Let’s Say Yes to Diversity That Fuels Rigorous Research
Helene M. Langevin, M.D.
August 8, 2019
Recently, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. took a stand on an important topic—representation and inclusion in the research community. I agree with and fully support his decision to set a clear standard for accepting speaker invitations, to help ensure “manels”—all-male speaking panels—become a thing of the past.
Dr. Collins’s decision recognizes a critical truth in science—diverse perspectives are foundational in any effort to generate impactful, rigorous research.
In the field of integrative health research, we have a strong culture of diversity. Integrative health draws from practices used by different populations, countries, and cultures, and as a result, it’s common to see broad representation at research gatherings, such as our upcoming symposium NCCIH at 20: A Catalyst for Integrative Health Research.
In fact, bringing together diverse perspectives is fundamental to the NCCIH approach. As a Center, we collaborate regularly with other NIH institutes and centers (ICs) and other Federal health agencies. These varied perspectives are critical in identifying research endeavors that can yield findings meaningful to public health, such as our joint NIH Department of Defense Department of Veterans Affairs initiative to help address pain among U.S. military and veterans.
The continued work of breaking down barriers to inclusion is critical to cultivating talented young investigators who are just beginning their careers. To succeed in that endeavor, we must ensure that all voices are heard at the table, regardless of gender, sex, race, ethnicity, age, disability, or socioeconomic or geographic status. For a research workforce that can address today’s health challenges and be ready for tomorrow’s, we need to embrace a mindset of inclusiveness throughout the career development continuum—early education, higher education, grantmaking, peer-reviewed publication, conferences and meetings, and other formative touchpoints.
With good leadership, like that demonstrated by Dr. Collins, inclusiveness in the research community is an imperative we can achieve through intentional steps. In doing so, we’ll help ensure the research supported by NIH ICs and academic research institutions meets the needs of the people we serve.