road we are on.
This page was last updated on Thursday, May 4, 2023