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Role of Search Committee Members

TO: Search Committee Members
FROM: Michael M. Gottesman, M.D., Deputy Director for Intramural Research
SUBJECT: Your Role as Search Committee Members

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is committed to hiring new intramural scientists of the highest caliber and maximum diversity. To the NIH, diversity covers every aspect of an individual, such as race, gender, age, disability, etc. We appreciate your assistance in helping achieve these paired goals during this recruitment. We are certain that your selection to this Search Committee reflects your expertise and commitment to bring excellence to NIH, and we are providing the following information so that you are prepared to assist us in reaching our goal of an outstanding and diverse research staff.

We depend on each Committee member to help us expand our search to the widest extent possible, to bring qualified candidates from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and expect each to play a very active role in searching for candidates by networking with your colleagues and through your professional societies, and other affiliations. These organizations will have vacancy listings, minority affairs groups, list services, resource programs, etc. Please provide your professional organizations with information about this vacancy. Also, contact colleagues at the NIH and at other institutions to make them aware of this search and to encourage them to apply or to recommend qualified applicants. You should mention the vacancy to talented individuals that you meet at professional conferences and visits to research institutions, as well.

To avoid the appearance of bias, committee members must not write letters of recommendation for candidates. If you write a letter, you will have to resign from the search committee. For tenure-eligible (Senior Investigator), Senior Scientist, or Senior Clinician positions, if there is a candidate who may be considered a recent, close collaborator of any member of the search committee, that member must be excused from the search committee as soon as this candidate is detected. A recent, close collaborator is someone with 3 or more publications with the candidate in the last 5 years.

A committee member with a direct report among the applicants must resign from the committee. A direct report would include, but not be limited to, a fellow, staff scientist, or other staff within the committee members’ research group. As a general principle, any committee member must disclose any relationship to, or interaction with an applicant to the other members of the committee, so the committee members can take this relationship or interaction into account when evaluating a candidate, or determine if recusal is required.

Although most search committees have a member from an underrepresented minority group or a scientist with a disability and all have at least one woman scientist, the task of identifying qualified minority and women candidates and candidates with disabilities should not rest solely with them. These members may however provide perspectives on various candidates (for example, the quality of their educational institutions) that may not be known to all committee members. My office sends monthly updates of tenure-eligible and tenure-track openings to the organizations indicated below (Appendix 1). There are also some websites which will allow you to post a truncated version of your ad for free (Appendix 2). The committee may also wish to consider placing paid ads at some of the other special emphasis websites, magazines or newsletters targeted to underrepresented minorities and women, which are also listed below (Appendix 3). Relevant NIH Scientific Interest Groups should also be notified. Each committee also has an OEODM representative as an ex-officio member and that person will advise on the need for targeted recruitment and share information if there are individuals from underrepresented groups (as recognized by OEDI) among the applicant pool. The EEO Specialist will share the vacancy through the NIH Special Emphasis Program Manager networks and affiliations, and recommend targeted resources for posting vacancies as well, to help expand the applicant pool. Ensuring that every qualified individual knows about the position may mean that some people are contacted through multiple routes. That is acceptable, and may also reinforce the fact that the search process is open.

In addition to scientific accomplishments, you are rating each candidate's proven or projected ability to recruit and manage more junior scientists. There are brilliant people with the potential to be great biomedical researchers in every demographic group, and in a broad range of research institutions. We want them all to have an equal chance to compete for our training and employment opportunities. It is therefore very important to consider whether the PI candidate is likely to have fair, open, and inclusive practices for recruiting trainees and/or employees. This can be judged by mentoring and outreach activities, as indicated in the cv and letters of reference, and in the candidate’s response to EEO-related questions during the interview. You should recall that not all of the best science is published in the highest profile journals (see Appendix 4). Take the time to consider the individual applicant’s impact on the field and the quality of the work rather than simply looking at where it is published. You should also take into account the candidate’s ability to take advantage of the special environment offered by the NIH intramural research program.

The Scientific Director of the relevant Institute, and someone from my office, will meet with the whole Committee to discuss your roles, responsibilities, procedures and guidelines. Before or at this meeting, the IC will provide you with the DDIR-approved advertisement to get your input on it. After Committee agreement on the final advertisement, the IC will consult with and notify you where it has placed advertisements. These advertisements should be placed 60 days prior to any screening of applicants. It is the responsibility of the whole Committee to insure that all of these rules are followed so that all relevant candidates know of the opening, have adequate time, and are encouraged to apply.

I appreciate your willingness to take on this important responsibility for the NIH Intramural Research Program.

Appendix 1

Groups that automatically receive notices of NIH Tenure-Track/Tenured Positions (as of January 2015):

  • NIH Black Scientists and Friends regional listserv
  • The NIH Women Scientist Advisors Committee
  • NIH Assistant Clinical Investigators
  • NIH Intramural Clinical Directors
  • NIH Hispanic Employee Organization
  • Earl Stadtman Investigator Search Applicants
  • The NIH-FDA Chinese-American Association
  • Meyerhoff Scholarship Program (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
  • MARC U Star PIs
  • National Hispanic Scientists Network
  • The Leadership Alliance (Brown University) 
  • The NIH Asian/ Pacific Islander –American Organization
  • Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (Local Chapter)
  • Salk Institute Society of Research Fellows
  • Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Postdoc Association
  • Diversity specialists at U.S. medical schools
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Appendix 2

Places where your committee can post free (truncated) advertisements targeted to Special Emphasis Groups:

Appendix 3

Paid Advertisers your committee can use to target Special Emphasis Groups:

Appendix 4

Papers in low profile journals that led to Nobel Prizes:

  • Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1961 Apr 28;4:404-8. Matthaei H, Nirenberg MW.
    • Led to Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1968
  • Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1976 Nov 8;73(1):85-91. Ciechanover A, Hershko A.
    • Led to Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2004

  • Thursday, January 1, 2015 - 9:00am

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