Translational Oncology, Volume 16, February 2022,
Advocacy engagement has been at the forefront of National Cancer Institute (NCI) efforts to advance scientific discoveries and transform medical interventions. Nonetheless, the journey for advocates has been uneven. Case in Point: NCI publication affiliation rules of engagement pose unique equity challenges while raising questions about structural representation in biomedical research. Abiding by the core rationale that publication affiliation should be tailored to employment status, the NCI has systematically denied research advocate volunteers the opportunity to specifically list NCI as an institutional affiliation on academic publications. Unpacking advocate NCI publication affiliation restrictions and its links with advocacy heritage preservation and convergent science goals poses unique diversity, equity, and inclusion challenges and opportunities. Improving the quality of structural representation in biomedical research requires new theories of action and flexible planning to advance, promote and build capacity for strategic advocacy inclusion and equity within publication affiliation initiatives. Here we highlight several opportunities for how leadership might formulate a radically different vision for NCI's approach. This perspective interrogates the best way forward for ensuring that biomedical employee and volunteer advocate workforce publication affiliation intersections are characterized by increased creativity and representation parity. Imbuing the scientist and clinical researcher archetype with social dimensions, we join NCI critical thinkers in urging employees, funded academics, and volunteer citizen scientists to collectively assume the role as paladins of science and integrity who view the triumphs of making a difference in science alongside the social responsibility of promoting transdisciplinary professionalism and the democratization of science.