Building a Diverse Genomics Workforce
NHGRI articulates goals and objectives to increase the number of individuals from diverse backgrounds in genomics.
The promise of genomics cannot be fully achieved without successfully attracting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce that includes people from groups underrepresented in the genomics enterprise.
Since its inception, NHGRI has strived to provide responsible stewardship and integrate genomics into all areas of biomedical research. Achieving those goals requires partnerships with and career opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds. The 2021 NHGRI action agenda for a diverse genomics workforce is an ambitious set of goals and objectives to develop an authentic representation of the U.S. population in the genomics workforce.
The action agenda is a critical first step to improve inclusivity and opportunities for talent from across the U.S. to enter and succeed in the field of genomics.
NHGRI is committed to leading efforts to build a genomics workforce that reflects the diversity of the human population. This will require greatly increasing the number of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds who have the necessary training to pursue careers in genomics. The Institute has a history of supporting training programs focused on increasing the diversity of the next generation of genomic researchers, clinicians and trainees. Diversity of the workforce includes underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences research, as well as individuals with disabilities, persons from disadvantaged backgrounds, and women at the senior faculty level.
In the latest issue of ASHG’s American Journal of Human Genetics, learn more about the imperative and rationale behind the 2021 action agenda in a commentary authored by NHGRI Director Eric Green and Vence Bonham, J.D., senior advisor to the NHGRI director on genomics and health disparities.
To be at the forefront of efforts to enhance the diversity of the genomics workforce, the NHGRI Action Agenda for a Diverse Genomics Workforce has the following four major goals:
Develop and support initiatives that provide early exposure and access to careers in genomics
As the population of students in the U.S. education system becomes more diverse, we must invest in steps to ensure they have the opportunity to become part of the genomic workforce. Pursuing a career in genomics usually entails early exposure to and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). To achieve meaningful preparation, students need foundational courses to enter undergraduate programs and pursue genomics-related majors. Waiting until students reach post-secondary education is often too late, especially for students with limited access to educational resources. Thus, NHGRI and the field of genomics must invest in programming for these pre-college students and the educators who teach them.
Develop and support training programs and networks that connect undergraduate and graduate education to careers in genomics
The pathway that leads from early STEM education through graduate-level degrees in genomics has several key transition points. For those community college students and undergraduates from diverse backgrounds, including those from underrepresented groups who are interested in science, attention in the form of guidance and resources must go to where the students are concentrated, which will lead them to and through graduate genomics training programs. NHGRI is dedicated to supporting the development of graduate-level genomics training programs that mentor and support diverse cohorts of students.
Develop and support training, career development, and research transition programs that lead to independent research and clinical careers in genomics
The transition from formal education to research and clinical careers in genomics often requires overcoming barriers to become an established professional in the field. The retention of trained professionals who specialize in genetics and genomics is a major challenge despite the exciting scientific and health-related possibilities. Identifying key transition and retention barriers and developing intervention programs are first steps in achieving a more diverse genomics workforce.
Evaluate progress towards achieving greater diversity in the genomics workforce
NHGRI has a long-standing interest in enhancing the diversity of the genomics workforce. Going forward, it will be important to evaluate the Institute’s investments in this area to determine their effectiveness and, in turn, to guide changes and improvements that maximize their impact.
Genomic Workforce Diversity Working Group
- Chief & NIH Distinguished Investigator
- Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch
Last updated: October 10, 2023