Blotter

ASBMB calls for broad federal effort to support scientists with disabilities

Society endorses NIH moves toward disability inclusion and urges other agencies to follow suit
Marissa Locke Rottinghaus
Feb. 2, 2023

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology released a statement on Jan. 31 endorsing the National Institutes of Health’s recent report detailing actions the agency should take to support disabled scientists.

The ASBMB’s advocacy team said that it is encouraged by the effort the NIH is making to support disabled scientists. However, ASBMB’s public affairs director, Sarina Neote, said that all federal agencies should follow NIH’s lead.

“NIH has taken an important first step. We hope that they will be an example for all federal agencies to follow suit and support the often-overlooked disability community,” she said.

In addition to calling for immediate implementation of the subgroup’s recommendations, the society urged NIH to:

  • Incorporate anti-ableism into all its diversity initiatives and communications

  • Establish funding opportunities for disability research.

In accordance with the subgroup’s recommendations, the ASBMB emphasized that NIH’s mission statement must be updated to eliminate ableist language.  

The society wrote, “Individuals with disabilities make up 26% of the U.S. adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, their representation in science remains low. The National Science Foundation found in 2019 that 9% of academic scientists self-reported having disabilities. Meanwhile, only 1.2% of NIH-funded principal investigators reported having disabilities.”

Most laboratory setups and equipment are configured for able-bodied users, which presents a systemic challenge for disabled individuals interested in STEM, and few resources exist to aid principal investigators in designing an accessible lab.

According to the NIH, many disabled scientists are unable to take part in professional development activities such as networking events because they are often designed with only able-bodied participants in mind. This inaccessibility has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “Disabled scientists are a vital part of the scientific workforce who provide unique scientific perspectives to the community,” the society wrote. “Without more representation of scientists with disabilities, the biomedical sciences will continue to lag in advances in disability-related research and its promise of equity.”

Neote said the ASBMB is encouraged by NIH’s leadership in this area and that her team looks forward to working with NIH to implement these important provisions.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Marissa Locke Rottinghaus

Marissa Locke Rottinghaus is the science writer for the ASBMB.

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in Policy

Policy highlights or most popular articles

A call to action: Urge Congress to support scientific research
Funding

A call to action: Urge Congress to support scientific research

May 21, 2024

ASBMB members can write to policymakers to advocate for robust science funding in fiscal year 2025.

ASBMB members head to Capitol Hill
Announcement

ASBMB members head to Capitol Hill

May 20, 2024

They will encourage lawmakers to support essential R&D appropriations to keep the U.S. competitive and retain highly skilled talent.

Genetics studies have a diversity problem that researchers struggle to fix
News

Genetics studies have a diversity problem that researchers struggle to fix

April 28, 2024

Researchers in South Carolina are trying to build a DNA database to better understand how genetics affects health risks. But they’re struggling to recruit enough Black participants.

National Academies propose initiative to sequence all RNA molecules
News

National Academies propose initiative to sequence all RNA molecules

April 19, 2024

Unlocking the epitranscriptome could transform health, medicine, agriculture, energy and national security.

ATP delegates push for improved policies
Society News

ATP delegates push for improved policies

April 5, 2024

This ASBMB program helps advocates gain skills to address issues that affect science and scientists.

Advocacy workshops at Discover BMB 2024
Annual Meeting

Advocacy workshops at Discover BMB 2024

Feb. 7, 2024

Topics include running for office, becoming an advocate, and navigating the grant review process at the NIH.