June 5, 2008
IC Directors
Kerry Brink, Assistant to the Deputy Director, NIH
IC Directors’ Meeting Highlights – April 24, 2008

Discussion Items

I. Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity Management (OEODM): State of the Agency Briefing,
Mr. Lawrence Self, Director, OEODM

In his State of the Agency briefing, Mr. Self updated IC Directors on the Management Directive 715 (MD-715). He explained that MD-715 consists of policy guidance and standards for establishing and maintaining effective affirmative programs of equal employment opportunity. MD-715 requires evaluation of agency policies, procedures and practices to identify any barriers to equal employment opportunity and to report plans and progress to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Mr. Self informed IC Directors that the ultimate goal is to establish and maintain a Model EEO Program which consists of the following six elements, with examples of NIH’s progress toward these elements during fiscal year 2007:

Demonstrated Commitment from Agency Leadership

  • Dr. Zerhouni re-issued the Policy on Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management;
  • EEO and diversity modules were included in the new employee orientations.

Integration of EEO into the Agency’s Strategic Mission

  • OEODM director met regularly with the NIH and IC leadership;
  • EEO specialists served on search committees, quality review boards, and promotion tenure panels.

Management and Program Accountability

  • Instructor led and web-based EEO and Diversity training was conducted;
  • Senior leadership performance plans included an EEO element.

Proactive Prevention of Unlawful Discrimination

  • Web-based Section 508 training was provided;
  • Many issues were resolved before becoming complaints.


  • Utilized iComplaints database to track complaints and appraise IC leadership on a monthly basis;
  • Timely processed complaints.

Responsiveness and Legal Compliance

  • Executed the MD-715 2007 Plan;
  • Posted the NO FEAR Act statistical data on-line.

OEODM is conducting a trend analysis of the NIH diversity workforce compensation and reward system, and is partnering with the NIH Office of Human Resources to develop an applicant tracking system to assess whether vacancy announcements are attracting a diverse pool of qualified applicants. Mr. Self reported that in fiscal year 2007, NIH succeeded in increasing workforce diversity. Goals for 2008 are to continue to be proactive in equal employment opportunity and broadening diversity in recruitment, hiring and promotion practices.

II. Update on Peer Review, Dr. Lawrence Tabak, Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

First-rate peer review is a cornerstone of NIH and the emerging reality of the increasing breadth, complexity, and interdisciplinary nature of modern research has created many challenges. Dr. Tabak explained that enhancing peer review has been guided by the charge to fund the best science, by the best scientists, with the least administrative burden. Whereas best science is dependent on many factors including scientific quality, public health impact, mission of the Institute or Center and the existing NIH portfolio.

The NIH embarked on a year-long endeavor to examine and evaluate peer review in three distinct project phases:

an image of a flow chart showing 3 phases of examining and evaluating peer review

The Diagnostic Phase involved an in-depth evaluation of the current NIH peer review process. Joint efforts involving the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group, the Steering Committee (SC) Working Group solicited input from NIH internal and external communities, and deliberated on challenges and proposed actions. The Final Draft Report of the NIH 2007-2008 Peer Review Self-Study, issued February 29, 2008 (posted at www.enhancing-peer-review.nih.gov), reveals the outcome of the Diagnostic Phase, which describes recommendations under the following seven major challenges that emerged:

  • Reducing Administrative Burden of Applicants, Reviewers and NIH Staff;
  • Enhancing the Rating System;
  • Enhancing Review & Reviewer Quality;
  • Optimizing Support at Different Career Stages;
  • Optimizing Support for Different Types and Approaches of Science;
  • Reducing Stress on the Support System of Science;
  • Meeting the Need for Continuous Review of Peer Review.

In March 2008, the NIH Director established the Steering Committee Peer Review Implementation Group to generate detailed implementation plans for each of the recommended actions. The Committee convened subgroups composed of NIH planning and analytical and evaluation experts, statisticians, and program staff to begin to develop the detailed implementation plans and evaluations. In addition, extensive feedback and input from the NIH internal and external communities, along with consideration of the pros and cons of both individual and combined recommendations, informed the development of the implementation plans. The implementation plans were then clustered within the following discrete core themes:

  1. Excellence of Reviewers;
  2. The Fairness and Clarity of Peer Review;
  3. Support Scientists at Different Stages of Their Careers;
  4. Continuous Quality Control and Improvement of Peer Review.

Within the next few weeks, the implementation plans and evaluations will be further vetted by the internal cross functional groups and the Steering Committee before coming back to IC Directors and final implementation plans determined.

Kerry Brink
CC: OD Small Staff

This page was last reviewed on June 5, 2008 .
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