The NMDC Strategic Plan for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA)

Last updated: June 2021

The National Microbiome Data Collaborative’s (NMDC) vision is to empower the research community to harness microbiome data exploration and discovery through a collaborative integrative science ecosystem. The NMDC team is constructing this discovery portal in the midst of a technological and data revolution. With the advent of new technologies and massive amounts of data being produced by these technologies, 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 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 2019).” 

Diversity within microbiome research, in all its forms (racial, gender, sexual identity, class, 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) strategic plan. This strategy 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 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.

Glossary of Terms

Ambassadors  Early career researchers are trained as NMDC representatives to spread awareness of the need for data standards in their communities. Ambassadors run trainings and gather feedback from their communities on the NMDC sample metadata standards.
Champions Researchers who understand and appreciate the value of well-curated omic 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 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.
Data Use Policy The NMDC’s Data Policy is that all data and data contributors should be properly acknowledged in alignment with the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data principles (Wilkinson, 2016) and in accordance with the Creative Commons with Attribution 4.0 International license. 
Governance Structure The NMDC Leadership Team sits at the center of the Scientific Advisory Board, the Joint Leadership Council, and the Sustainability Working Group all of whom help the NMDC team stay on mission. 
IDEA Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability, a framework for discussion of equity work.  
Joint Leadership Committee The Biosciences Associate Lab Directors (or their equivalent) from the respective Labs (Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Oakridge National Laboratory) working on the NMDC project. 
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.). 
NMDC Team Staff of the National Microbiome Data Collaborative. 
NMDC Community Everyone working in, on, and around microbiome data. 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. 
Scientific Advisory Board Experts in the microbiome field who provide strategic advice to the NMDC. 

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

Strategy 1.1: Formalize the staged process of NMDC’s IDEA strategy. 

Rationale: Diversity and inclusion goals are intrinsically linked to all institutional activities, and should be built into NMDC’s operations as the pilot expands.

  • Action: Create an IDEA Strategic Plan outlining scope for the pilot and a roadmap for IDEA past the pilot stage. 
  • 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.

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

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

  • Action: Develop metrics that allow us to concretely track progress. 
  • Action: Include IDEA updates to the community in the quarterly NMDC newsletter.
  • Action: Integrate IDEA maintenance tasks into NMDC’s RACI structure.
  • Action: Send NMDC Team members to IDEA focused trainings to increase awareness and bring knowledge to the group 

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

Strategy 2.1: Ensure that the NMDC community has a forum to provide feedback and engage in IDEA issues. 

Rationale: It is critical that everybody within the NMDC community feel comfortable sharing issues and be empowered to create an inclusive environment. 

  • 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.
  • Action: Create easily accessible anonymous reporting and feedback tools for the NMDC team on governance principles.
  • Action: Develop a transparent Data Management Plan with inclusive open software policies and commitment to equitable data stewardship.
  • Action: Create IDEA focus area within the Champion’s program to leverage community leadership and help build out IDEA resources 

Strategy 2.2: Clarify our public commitment to IDEA

Rationale: Public statements help set the tone of an organization, recruit diverse candidates, guide behavior of community members, and provide a foundation for change. 

  • 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. 
  • Action: Annually update NMDC’s public facing IDEA documents to reflect ongoing work. 

Strategy 2.3: Provide centralized resources for the NMDC community interested in learning more and engaging in actions around anti-racism and inclusive data stewardship

Rationale: Many individuals in the community have resources and thoughts to share, and providing a centralized place for these resources will promote our institutional values of inclusion while building community. 

  • Action: Create an #IDEA slack channel within NMDC’s internal team and on NMDC’s community space.
  • Action: Build and maintain NMDC’s Resources Google Doc with the help of community members such as Champions

Goal 3: Engage and support diverse stakeholders and users.

Strategy 3.1: Reduce barriers to participation, create a plan to overcome them, and provide consistent opportunities for feedback. 

Rationale: Data management requires time and funding that can be exclusionary and limit the researchers that are able to participate in the NMDC. 

  • Action: Create community feedback loops including a feedback box easily accessible on the data portal. 
  • Action: Run user surveys annually asking for feedback on IDEA commitments and inclusivity of engagement activities. 
  • Action: Create training materials for data management that decrease the amount of time needed to bring data up to NMDC standards.
  • Action: Identify under-resourced institutions and groups that could benefit from target programing and trainings surrounding microbiome data 
  • Action: Run workshops with a variety of partners to teach about FAIR data practices and inclusive data governance. 
  • Action: Release training webinars for easy access to NMDC portal. 
  • 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. 

Strategy 3.2: Foster and build a network of engagement representatives, trained in NMDC’s IDEA strategy. 

Rationale: NMDC’s pilot team is small and specific to the national labs. By directly working with energetic and passionate researchers, the NMDC is able to broaden its reach to a diverse set of scientists.  

  • 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
  • Action: Develop a plan to monitor NMDC community and collaborator involvement and track progress on IDEA principles 

Strategy 3.3: Improve accessibility of data, tools, training, and the NMDC Interface

Rationale: The microbiome research community spans the globe, in order to be inclusive of the many researchers working in this field, our platform must be designed with a diversity of users in mind.  

  • Action: Create scope and goals for ensuring that NMDC’s infrastructure allows access to as many users as possible 
  • Action: Craft access model in line with data model including attention to UX.
  • Action: Create accessible UI in terms of language, visibility (read-based text), and other accessibility features.
  • Action: Investigate data stewardship frameworks that protect the data of vulnerable communities and create guidelines to integrate with government guidelines and NMDC policy. 
Thank you for your interest
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