Everyone Has a Role to Play in Making Science More Equitable and Inclusive

As the largest federal sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences and a steward of public funding, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science has a responsibility to ensure that we are serving the broader public. The Office of Science is deeply committed to supporting diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible work, research, and funding environments that value mutual respect and personal integrity, which reflects the principles of the Biden Administration. We are committed to promoting people of all backgrounds, including individuals from groups and communities historically minoritized in STEM fields and careers.

Over the past several years, the Office of Science has initiated several efforts to live up to these commitments. We started with a systematic review of our business process for managing competitive research awards. We evaluated our processes against best practices for promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Based on this assessment and recommendations from community reports, the peer-reviewed literature, and over a decade of peer reviews of our programs, we identified more than 40 opportunities and proposed actions to expand participation in our sponsored activities and be more intentional in our approaches to broadening participation. We are now implementing these actions.

Last year the Office of Science hosted several listening sessions with a wide range of communities. We learned a great deal from these conversations about barriers to participation in our programs and what we can do to remove these barriers. We are now applying what we learned from those listening sessions through the Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (or “RENEW”) initiative and the proposed Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) initiative.  

It’s time that we do more to encourage our research communities to consider what contributions they can make to broadening participation in science and ensuring that their own scientific efforts and environments are equitable and inclusive. Everyone has a role to play. 

That is why, beginning in FY 2023, the Office of Science is adding a new requirement to our solicitation processes: applicants must now submit a plan for Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research, or PIER Plan, along with their research proposals. PIER Plans should describe the activities and strategies that investigators and research personnel will incorporate to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in their research projects. The complexity and detail of a PIER Plan is expected to increase with the size of the research team and the number of personnel to be supported. This will be a requirement for proposals submitted to all Office of Science solicitations, as well as invited proposals from the DOE national laboratories. The PIER Plans will be evaluated under a new merit review criterion as part of the peer review process.  

We are also changing our requirements for conference proposals submitted to the Office of Science. Beginning in FY 2023, proposals requesting funding to support a conference will require that the host organization of the conference has an established code of conduct or policy in place that addresses discrimination, harassment, bullying, and other exclusionary practices. It must also include processes for reporting and addressing complaints. Applicants will also be required to submit a recruitment and accessibility plan for speakers and attendees. This plan will need to include discussion of the recruitment of individuals from groups historically minoritized in the research community.

The Office of Science recognizes that with every solicitation and activity that we sponsor, we have an opportunity to open doors, remove barriers to participation in science, and create research, work, and learning environments where everyone can fully engage and thrive. We invite the research community to help us achieve these worthy goals – to make science a more welcoming and inclusive enterprise.

The Office of Science will be holding a community webinar on October 17th to review the new PIER requirements. You can register to join.

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