Without inclusion, diversity initiatives may not be enough

Double whammy this week about diversity in science and how to change your lab/department/field. I’m not complaining, bring on the diversity!

And in an interesting twist, both of the posts this week (this one too) are peer-reviewed papers, rather than blog posts. Which is awesome.

Abstract below, paper here. And let’s keep talking about this/doing something to contribute.

Summary

Diversity among scientists can foster better science (12), yet engaging and retaining a diversity of students and researchers in science has been difficult (3). Actions that promote diversity are well defined (4), organizations are increasingly focused on diversity (5), and many institutions are developing initiatives to recruit and enroll students from underrepresented minority (URM) groups (racial, ethnic, gender, sexual identity, or persons with disabilities). Yet representation of URM groups in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields lag behind demographics in society at large (35), and many URM students feel unwelcome in academic departments and in scientific fields. Why is progress so limited (67)? We see a widespread and under-acknowledged disconnect between initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in academic and professional institutions and the experience of URM students (including many of us authors) (67). We argue that failure to grasp foundations of this disconnect is the crux of why diversity initiatives fail to reach the students that they were made to recruit. We believe that addressing this will resonate with other individuals and groups and help advance discussion in the scientific community.

Citation:

Chandler Puritty, Lynette R. Strickland, Eanas Alia, Benjamin Blonder, Emily Klein, Michel T. Kohl, Earyn McGee, Maclovia Quintana, Robyn E. Ridley, Beth Tellman, and Leah R. Gerber. Without inclusion, diversity initiatives may not be enough. 2017. Science Vol. 357, Issue 6356, pp. 1101-1102. DOI: 10.1126/science.aai9054

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Recommendations for making science inclusive, and how to talk about it with others

Small Pond Science continues to be awesome.

And they highlighted a short peer-reviewed paper that they wrote about how to promote equity and inclusion, which you can find the full text here and the PDF here.

TL;DL version: they have 12 recommendations for broadening participation and communicating about diversity.

Recommendations for Broadening Participation and Communicating About Diversity in Entomology

  • Build meaningful long-term collaborations with faculty and students in Minority-Serving Institutions.
  • When focusing on diversity for seminar series and symposia, take into account not only gender and ethnic diversity, but also institutional diversity.
  • Develop broader impacts for research proposals that provide training opportunities for undergraduates in underserved institutions, because implementation of broader impacts fostering the inclusion of underrepresented groups is uncommon (McGlynn 2013a). However, parachuting into institutions to recruit the “quality” candidates without building relationships with the faculty and supporting long-term mentoring relationships will not serve the purpose of broadening participation (McGlynn 2013b).
  • For graduate admissions, eliminate the GRE requirement and lower GPA thresholds.
  • Observe or participate in conversations in social media with academics representing a range of ethnic, cultural, and institutional backgrounds.
  • Emphasize quality over quantity when developing a piece of work for communication (e.g., blog post, video, podcast). Low-quality work rarely reaches its intended audience.
  • If you make the choice to build your own platform for communication, establish a regular frequency for new material, and stick to that schedule. Blogs are a form of outreach that involves a long-haul investment, because audiences build slowly, and only with regular feeding.
  • You don’t need to build your own platform, as range of existing platforms are available to you, such as Facebook, Twitter, Medium, guest posts in established blogs, and op-ed pieces in newspapers.
  • Don’t be afraid to get it wrong; as long as you are open-minded and respond positively to critical feedback, then you will not become infamous on the internet.
  • Play to your strengths and communicate in a medium and style that works best for you.
  • Engage in communication with the community in a manner that anneals your professional goals.
  • Evaluating your work by comparing your successes to the successes of others is only a recipe for disappointment. Establish benchmarks for yourself, and compare yourself to those benchmarks over time.

The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1

(Like many other young scientists) I often struggle and can’t but help feeling overwhelmed with the tasks stacked against me. Paying bills on time, moving forward in work, keeping my personal life from falling apart and maintaining a decent set of hobbies that keep me from working 24/7. And often, I look at other scientists who are successful and marvel at how they don’t seem to be facing these struggles. Am I making it too hard? How are they doing this?

Which is why this story over at Huff Post really struck me. A very successful scientist, Dr Mary-Claire King who was dealing with some VERY personal problems. She then went on to find the gene associated with breast cancer BRAC1 and change women’s health. We all struggle, pretending we don’t isn’t doing anyone any favors.

When have you struggled? Who do you talk to when you do?

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Dr. Marie Claire King, talking at The Moth radio hour.

Post-post note: My friend Matt Pennell is unquestionably good at what he does. We started graduate school together, but he was on a different level and at a different pace than the rest of us. But whenever I was feeling stupid or foolish, or just not able to do this academia stuff I would go talk to Pennell. Because he would have a story about how he was struggling, some things he was having problems with, or personal and professional setbacks he was also facing. Matt is, and will continue to be a star, and hearing things like this from someone like that really helped me. Still does.

New Science Communication Goal: Become a Comic Book Hero

I don’t need to be Ironman, or the Hulk. Although it would be cool to be Beast, or Professor X, I’d settle for being a scientist comic book hero!

Like Dr Sheiner, a research fellow at the Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology at Glasgow University. She can be found in a new comic published by the Centre entitled Toxoplasmosis. It’s the latest in a series of comics the centre has been producing in recent years as a way to help explain what it does and why it is important.

Read more about it !

And I’m putting it out there… I’d be happy to be a comic book hero.

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The deficit model of STEM recruitment

Over at Small Pond Science, there is a thought provoking post about how to truly ‘diversify STEM fields.

If you want to truly diversify, then we need to stop trying to fill in the holes based on perceived deficiencies. Instead, we need to focus on training complete scientists. We need to fundamentally change our mindset about what a successful student looks like in a way that doesn’t reflect systemic inequities — and then enact a training and recruitment agenda based on that mindset. We can continue investing our time and resources trying to get URM students to look more competitive against white students from private universities.”

Interested? Read more here. 

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Science for the People

The March for Science has gained scorn, ridicule, and enthusiasm since the inauguration. Confused? Concerned? Want to help anyway?

Check out Science for the People, a new organization who’s primary goal is :

  • Growing an international organization of STEM workers, educators, and activists who work to serve the people — ­especially in poor, oppressed, and marginalized communities

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They give an excellent overview of the controversy and go into lots of interesting detail about the march, and what their goals are specifically.

 

We Are Never Just Scientists

During the Women’s March on Washington, a group formed called 500 women scientists. Their mission statement is to promote minorities and women in science and to make the inequality inherent in this system known.  Read about them here.

Along those same lines, for international women’s day, a few female scientists (Krista Bywater, Kristy L. Duran, Rukmani Vijayaraghavan, Claire Horner-Devine, Kelly Ramirez, Jane Zelikova) posted this excellent post on Scientific American about how as women and minorities we are never just scientists.

Please read the post, and consider marching (as a woman, as a minority, or as a white male ally) in the March for Science on April 22.

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