New Policy Statement Highlights Diversity and Inclusion Goals in Genetics and Genomics Research

Published: Thursday, January 23, 2020, 11:00 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time

Media Contact: Nalini Padmanabhan, 301.634.7346, press@ashg.org

ROCKVILLE, MD — The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) today announced that it has approved a new policy statement to guide its diversity and inclusion activities in support of the genetics and genomics workforce and in research participation. Last year, the ASHG Board of Directors approved a new strategic plan emphasizing the importance of diversity to the Society and the research agenda it serves, and established a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. The new policy statement articulates the Society’s commitment and goals.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion in human genetics and genomics research is a scientific and community imperative for ASHG,” said ASHG President Anthony Wynshaw-Boris, MD, PhD. “It is a core part of our strategic plan, and in recent months, our Diversity & Inclusion Task Force has been holding important, formative discussions for how our Society can advance this priority.”

Wynshaw-Boris said ASHG will commit to fostering an inclusive, welcoming, and learning community among its members and through the Society’s events and programs. “I am proud that the ASHG Board has adopted a policy statement that will ultimately make a positive difference for our members,” he said. “As we look at the future of genetics and genomics research, it’s clear that if we stand still, we’ll be left behind. Genetics and genomics research needs the greater innovation and creativity that happens with diverse voices coming from different backgrounds. Moreover, if we are to be successful in realizing the benefits of genetics and genomics research for people everywhere, we must ensure broader participation in research among diverse populations.”

The statement focuses on five key points involving ASHG leadership, membership, collaborators and the public. ASHG will:

  • Celebrate genetic diversity, one of humanity’s greatest strengths, as a foundation for scientific discovery that benefits health and society.
  • Work to ensure our leadership and broader membership reflects and appreciates the diverse scientific and public communities we seek to serve and promote diversity and inclusion in our scientific events and forums.
  • Create a more diverse and inclusive genetics and genomics research workforce through strong collaborations across academia, industry, and government.
  • Advocate for greater population diversity and inclusion in research to enable scientific discoveries that benefit all communities.
  • Improve the community’s ability to engage diverse audiences more consistently and competently, increasing support for the benefit of research among diverse populations.

Based on the Task Force’s input, ASHG will focus its diversity and inclusion efforts on increasing participation of people from underrepresented ancestries; sex; gender identity and sexual orientation; disability; and economic disparity.

“We are proud to represent and serve the diverse and vibrant genetics and genomics research community,” said Dana Crawford, PhD, ASHG Director and chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. “Our aspiration as an association is that the people powering this great sector will represent a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. We believe that by focusing on diversity and inclusion, we’re empowering not only the people who make up our member organization, but also the world around us. As we grow these efforts, we believe they will help generate better decision-making, promote the most innovative and forward-thinking research, and engage more people in genetics and genomics advances.”

The Task Force continues its work. It is exploring strategies for collecting better data in many areas and ensuring the Society’s committees are including diversity goals in their priority programming over the next three to five years. Over the last two years, the Society has made headway to increase diverse representation on its board and committees and launched the Human Genetics Scholars Initiative, in valued partnership with the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), Biogen, and Color. ASHG also expanded its developing country travel awards in partnership with NHGRI, H3Africa, and PerkinElmer Genomics and introduced reduced membership dues and meeting registrations for people from developing countries. This will ultimately provide greater access for new and diverse scientific professionals in the U.S. and internationally to become more involved in the Society early in their careers and thereby broaden the reach and impact of the genetics and genomics research community and its relevance to broad human health and wellbeing.

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The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), founded in 1948, is the primary professional membership organization for human genetics specialists worldwide. The Society’s nearly 8,000 members include researchers, academicians, clinicians, laboratory practice professionals, genetic counselors, nurses, and others who have a special interest in the field of human genetics.

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