Head of Health Research Agency: No More 'Manels'

Francis Collins will boycott all-male speaking panels, he announces
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2019 4:44 PM CDT
NIH Boss Boycotts All-Male Speaking Panels
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, announced a policy change on his speaking engagements.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

If a scientific panel doesn't include women, it won't include the director of the National Institutes of Health as a speaker. Francis Collins posted his decision online, NBC reports. "Too often, women and members of other groups underrepresented in science are conspicuously missing in the marquee speaking slots at scientific meetings and other high-level conferences," he wrote in calling for an end to the all-male panels "sometimes wryly referred to as 'manels.'" Collins said he'll evaluate an event's "attention to inclusiveness" when he receives an invitation. He accepts about 125 speaking invitations a year, the Washington Post notes, sometimes as a panelist and sometimes as a keynote speaker.

"Just to introduce this little bit of friction into the way we think of what an invitation means, and what it means to be included, is a very powerful message he’s sending," said Maryam Zaringhalam of 500 Women Scientists. The organization works for inclusion of women, minorities, members of the LGBTQ community and others in scientific leadership roles. Zaringhalam hopes Collins' action encourages other men to do the same—and if they turn down an invitation, even consider suggesting a replacement from an underrepresented group. (Another big change for NIH made headlines last week.)

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