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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) pose enduring and pressing challenges within academia and research communities. Recognizing this, both federal agencies and scientific communities understand that research endeavors offer crucial avenues to tackle these challenges and foster DEI. NSF mandates a statement on broadening participation and/or diversity, equity & inclusion for most proposals, while DOE has recently adopted similar requirements. Additionally, USDA and other federal agencies are in the process of developing analogous mandates.

For large proposals, an effective DEI approach must encompass three key components: 1) recruitment, 2) fostering a culture of inclusion to ensure retention and success, and 3) assessing impact. Supplementary elements, beneficial for NSF and obligatory for certain DOE programs, include outreach, community engagement, and research on social justice and equity within the studied system.

Below are resources that could aid in crafting DEI sections in grant applications. This list is not exhaustive, and we are available to provide further assistance and support to investigators.

Elements for impactful DEI plan

Below are several elements which implementation could strengthen DEI in the proposed research project and potentially have novel and important impact.

Investigative team

Research in team science underscores that the quality of research is enhanced by the diversity of the investigative team, and the diversity among investigators fosters a broader array of research questions and expands the applicability of research findings. Despite these benefits, the representation of diverse researchers remains disproportionately low across scientific disciplines, with certain fields facing particularly acute shortages. Investigators can exhibit a commitment to improving DEI by actively engaging in research scientists from diverse backgrounds.


Investigators can build DEI through recruiting and retaining diverse trainees; by growing skills in mentoring for diversity; and through substantive connection to campus and national resources for diverse student success. 


Investigators can broaden the diversity of their research team by collaborating with diverse scientists at NU or at other institutions, as well as by collaborating with diverse institutions, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), or other institutions not typically active in large research activities.

2023-2024 List of Minority Serving Institutions


Proposals should outline the unique approach team intends to take, elucidate how trainees will actively participate, specify the methods for evaluating the effectiveness of the approach, and detail plans for disseminating these innovations both locally and nationally. These approaches should not only offer advantages to trainees but also contribute to enhancing DEI practices not only at Northwestern University but also on a broader scale.

Direct relevance to local, regional, and national communities
Investigators can also build substance and clarity for their DEI activities through connection to national organizations and initiatives that strengthen diversity. Such connection will make available nationally tested and recognized approaches; provide broad community to guide DEI efforts; and generate opportunities to strengthen and scale activities long term.

DOE Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) Plans

Beginning in FY 2023, all DOE funding solicitations are require applicants to submit a Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) Plan as an appendix to their proposal narrative. PIER plans should describe the activities and strategies applicants will incorporate to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in DOE-sponsored research projects. PIER Plans are evaluated as part of the merit review process and are used to inform funding decisions.

DEI resources at Northwestern University

  • Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. The Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion aims to help create and sustain a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all Northwestern community members including students, faculty, staff and alumni. Their website maintains diversity-related lists of campus resources and groups, academic programs and centers, and statistics.
  • The Graduate School Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP). 8-week competitive research experience at Northwestern for sophomores and juniors from colleges and universities across the United States geared towards underrepresented minorities.  
  • Introduction to Graduate Education (IGEN) introduces diverse juniors and seniors to graduate research, and a partnership with The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions as one of five Majority Research Institutions participating in the Hispanic Serving Institution Pathways to the Professoriate (HSI Pathways).
  • Provost Grants for Innovation in Diversity and Equity support and recognize innovation in improving diversity and inclusivity by funding and recognizing novel faculty projects to improve diversity and inclusivity and to create an inclusive and equitable environment at Northwestern.
  • Genderqueer, Nonbinary, and Transgender (GQNBT) task force provides recommendations for the gender expansive community members
  • The Native American Inclusion Initiative has enhanced the inclusion of Native Americans in the university community, acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples who are traditional stewards of the land the University exists on.
  • The Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance works to prevent and respond to reports of discrimination and harassment. They provide consultation and support to individuals with disabilities.