NIH Chief Francis Collins Wants to End the ‘Manel’

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Hello and happy hump day, readers!

The “manel” has seeped into conference culture—and none other than the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) himself wants to put an end to it.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “manels” are panels at conventions, meetings, and other congregations of business, academic, and sociopolitical leaders that feature exclusively men.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins says it’s time to break the habit.

“I want to send a clear message of concern: it is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels, sometimes wryly referred to as ‘manels.’ 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 an NIH blog post on Wednesday.

Collins went one step further, putting his own speaking agenda on the line. The comments were inspired by a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine titled, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequence in Academic Science, Engineering, and Medicine.”

“Starting now, when I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities. If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part,” he wrote. “I challenge other scientific leaders across the biomedical enterprise to do the same.”

While pretty much all industries struggle with the prevalence of manels (full disclosure: I’ve definitely been on a few of them myself, and rightly been called out for it, no matter the quality of panel members), the medical and biopharma industries have a long-festering problem with gender equality. That problem has manifested itself as a lack of representation in the C-suite and cringe-worthy behavior at conferences.

Read on for the day’s news.



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