Action Plan for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA)

Last updated: January 2024

The National Microbiome Data Collaborative (NMDC) supports researchers to create, use, and reuse microbiome data through a collaborative data ecosystem. With the advent of new technologies and massive amounts of microbiome omics data being produced, the scientific community’s capacity for innovation, experimentation, and adaptation has increased dramatically. Data, and particularly open data, play a crucial role in advancing innovation, governance, and self-determination among vulnerable communities (Carroll et al., 2020). Yet, “vulnerable populations remain both under-studied and under-consulted on the use of data…restraining the utility of big data applications” to contribute to inclusive innovation (Jackson et al., 2019).

Diversity within microbiome research, in all its forms (racial, gender, sexual identity, class, institutional affiliation, career stage, and more), strengthens research teams and practice, and helps advance science. Significant parallel, non-technical efforts are required to ensure microbiome data science, new technologies, and infrastructure developments work in the best interests of the research community and society at large. We are committed to supporting the diversity of experiences, expertise, backgrounds, needs, and perspectives of the microbiome research community, and to actively work towards an inclusive culture at a programmatic and individual level. 

Understanding that engagement of vulnerable populations and working to correct these systemic exclusions of data lead to higher quality data generation and more diverse outcomes, the NMDC has constructed an Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA) strategy and annually publishes an Action Plan. This is a living document that will grow and evolve as the NMDC Team continues to engage with the community for feedback and work with partners to make an inclusive, diverse, and equitable environment. If you would like to engage with the NMDC please reach out to


Our Goals: 

Goal 1: Promote transparency and accountability within the NMDC team, governance, & operations.

Goal 2: Promote accessibility of NMDC’s infrastructure and products.

Goal 3: Promote IDEA best practices in NMDC engagement, outreach, and collaborative partnership activities.


Glossary of Terms

Ambassadors  Early career researchers are trained as NMDC representatives to spread awareness of the need for microbiome data stewardship in their communities. Ambassadors run workshops and events and gather feedback from their communities on the NMDC products.
Champions Researchers who understand and appreciate the value of well-curated omics data, and are willing to advocate for the importance of FAIR microbiome data on behalf of the NMDC and the microbiome community at large.
Code of Conduct The NMDC has established a code of conduct for our team members and community that embodies our commitment to promote reproducibility and enhance cross-study comparisons of microbiome data through open science and Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) data management best practices (Wilkinson et al., 2016).
Data Use Policy The NMDC’s Data Use Policy communicates that all data and data contributors should be properly acknowledged in alignment with the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data principles (Wilkinson et al., 2016) and in accordance with the Creative Commons with Attribution 4.0 International license.
DOE Department of Energy
IDEA Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability, a framework for discussion of equity work.  
IDEA Working Group A Working Group comprised of NMDC team members, Champions, Ambassadors, Scientific Advisory Board members, and any interested members of the community that convenes once a quarter to discuss actions, progress, resources, events, and other information relevant to IDEA.
LANL Los Alamos National Laboratory
LBNL Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
NMDC Team Staff of the National Microbiome Data Collaborative. 
NMDC Community Everyone working in and around microbiome science. The cross-cutting nature of microbiome research, from environmental sciences, agriculture, and energy, to human, natural, and built environments, creates a diverse community united by a common challenge.
NMDC Collaborator A member of the community who cites or contributes data to the NMDC or works with the NMDC on joint efforts.
PNNL Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
RACI Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed, a project management tool (Jacka, Mike; Keller, Paulette (2009). Business Process Mapping: Improving Customer Satisfaction. John Wiley and Sons. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-470-44458-0.).
Scientific Advisory Board Experts spanning microbiome research, computing sciences, and other disciplines who provide strategic advice to the NMDC.

Goal 1: Promote transparency and accountability within the NMDC team, governance, & operations.  

Strategy 1.1: Clarify NMDC’s commitment to IDEA practices and formalize the iterative process of NMDC’s IDEA Action Plan. 

Rationale: Diversity and inclusion goals are intrinsically linked to all institutional activities, and should be built into NMDC’s operations and governance. Feedback from the team, the SAB, and the community should drive iterations to the proposed IDEA actions and NMDC governance principles.

  • Action: Annually iterate and build upon the IDEA Action Plan by publishing new intended actions
  • Action: Present updates regarding the IDEA Action Plan at least twice a year to the entire NMDC team for feedback, including at the annual NMDC team retreat, with an emphasis on gathering feedback from the team
  • Action: Provide updates regarding IDEA actions at the NMDC SAB meetings
  • Action: Provide accessible, anonymous reporting and feedback tools for the NMDC team on governance principles, including the IDEA Action Plan and Code of Conduct

    Strategy 1.2: Develop an accountability framework for implementing the IDEA Actions.

    Rationale: A plan is only effective if there are metrics and forms of tracking mechanisms to evaluate NMDC’s progress towards fostering a diverse and inclusive environment. An accountability framework helps abstract ideas become a reality. 

    • Action: Assess relevant metrics to track progress and annually publish accountability metrics for the number of actions from the prior year that were accomplished, in-progress, or not completed
    • Action: Use metric collection activities to determine groups and areas of the microbiome research community the NMDC is not yet reaching
    • Action: Annually update NMDC’s IDEA RACI structure
    • Action: Ensure researcher diversity is prioritized and captured in the NMDC’s FAIRness evaluations

    Strategy 1.3: Promote IDEA best practices in the hiring, onboarding, mentoring, and education of NMDC team members.

    Rationale: Abiding by institutional hiring practices is only the beginning of ensuring the continued success of each member of a diverse, interdisciplinary team.

    • Action: Generate and disseminate standard language to be used in NMDC-specific job postings and job interviews regarding candidates’ commitment to IDEA best practices, building on the requirements of the IDEA statements of each National Lab and the DOE 
    • Action: Outline trainings, materials, and resources regarding IDEA best practices to be added to NMDC team onboarding materials
    • Action: Create and maintain a structure for effective mentoring (e.g., mentorship plan templates) of students, technicians, postdocs, and early career researchers on the NMDC team
    • Action: Annually recruit Summer students, with an emphasis on diversifying applicant institutions and backgrounds
    • Action: Continue to send NMDC team members to IDEA focused trainings to increase awareness and bring knowledge to the group 
    • Action: Engage with IDEA organizations and employee resource groups at LBNL, LANL, and PNNL

        Goal 2: Promote accessibility of NMDC’s infrastructure and products.

        Strategy 2.1: Ensure that the NMDC community has a forum to provide feedback on NMDC products, and that diverse researchers are involved in the user research process. 

        Rationale: It is critical that all researchers within the microbiome research community feel comfortable sharing feedback and issues regarding the NMDC products and activities. 

        • Action: Ensure inclusivity in user research processes through soliciting feedback from outside of DOE’s traditional networks using data orgs such as GIDA and RDA to expand reach
        • Action: Provide an accessible framework for community reporting of bugs, errors, and questions regarding the NMDC products (e.g., ticketing system)
        • Action: Provide credit (e.g., through ORCiD, on website, through social media) to researchers who volunteer with the NMDC through our user research or other engagement programs

          Strategy 2.2: Improve accessibility and accountability of the NMDC products as well as associated data, tools, trainings, and documentation.

          Rationale: The microbiome research community spans the globe. In order to be inclusive of the many researchers working in this field, our products must be designed with this in mind. Our products must be accessible and mindful of data provenance and ownership.

          • Action: Investigate data stewardship frameworks that protect the data of vulnerable communities and create guidelines to integrate with NMDC policy
          • Action: Make meaningful steps towards the overarching implementation of the CARE principles into product infrastructure
          • Action: Implement accessibility features across the NMDC products (e.g., language, visibility [read-based text])
          • Action: Create and iterate training materials, user guides, documentation, and additional tutorials that lower barriers for researchers to understand and utilize the NMDC products for their research

            Strategy 2.3: Expand the breadth of the data available in the Data Portal.

            Rationale: The microbiome data available in the NMDC Data Portal should encapsulate researcher, geographic, and funding agency diversity.

            • Action: Add data to the Data Portal from traditionally underrepresented geographic locations, areas particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and data generated by users outside of the immediate DOE user facility network
            • Action: Ensure researchers maintain data provenance and are credited for their contributions through the use of dataset DOIs, study pages, and the availability of Data Portal data discovery metrics. More information can be found in the NMDC Data Use Policy.

              Goal 3: Promote IDEA best practices in NMDC engagement, outreach, and collaborative partnership activities.

              Strategy 3.1: Expand the number and diversity of NMDC collaborative partners in meaningful, mutually beneficial ways. 

              Rationale: Collaborative efforts should be mutually beneficial, and the NMDC should continuously expand our breadth of collaborative partners to better represent the entirety of the microbiome research community.

              • Action: Outline a roadmap for how to collaborate with various organizations, and publish a roadmap for how organizations can collaborate with the NMDC, centered around providing mutual benefits
              • Action: Periodically update and assess internal collaborative partnership evaluation documents
              • Action: Promote climate change innovation and translational science, especially efforts aimed at helping vulnerable populations

                  Strategy 3.2: Foster and build a diverse network of engagement representatives, trained in IDEA best practices. 

                  Rationale: NMDC Ambassadors and Champions must reflect the diversity and interdisciplinarity of the microbiome research community, and these community representatives should be provided with extensive resources and training materials regarding IDEA best practices. 

                  • Action: Provide IDEA trainings to Ambassadors and Champions that include resources on hosting inclusive events and NMDC’s IDEA principles
                  • Action: Ensure diversity (institutions, backgrounds, microbiome environment, funding agency, etc.) in each annual cohort of Ambassadors
                  • Action: Distribute the recruitment information for Ambassadors and Champions to diverse groups and mailing lists

                    Strategy 3.3: Host, attend, and present at events representing diverse areas of microbiome research, with varied audiences. 

                    Rationale: An important part of the NMDC engagement strategy is the attendance of and contributions to conferences, events, workshops, meetings, and symposia. These events should encompass diverse audiences, microbiome types, geographic locations, and opportunities for engagement. Training sessions should also be as open and inclusive as possible.

                    • Action: Run workshops with a variety of partners to teach about FAIR data practices and inclusive data governance
                    • Action: Attend, support, and present at conferences and events that support IDEA best practices and promoting microbiome science within underrepresented communities (e.g., SACNAS NDiSTEM conference)
                    • Action: Identify and work with under-resourced institutions and groups that could benefit from targeted trainings surrounding microbiome data, and that request support surrounding microbiome research 
                    • Action: Expand NMDC’s international presence by attending international conferences, events, and workshops, both in-person and virtually

                    Strategy 3.4: Outline an online engagement strategy that supports microbiome researchers and IDEA-promoting organizations.

                    Rationale: Online & social media engagement strategies should include considerations for media accessibility, and should support the efforts of microbiome researchers and organizations.

                    • Action: Annually iterate the engagement strategy document and social media playbook to include information on IDEA principles, actions, and accessibility features
                    • Action: Implement accessibility features across NMDC outreach activities (e.g., translations to user guides & tutorials, accessibility features on social media, closed captions)
                    • Action: Follow, engage with, and cross-promote organizations working towards IDEA best practices on social media

                        Strategy 3.5: Provide centralized resources for the NMDC community interested in learning more and engaging in actions around anti-racism and inclusive data stewardship.

                        Rationale: The NMDC must engage with the larger community in a manner that promotes mutual exchange of information. Resources, information, training materials, and expertise that the NMDC collates should be shared with the larger microbiome research community. 

                        • Action: Annually recruit members to the IDEA working group (NMDC team members, Champions, Ambassadors, SAB members, collaborators, etc.)
                        • Action: Meet quarterly with the IDEA working group to progress the Action Plan and form a collaborative implementation strategy
                        • Action: Include IDEA updates to the community in the quarterly NMDC newsletter, over Slack (especially the #IDEA NMDC Community Slack Channel), and through social media; encourage the NMDC community to share their updates
                        • Action: Together with the broader research community and the IDEA working group, create a catalog of resources, tools, publications, and news articles regarding topics relevant to IDEA and microbiome research.
                        • Action: Publish on IDEA-related topics, and how they intersect with microbiome science.

                        Provide feedback about the 2024 NMDC IDEA Action Plan here.

                        The entire NMDC team is devoted to adhering to IDEA best practices and working diligently to accomplish the 2024 NMDC IDEA actions. As leaders of the NMDC, we will prioritize the IDEA principles in all NMDC efforts, advocate for equity in microbiome science, foster the strengths of team diversity in all of its forms, and enforce adherence to the NMDC Code of Conduct. 

                        -Emiley Eloe-Fadrosh (NMDC Program Lead), Co-PIs, and the NMDC Leadership Team


                        Previous IDEA Strategic Plan Actions and Accountability Metrics

                        In order to promote accountability for the implementation of outlined actions, the NMDC will annually report on the number of actions Completed, In Progress, or Not Completed.

                        For the initial iteration of our IDEA Strategic Plan (released in 2021), the team outlined 3 major goals:

                        Goal 1: Promote transparency and accountability within NMDC’s Team and Operations.  

                        Goal 2: Promote transparency and accountability within NMDC’s Governance Structure.

                        Goal 3: Engage and support diverse stakeholders and users.

                        Within these goals, the team outlined 27 actions. As of January 2024, the NMDC team has completed 22 of these actions, with 5 in progress.

                        • Action: Create an IDEA Strategic Plan outlining scope for the pilot and a roadmap for IDEA past the pilot stage. 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: The IDEA Strategic Plan will now be annually iterated (starting in January 2024). IDEA activities were incorporated into the larger engagement strategy, and a new milestone regarding IDEA actions was added to the NMDC roadmap
                        • Action: Start a sub-Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) working group on Data Stewardship and Inclusion, including members outside of the SAB that are not currently represented in the NMDC team.
                          • Status: Completed 
                          • Explanation: Was changed to be a more inclusive working group (launching January 2024) that includes team members, Champions, Ambassadors, and any SAB members or collaborators interested in participating; SAB members were provided with IDEA-related updates at the SAB meeting in October 2023
                        • Action: Develop metrics that allow us to concretely track progress. 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Metric collection will be an ongoing task; discussed opportunities for tracking demographic information, and this will continue to be limited; have outlined metrics for better tracking institutions, geographic locations, etc. from ORCiD logins as well as Google Analytics; metrics for IDEA action accountability will be annually shared publicly
                        • Action: Include IDEA updates to the community in the quarterly NMDC newsletter.
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Included updates from collaborators and updates regarding events relevant to IDEA principles; this will be an ongoing task and the team will continue to include these updates
                        • Action: Integrate IDEA maintenance tasks into NMDC’s RACI structure.
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Created a unique NMDC RACI specifically for IDEA maintenance tasks
                        • Action: Send NMDC Team members to IDEA focused trainings to increase awareness and bring knowledge to the group 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Team members attended the SACNAS NDiSTEM conference and attended IDEA focused sessions at AGU; several team members also took virtual trainings relevant to IDEA including unconscious bias training, gender inclusive language training, etc.
                        • Action: IDEA Working group will conduct yearly reviews of the Code of Conduct, IDEA Strategic Plan, and Data Use Policy and present findings at the annual NMDC Leadership Retreat, SAB Meetings, and JLC Updates.
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: The IDEA Action Plan will be updated every year by the Engagement Team, the 2025 iteration will be ready for review during the team retreat and will also be reviewed by the SAB and IDEA Working Group; Code of Conduct was reviewed by the team in January 2024, iterated by the Leadership Team and publicly updated
                        • Action: Create easily accessible anonymous reporting and feedback tools for the NMDC team on governance principles.
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Hosted a NMDC team meeting that utilized an anonymous reporting form for the team to provide feedback on the Code of Conduct and NMDC meeting/team dynamics; created a form for capturing feedback about the IDEA action plan
                        • Action: Develop a transparent Data Management Plan with inclusive open software policies and commitment to equitable data stewardship.
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: A comprehensive Data Management Plan was written for the NMDC renewal proposal, this can be reviewed annually along with our Data Use Policy and other governing documents; guidance for writing a DOE Data Management Plan is provided by the NMDC, which includes a DMPtool template
                        • Action: Create IDEA focus area within the Champion’s program to leverage community leadership and help build out IDEA resources 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: As mentioned above, this was combined into an IDEA Working Group; several Champions have already expressed their interest in joining and being active participants in this Working Group
                        • Action: Create an NMDC diversity statement, generated from co-Principal Investigator IDEA commitments. This statement will be posted under NMDC’s public Code of Conduct. 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Statement was drafted, reviewed, approved, and posted on the NMDC IDEA Action Plan web page rather than within the Code of Conduct
                        • Action: Annually update NMDC’s public facing IDEA documents to reflect ongoing work. 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Created the 2024 IDEA Action Plan and captured accountability metrics for past actions
                        • Action: Create an #IDEA slack channel within NMDC’s internal team and on NMDC’s community space.
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Created designated slack channels on both the NMDC internal and NMDC Community spaces
                        • Action: Build and maintain NMDC’s Resources Google Doc with the help of community members such as Champions
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Resources were expanded to an entire folder, IDEA resources were also provided directly to Ambassadors along with their IDEA-specific training session
                        • Action: Create community feedback loops including a feedback box easily accessible on the data portal. 
                          • Status: In-progress
                          • Explanation: Requests for this feature or a way of easily contacting the NMDC team were also heard from the research community during our rounds of user research and usability testing. This has been outlined as an action item for all 3 products
                        • Action: Run user surveys annually asking for feedback on IDEA commitments and inclusivity of engagement activities. 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Asked the NMDC team for feedback on proposed IDEA actions, provided an alternate means for anonymous feedback via a feedback form
                        • Action: Create training materials for data management that decrease the amount of time needed to bring data up to NMDC standards.
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Created the Submission Portal tutorial video, updated user guides, gave workshops and presentations about data management, published the 2023 Ambassador training slides about data management
                        • Action: Identify under-resourced institutions and groups that could benefit from target programing and trainings surrounding microbiome data 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Expanded our list of collaborating groups and organizations, engaged with several groups at conferences that are interested in microbiome trainings and would like to engage more with the NMDC; reached out to additional organizations regarding collaborative opportunities
                        • Action: Run workshops with a variety of partners to teach about FAIR data practices and inclusive data governance. 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Hosted and co-hosted workshops and events with a variety of partners and researchers that focused on FAIR data practices, inclusive data governance, and microbiome data stewardship
                        • Action: Release training webinars for easy access to NMDC portal. 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Updated the Data Portal documentation, user guide, and tutorial video; created Submission Portal training materials; published the 2023 Ambassador training slides about all 3 products
                        • Action: Ensure inclusivity in user interview processes through soliciting feedback from outside of DOE’s traditional networks using data orgs such as GIDA and RDA to expand reach. 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Expanded user interviews beyond DOE researchers; will continue to expand this network
                        • Action: Collaborate with CSCCE to provide IDEA training materials to both Ambassadors and Champions that include resources on hosting inclusive events and NMDC’s IDEA principles
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Provided Ambassadors and Champions with IDEA resources and gave the Ambassadors a specific IDEA-centric training session
                        • Action: Develop a plan to monitor NMDC community and collaborator involvement and track progress on IDEA principles 
                          • Status: Completed
                          • Explanation: Planned a follow-up community survey; created a collaborator spreadsheet and quantitative assessment; have begun tracking IDEA action metrics; have outlined incorporation of IDEA organizations into our CRM
                        • Action: Create scope and goals for ensuring that NMDC’s infrastructure allows access to as many users as possible 
                          • Status: In-progress
                          • Explanation: Currently working on an ongoing FAIRness evaluation of NMDC’s infrastructure; have promoted the products more broadly
                        • Action: Craft access model in line with data model including attention to UX.
                          • Status: In-progress
                          • Explanation: Released NMDC API, added additional data access
                        • Action: Create accessible UI in terms of language, visibility (read-based text), and other accessibility features.
                          • Status: In-progress
                          • Explanation: Released French and Spanish translations of the NMDC EDGE user guides, incorporated accessibility features into social media posts
                        • Action: Investigate data stewardship frameworks that protect the data of vulnerable communities and create guidelines to integrate with government guidelines and NMDC policy.
                          • Status: In-progress
                          • Explanation: Researched the CARE principles, Indigenous land use agreements, and other frameworks; began discussions on the holistic adoption of the CARE principles across the NMDC products


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