Washington (AFP) - The director of the US National Institutes of Health said Thursday he will no longer participate in all-male panel discussions, or "manels."
The NIH is the largest public health research institution in the US with an annual budget of $39 billion, directly employing 6,000 scientists and funding the work of hundreds of thousands of others -- and the announcement was expected to have a ripple effect.
"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," said Francis Collins, explaining the decision.
"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."
Collins said his decision was informed by a recent report on sexual harassment by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and he urged male scientists to follow his lead.
"I challenge other scientific leaders across the biomedical enterprise to do the same."