Increasing diversity in the leadership and trainees of the MSM community

Back to 2019 MSM Agenda

Organizers / Facilitators: Silvia Salinas Blemker (University of Virginia) and Elebeoba May (NSF)

Session Description: 

While several initiatives in the NIH have seen improvement in the representation of women at the PI level, women are still highly under-represented in the multi-scale modeling community.  Current estimates show that of the U01 MSM modeling projects, only 12% of awards have a female PI.  Historically under-represented minorities also have very low representation in the MSM community.  This breakout session aims to explore possible ways to make the community more inclusive and encourage more women and underrepresented minorities to pariticpate in the meeting and apply for multi-scale modeling grants.  The session will start with a few opening remarks by Silvia Blemker, which will be followed by a panel discussion and brainstorming session.  This session is open to ALL and we hope that many PIs, key personnel, post-docs, students, government employees, and others will participate.  


Confirmed panelists:

Denise Kirschner (University of Michigan)

Jennifer Linderman (University of Michigan)

Shayn Peirce-Cottler (University of Virginia)

Mounya Elhilali (Johns Hopkins)

Linda Petzold (UCSB)

Sy-Miin Chow (PSU)

Elana Fertig (Johns Hopkins)

Colleen Clancy (UC Davis)


Resources & Pre-Session Notes (representative resources addressing the general topic of diversity in science, engineering, and mathematics):

(1) USA Today OpEd on gender and STEM careers (by S. Blemker): Astrophysicist Barbie is perfect. That's not how you attract more girls to STEM careers

(2) Women in BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies): A Statistician and A Neuroscientist Walk into a BRAIN Grant  (Witten Sisters)

(3) APLU report addressing diversity in the biomedical research workforce for various levels an evidence based practices for increasing diversity: Increasing Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce.   

(4) Statistics for women and minorities in science and engineering (NSF).  Provides some insight on how the pipeline has changed for various disciplines: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering

(5) Report on minorities (faculty) in science and engineering at major research universities (Nelson & Brammer): A National Analysis of Minorities in Science and Engineering Faculties at Research Universities.  

(6) Given how collaborative successful MSM projects tend to be, this article on collaboration and gender in the sciences may provide some insight or challenges to consider (Misra, et al.): Collaboration and Gender Equity among Academic Scientists.  

Interactive Discussion (please put you name before your comments):

Discussion points (feel free to add comments under discussion points or add a new topic/point)

(1) What can the MSM program do to encourage more women and URM to become engaged in the community?  For example, how can we encourage more women and URM investigators to apply to the U01 program (assuming a new PA is issued)? 


DK- inviting junior faculty to this meeting and having a mentoring structure in place may help.


Stacey Finley

re: funding- There should be some consideration of the diversity of the PIs when making funding decisions. NCI has an R21 that is specifically aimed to increase the diversity of cancer researchers ( Taking a similar perspective for the MSM program would be helpful.

re: attendance athe the MSM meeting- I suggest a more intentional process of directly inviting women and URMs and providing travel support if needed. Suggested names could be taken from PIs. Another source is the Association of Early Career Cancer Systems Biologists (AECCSB), who co-organize the Systems Approaches in Cancer Biology meetings at Woods Hole in 2016 and 2018 (


(2) What biases may exist in the review process for U01 MSM (and modeling in general) grants and how can we address those biases (eg: more diversity in panels).


DK-more diverse review panels by age, gender and areas


Stacey Finley- Definitely invite more women and URMs to be on the review panel. Maybe explicitly invite those who hoave not applied before, but whose research is related so they get a sense of how these grants are reviewed. This could be similar to the Early Career Reviewer initiative, but specifically for this funding mechanisms and targeted towards women and URMs.


(3) We are considering making the theme of the next meeting be “Diversity”, so we thought it would be useful to brainstorm any ideas on how to make the meeting more diverse and inclusive.  For example, one idea was to have more students and post-docs present the science (as compared to the PIs). 

DK- yes, and have PIs review posters maybe even for a prize so they really hae to engage presenters.

(4) Other points, questions, etc.



Elife report on the review process for female vs male authors - link.

Elife report on a trial modification of peer review that resulted in equivalent male/female last author acceptance - link.


about ~2 dozen people present diverse audience.


CC-Framing issues:

1) remove barriers to URM

2) what are issues? are panels diverse?

3) e-Life has a published the mixed panel data

Eleoba May says there are stats form that at NSF and also need to facilitate collaborations

DK- have a mentoring option lunch or session to match mentoring  for science and funding and other things

Fertig-- K25 or other options for mentoring?

Jennifer L- community? how to build it and connect?

Silvia B -announced that her and Shayn are discussing chairing MSM next year and also a theme of diversity! she asks that if you are interested to get in touch

Q-When you share about the MSM meeting--are there barriers?

fertig-computational depts not super friendly..need TRAINING....


Bobby (Purdue): Last year, in

Your name
Bobby Madamanchi (Purdue University)

Bobby (Purdue): Last year, in collaboration with the CompuCell3D group at IU (Dr. Glazier), I conducted a qualtiative study to look at the barriers to entry for wet lab biologists at MSIs in participating in multi-scale modeling collaborations. Among my key findings were:  (1) Compared to other quantative fields such as bioinformatics, there has been much less outreach to MSIs, (2) Multi-scale modeling is seen as more abstract and is percieved to have less concrete relevance to health disparities (a driving motivator for many MSI faculty).

I believe that multi-scale modeling has a great potential as a research capacity building mechanism for emerging research institutions, and i think outreach to MSIs is a neglected mechanism for broadening the impact of multi-scale modeling.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/07/2019 - 14:21

Table sorting checkbox