Harvard Catalyst Profiles

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A Systems Approach to Advancing Workforce Inclusion and Diversity


Many factors influence the careers of individuals underrepresented in medicine and science (under- represented minorities, URM), but only a few of these factors are tracked in current diversity research. We hypothesize that this lack of comprehensive data and its analysis impedes the ability of institutional leaders to identify and implement successful policies and interventions that increase the diversity and inclusiveness of the workforce. New advances in data collection and analysis at Harvard Medical School promise to make it possible to test this hypothesis. Using a newly-developed tool, Profiles, we will assemble a range of data about individuals (demographics, research, teaching and service-related information) and about the environment and policies and practices of the institutions in which the individuals work. Expanding Profiles, we will collect new data at the departmental and institutional levels, including diversity, mentoring and faculty development programs, fellowships and trainings, awards and honors, individual information pertaining to users of these offerings, and information on grant applications, teaching activities and leadership roles of individual faculty. This groundbreaking data collection, conceptual framework and analysis approach will allow us to address, for the first time, how multiple factors interact in hindering or supporting the careers of URM faculty, allowing us to form hypotheses about how environmental factors affect the success of junior faculty, and to identify potential differences between URM faculty and other faculty. We will analyze these data using approaches drawn from epidemiology, social network theory and sociology, extending our understanding of URM career pathways in real time. These comprehensive data will inform us about the effects of general policies, as well as diversity policies, on the career success of URM faculty and trainees and will offer institutional decision-makers new tools with which to assess and modify institutional policies relevant to URMs, including policies not originally intended to affect diversity.

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Diversity research in the biomedical, health and behavioral sciences has been limited by a lack of comprehensive, integrated information pertaining to factors - including factors not addressed by diversity programs - that impede or facilitate career entry, persistence and success. Harnessing data that has been fragmented and/or not readily accessible combined with a robust conceptual framework will make possible analyses that enable institutions to develop policies, practices and programs that lead to increased diversity and inclusion in the sciences. As a portable approach and platform, the proposed work, is potentially of value to all institutions.


Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.