News You Can Use: Enhancing Workforce Diversity; Fabricators; BTRIS

NIH Develops Toolkit for Enhancing Scientific Workforce Diversity

Webpage showing instructions for the diversity toolkit

Workforce diversity is important for many reasons, one of which is to engage diverse perspectives in creating practical solutions, without which we can encounter serious problems.

For example, when YouTube’s almost entirely right-handed developer team built an iOS app without considering how left-handed people would use it, as many as 10 percent of videos were uploaded upside down!

Diversity promotes increased scrutiny of a problem, opening the door to a multitude of solutions made possible by a heterogeneity of experiences.

Workforce diversity contributes directly to problem solving by inviting varied thoughts, experiences, and abilities. Research shows that such cognitive diversity may not only reflect racial, ethnic, and gender diversity but also differences in geographic and life experiences and in scientific interest.

Yet the country’s scientific workforce and NIH still lack diversity, especially at the level of faculty, thus limiting our potential for innovation and relevance. Fortunately—according to the National Science Foundation survey of earned doctorates—the pool of scientists from diverse backgrounds has grown substantially over the past few decades: The number of biomedicine-relevant Ph.D.s earned by individuals from underrepresented groups has increased by about 60 percent since 1996.

The NIH Scientific Workforce Diversity (SWD) office has created an integrative strategy for enhancing scientific workforce diversity that will help NIH institutes and centers to identify, recruit, and advance scientists from underrepresented groups ready to pursue today’s biomedical challenges.

NIH staff can learn about this strategy by using a free, downloadable interactive toolkit. Through text-based information, informative weblinks, video, and an extensive citation library, the toolkit provides users with evidence-based interrelated activities developed and implemented by SWD. These include methods to expand diversity of candidate pools, proactive outreach approaches, strategies for mitigating bias in search processes, and tips on developing and sustaining mentoring relationships.

The toolkit details a search recruitment protocol developed by SWD in concert with the NIH library. This protocol guides users through readily available online search techniques and proactive outreach approaches that broaden and deepen candidate pools. Also central to enhancing diversity is understanding, and mitigating, the impact of implicit bias throughout the process of identifying and hiring scientific talent. The SWD toolkit describes multiple ways to approach this sociocultural issue that is common across sectors and not limited to science and medicine.

Finally, toward addressing inclusion—a key factor for retaining talent—the toolkit presents an up-to-date view of the value of fostering mentoring relationships. Strategies and resources presented go beyond the traditional mentor-mentee dyad and have been proven to enhance career satisfaction and productivity.

For more information and to download the toolkit, visit https://diversity.nih.gov, or contact SWDToolkit@od.nih.gov.


Fabricators Move from ORS to ORF

man working at a machine; see caption

CREDIT: ERNIE BRANSON

Howard Metger is one of the fabricators who helps researchers, scientists, and surgeons by designing or customizing equipment and devices.

Where do NIH scientists go when they need custom instrumentation, equipment design, fabrication, or modification services? For the past 35 years, the Mechanical Instrumentation Design and Fabrication Branch in the Office of Research Services’ (ORS) Division of Scientific Equipment and Instrumentation Services (DSEIS) has provided these services to campus researchers.

On October 1, 2017, the design and fabrication services moved from ORS to the Office of Research Facilities (ORF). DSEIS, however, will continue to provide equipment sales, rental, maintenance, and repair services.

The fabricators are “experts at their craft,” said former supervisor Jerry Tyus. Everything they make is a one-of-a-kind piece to help scientists conduct experiments and contribute to innovative research.

One of the fabricators, Howard Metger, has worked there since 2004. Before that, he was with the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). At NIST, he and his co-worker Robert Clary (now at NIH) helped design and build the display cases for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

These days, Metger and his co-workers help researchers, scientists, and surgeons design or modify metal and plastic devices. Often, customers come in and describe a problem to him and he finds a solution. Recently, the branch built devices that house animals, separate blood, and support a knee.

The branch regularly saves researchers money. In one instance, a scientist needed a replacement screw for a microscope. She came to Metger after she learned the device’s manufacturer didn’t have any replacements. The researcher would have had to buy another microscope. Metger looked at the screw and started working.

“In 10 minutes, we saved NIH $20,000 with our little bit of knowledge,” he explained. “To a single researcher, that’s a lot of money.”

NIHers can now procure fabrication services for themselves by completing a maintenance service request online or by phone. For more information, visit https://www.orf.od.nih.gov/PropertyManagement/MaintenanceServiceRequests....

This article was adapted with permission from one that appeared in the December 1, 2017, issue of the NIH Record: https://nihrecord.nih.gov/newsletters/2017/12_01_2017/story4.htm.


Biomedical Translational Research Information System

BTRIS—the Biomedical Translational Research Information System—is a resource available to the NIH intramural community that brings together clinical research data from the Clinical Center and other NIH institutes and centers. BTRIS provides clinical investigators with access to identifiable data for subjects on their own active protocols. It also gives all NIH investigators access to data without personal identifiers across all protocols. Data are available from 1976 to the present and include laboratory results, vital signs, radiologic reports (with links to radiographic images), medication-administration data, and clinical documents. BTRIS provides users with advanced search, filtering, and aggregation methods to create datasets to support ongoing studies and to stimulate ideas for new research. Also, many types of reports can be easily produced with a user-friendly series of prompts.

Under the leadership of Jose Galvez, who has been chief of BTRIS since July 2016, BTRIS is getting even better. He intends to provide access to data analysis using various tools such as programming languages R and Python in more secure environments. As BTRIS continues to develop, data from new sources and new report features will be added.

“Our primary objective is to make BTRIS a more user-friendly interface,” said Galvez. “In the near future we will be upgrading the server to include data-analysis tools to help researchers obtain the data in desired and usable forms."

For more information and how-to videos, visit https://btris.nih.gov. Galvez plans to revive the BTRIS Scientific Interest Group soon, too.