On June 10, 2020 much of academia broke the pattern of business-as-usual by devoting the day to self-education and action to address systemic racism in academia. The LTER Network has been an extraordinarily open and welcoming community to many students and early career researchers over the years, but we are still embedded in a society and field that thoughtlessly privileges the experience and perspectives of the dominant culture. We have compiled a set of resources that we think will be helpful — as programs honor the call to #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia on June 10 and  over the coming months and years.

Some labs and programs are holding themselves accountable by publicly stating their commitments, for example, the Zamundio Lab and Lillian Aoki and Alice Besterman. For more examples, visit the Strike for Black Lives information page at Particles for Justice.

Because there are so many sources of information on white privilege and systemic racism in general, we are focusing this list on specific readings and actions that are especially relevant to academic research, the field of ecology, and field experiences.

Each individual LTER site faces unique challenges and opportunities in building the strengths, skills, and relationships needed to create a fully inclusive learning and work environment. Please use the resources that resonate for your lab, program or location — and let us know what you find most helpful. If you have additional resources to share, please contact the LTER Network Office or the LTER Network Diversity Committee.

* Please note — you do NOT need a twitter account to view twitter accounts or hashtags (lists of individual tweets across many accounts that contain a particular hashtag (i.e. #ShutDownSTEM)).

Understanding the Problem in Academia

Understanding the Problem in Ecology

Creating an Inclusive Environment

You’re motivated to take action. Maybe your first impulse is to throw all your energy into recruiting a more diverse group of students, postdocs or faculty. That’s great. And the effort may benefit from first taking a moment to think about what kind of an environment they will find when they arrive.

In the Field

For many ecologists and geoscientists, field experiences are professionally and personally formative. But the long hours, informality, and lowering of barriers that form lifelong friendships can also allow bullying and harassment to go unchecked, increasing stress and driving talented researchers away.

Bystander Intervention

The culture of science will not change unless everyone participates in making change. Researchers of color cannot be the only ones identifying and challenging practices and behaviors that unfairly advantage White people. Learning to intervene effectively takes practice. ADVANCE Geo offers resources and trainings, as do many other organizations. With travel restrictions in place, many in-person trainings are being revised as remote or hybrid trainings. We’ll update here as we learn of new remote resources.

Mentoring

Effective mentoring improves the learning, performance, and professional growth experience for everyone, by clarifying expectations and opportunities. First generation academics—from all backgrounds—may benefit most from good mentoring, but researchers instituting these practices have also seen better relationships and productivity for all their trainees.

Having difficult conversations

Recruiting

As you expand recruiting efforts — whether for students, faculty, staff or proposals — a strategic recruitment plan can help you decide how to prioritize time and resources. What does it take to make an institution more diverse? (Nature, 6 June 2018) offers some ideas for getting started.

There’s a great deal more to say about recruitment, and we’ll be expanding these resources in the coming weeks (as part of our #ShutDownSTEM commitment), but here are a few starting points:

Many current studies are finding that standardized admissions tests, including the GRE, do a poor job of predicting academic success and tend to reduce access by under represented groups.  WE’ll be working to add resources on alternative selection approaches.

Seeking Funding

The LTER Network Office and the Diversity Committee maintains a Zotero Library of DEI-related publications, which can provide a head start when researching evidence-based practices and developing new programs.

Additional funding opportunities for programs and individual fellowships include:

  • Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) is a comprehensive effort to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering discovery and innovation by proactively seeking and effectively developing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent from all sectors and groups in our society.
  • Ford Foundation Fellowships. Predoctoral, Dissertation, and Postdoctoral fellowships will be awarded in a national competition administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on behalf of the Ford Foundation.
  • National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowships provide research experience in federal agencies, including EPA, NOAA.
  • The Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program of the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) provides an opportunity for postdoctoral fellows to conduct concentrated research in association with USGS scientists, often as a final element to their formal career preparation.
  • NASA funds postdoctoral and early-career investigators in Earth science through their New Investigator Program. The new investigator must be the PI on the proposal.
  • NSF Division of Earth Sciences offers postdoctoral awards. Award is made to individuals early in their careers, not to the associated institutions.
  • Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships. The program is intended to recognize beginning investigators of significant potential and provide them with experience in research that will broaden perspectives, facilitate interdisciplinary interactions and help establish them in leadership positions within the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences community.
  • OECD Cooperative Research Program Fellowships. Supports conferences and travel fellowships, esp. in areas related to the OECD agriculture program,
  • Simons Postdoctoral Fellowships in Marine Microbial Ecology, application made by individual (up to 3 years post-PhD), award only to institution.
  • Simons Foundation Early Career awards in Marine Microbial Ecology, (More than one year and less than 8 years in a tenure track or equivalent position.
  • Remember to investigate individual institutional programs for supporting diverse grad students and postdocs. The UC system, for example, has an entire program.

Building Community

For now – Twitter Lists and accounts to follow. More to come soon.

Evidence that Diversity Improves Problem Solving and Creativity

Diverse teams incorporate different perspectives, promote healthy debate, and balance biases between team members. Research supports the idea that team collaboration is improved when women participate in a group. The phenomenon of diverse groups outperforming groups with similar constituents also seems to hold true for other types of identity diversity (i.e. race or culture) as well as functional diversity (i.e. diversity in how people solve problems). Emotional intelligence between group members can also improve group performance.

Site Diversity Plans and Strategies

Developing a specific strategy for improving inclusion of underrepresented groups can be helpful in building community consensus and support and in identifying the resources that are most relevant at each site. The plans linked below may serve as helpful models. As additional sites develop plans, they will be added to the list.