Racial Equity Initiative - Research Gaps and Opportunities

The NIDA Research Gaps and Opportunities Workgroup (REI RGO) will activate NIDA’s commitment to eliminating racial inequities in addiction research by examining the current landscapes of health disparities and structural racism and developing short- and long-term measurable objectives for enhancing the research portfolio. Objectives will center on research in areas where there are known inequities based on race/ethnicity; where there is scientific promise; and where research has the greatest potential to reduce those disparities, with a focus on projects that have not been given high priority in health disparities funding opportunities.

DrivePrioritiesProgress to Date
Persistent health disparities related to substance use, addiction, and related outcomes; a lack of attention to research questions most salient to URM communities; and existing system bias in scientific enterprise necessitates improvement in approach and outcomes.
  • Identify disparities & barriers
  • Engage scientific community broadly at all levels
  • Implement programs/funding opportunities to promote research questions relevant to URM to reduce health disparities
  • Listening sessions
    • Internal 15 held
    • Office hours
  • Portfolio Analysis
  • Scientific Meeting: Enhancing Health Disparities Research Related to Substance Use and Addiction: Research Gaps and Opportunities
Next Steps
  • Data-driven Focus Areas and Action Items
    • Short-term & long-term plans will be informed by consistent reassessment
    • Integrate into NIDA Strategic Plan

Virtual Meeting on Structural Racism and Neurocognitive Mechanisms

REI RGO organized a virtual meeting on May 17-19, 2022, titled, ‘The Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Structural Racism’ to bring together a group of interdisciplinary researchers to unpack the effects of structural racism on neurocognition, as it relates to substance use and mental health, and to discuss how to consider and contextualize structural racism in developing research studies. The 3-day meeting was attended by over 900 participants from around the world and offered insights on various subjects, including the historical context of structural racism in healthcare and research, operationalization and measurement of constructs related to structural racism, community-engaged research, and responsible use of secondary datasets.

List of Publications and Resources

Themes from Research Gaps and Opportunities Listening Sessions:

  • Research relevant to underserved communities 
    • NIH-supported research should expand beyond the individual to focus on community health
    • Should include contextual variables (e.g., system inequities) to fully understand causes and consequences
    • Consider oversampling for multi-morbidity so research addresses issues prevalent among underrepresented populations
    • Existing studies should determine how to integrate racial equity measures
    • Adequately power studies to examine racial/ethnic differences
  • Exclusion criteria intended to isolate variables in clinical research 
    • Disproportionately impact minority populations
    • More complex experimental design is needed to develop the evidence base needed  
  • Communication of results affecting URM communities
    • Should be clear that outcomes associated with systemic inequities are not reflective of inherent traits of any racial or ethnic group
  • Increasing research participation by URM
    • Focus groups with URM leaders to determine needs and goals regarding research participation and follow-up after studies are completed to continue community engagement

Scientific Meeting