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
- #BlackintheIvory is a twitter hashtag with story after story of the challenges, affronts, and active hostility that Black students and academics have to overcome to be successful. If you are not sure there’s a problem, this is a good place to start.
- Invisible Labor. An Inside Higher Ed article by Eric Anthony Grollman on the additional burden of service that many Black scholars carry.
- For historical background, Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History, by Stephanie Y. Evans, is free on kindle.
- We are not okay. And you shouldn’t be either. Provides a reality check on how scientists of color are affected by the intersectionality of social issues — here, a pandemic and racism — while trying to navigate academia. Reminds that the same coping strategies are not available to everyone and suggestions for how to offer support.
- White Academia: Do Better.
- To address bias, you have to recognize it. ADVANCEGeo provides resources for recognizing how bias operates in academic systems, including implicit bias, imposter syndrome, and stereotype threat. Though many of the resources center on bias against women, they are also relevant to racial bias.
- Strengthening Pathways to Faculty Careers in STEM: Recommendations for Systemic Change to Support Underrepresented Groups. Lessons from the APLU INCLUDES Project. The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities has compiled evidence of promising practices for recruiting and retaining faculty from underrepresented groups.
Understanding the Problem in Ecology
- @BlackAFinSTEM is a twitter account that showcases Black STEM Unity and shares the experiences of Black people in STEM. They organized #blackbirdersweek and the #birdingwhileblack livestream. Visit their linktr.ee.
- #BlackBirders, #BlackBotanists, and #BlackinNature are twitter hashtags where you can find lots of people sharing their love of nature and stories of what happens when you don’t look the way people expect a nature lover to look.
- A Primer on Diversity in STEM, from the ADVANCEGeo project.
- GeoReading for Equity, a reading list, equity primer, and conversation space assembled by a large group of contributors in the geosciences.
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.
- Small Pond Science: Recruitment without inclusion is futile—and maybe even counterproductive
- Navigating Racism: Black Graduate Students Need Support. Anita Jack Davies in The Conversation.
- #ShutDownSTEM is more than a hashtag. The associated website has many resources to review and actions to take. They are organized according to your role in academia, whether you are a student, pre-tenure faculty, a program leader or administrator, there are concrete actions you can take.
- ADVANCE GEO has a set of resources focused on creating inclusive virtual environments, which is always useful but especially relevant as we all go virtual under COVID19.
- 3PlayMedia is a closed captioning provider (no recommendation implied), which has a free biweekly webinar series on making digital media more accessible for individuals with limited hearing and vision.
- Evidence-based Strategies for Improving Equity and Inclusion of Individuals in Underrepresented Racial and Ethic Groups. This 10-page review of broadening participation literature contains concise, descriptions of proven intervention strategies, with references.
- Examining intersectionality and inclusivity in geosciences education research: A synthesis of the literature 2008-2018 (Mattheis et al. 2019) in Journal of Geoscience Education. Interesting insights in this review from ADVANCEGeo leaders about how changes have been implemented and measured versus what is known about what is likely to be effective. It suggests some ways to move forward (both in education and measuring the changes/outcomes).
- Ten Simple Rules for Building an Anti-Racist Lab
- Silence is never neutral; neither is science by 500 Women Scientists Leadership https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/silence-is-never-neutral-neither-is-science/ The racial history of scientific progress and the impact of exploitation and non-inclusive research on scientists and society. Plus, why objectivity will not solve the clearly documented (see data references within) problem; alternative solutions are proposed.
- Academic leaders must support inclusive scientific communities during COVID-19
- Call for a Robust Anti-Racism Plan for The Geosciences. The Geoscience Society has a petition with over 12,000 signatures that lays out many of the inequities in the field sciences. The document suggests solutions as well as highlighting the challenges.
- In 2016, the National Science Foundation funded 5 projects intended to expand diversity in geosciences. The Geoscience Opportunities for Leadership in Diversity (GOLD) website has links to those projects, their outcomes, and associated resources.
- In a truly inclusive learning and work environment, everyone is able to be themselves without fear of being judged or excluded for it. ADVANCE Geo has compiled a helpful list of resources for creating an inclusive climate, as well as a set of guidelines and samples for writing codes of conduct.
- Diversify Ecology and Evolutionary Biology seeks to identify ecologists and evolutionary biologists who are women and/or from a group traditionally underrepresented in the sciences (e.g., those from racial or ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQIA). The group’s goal is to help people identify scientists who might diversify seminar series, award nominees, etc. A companion list at diversify EEB grads focuses on PhD students.
- The US Department of Arts and Culture has developed a guide to acknowledging native lands (linked to a map of ancestral native territories). “Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth.”
- UC Davis STEM Faculty Resource Guide – For Faculty Starting to Learn about Equity offers a nicely structured set of resources and tools, though some are UC Davis-specific.
- Academics for Black Survival and Wellness Week is a weeklong personal and professional development initiative for academics to honor the toll of racial trauma on Black people, resist anti-Blackness and white supremacy, and facilitate accountability and collective action.
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.
- Resources for conversations about safety, inclusivity and accessibility in field environments
- Mental health in the field (Nature Geoscience volume 11, pages 618–620 (2018)
- Fieldwork Inspiring Expanded Leadership and Diversity
- Resources for help in fully including people with disabilities in field experiences are still limited, but one good place to start is the International Association for Geoscience Diversity, which maintains discussion fora for scientists and aspiring scientists coping with a wide variety of challenges. They also run an accessible geology field trip each summer in association with the Geological Society of America annual meeting.
- Resources for considering and responding to the intersectionality of COVID-19 with field work (among other academic issues).
- Field-based learning narrows achievement gaps in STEM (Beltran et al)
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.
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.
- Ten Simple Rules for Developing and Mentor-Mentee Expectations Document
- #EEBMentorMatch links students from minority serving institutions with mentors to advise them on applications for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships.
- The Entering Mentoring curriculum, developed by The Wisconsin Program For Scientific Teaching, is available free, from the web site of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute or as a printed book.
- Entering Mentoring. Pfund, C., J.L Branchaw, and J. Handelsman. 2014. W.H. Freeman Publishers, New York, NY, USA.
- Building National Capacity for Research Mentor Training: An Evidence-Based Approach to Training the Trainers. Pfund, C., KC Spencer, P Asquith, SC House, S Miller, and CA Sorkness. 2015.CBE Life Sciences Education, 14(2), ar24.
- A companion guide, Entering Research, tackles related issues from a student’s perspective.
- The Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) is an international peer-mentoring network of women in the Earth Sciences, many of whom are in the early stages of their careers. They promote career development, build community, provide opportunities for informal mentoring and support, and facilitate professional collaborations.
- Step up to Leadership for Mid-Career Growth. This article from the Nature Careers section provides some hard-earned advice for mid-career scientists with big aspirations.
- Culturally Aware Mentorship with Dr. Sherilynn Black and Dr. Angela Byars-Winston (VIDEO)
Having difficult conversations
- The Anti-Racism Starter Kit and Anti-Racism for Beginners. If you are, as a White person, a little afraid to get started because you don’t want to say the wrong thing (you will sometimes) or make the problem worse, these are good places to start reading. Antiracism is an active approach to recognizing and opposing racism in all its forms. It doesn’t necessarily require marching or tweeting or even donating. It does require work and self-awareness.
- Having Uncomfortable Conversations: A New Communications Imperative
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
- Lab heads should learn to talk about racism
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:
- Follow Twitter hashtags such as #firstgen, #blackinstem, #blackecologists, #500womenscientists, #500queerscientists to identify accounts to follow in your field, such as @GeoLatinas, @Science_inColor, and @DiversifyEEB. When you tweet out your opportunities, they’ll help amplify them to their followers. But take the chance to learn from them too.
- The Avarna organization provides learning experiences, assessments, implementation planning, mentorship and coaching, intentional convenings, and resources for the outdoor and environmental sector. They have made their toolkit for mitigating bias in recruitment and hiring freely available.
- Establish connections with programs that are broadening participation in STEM. If you have an existing relationship, they may share opportunities with their alumni lists or reshare your postings on social media. Examples:
- Ecological Society of America: SEEDS. SEEDS’ mission is to diversify and advance the ecology profession through opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented students to participate, and to lead in ecology.
- Doris Duke Foundation: Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program. DDCSP works to increase the number of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups who choose to pursue coursework and careers in conservation.
- American Museum of Natural History’s Enhancing Diversity in Conservation Science Initiative. The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History works to build bridges with faculty at minority-serving institutions and promote student diversity in conservation-related fields.
- The Environmental Data Science Inclusion Network (EDSIN) is dedicated to facilitating and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the environmental and data science fields.
- Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) is an undergraduate-to-graduate bridge program designed to broaden participation of historically underrepresented communities in the atmospheric and related sciences.
- The Nature Conservancy: Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future. The LEAF program provides paid summer internships for high school students and helps educators from environmental high schools share best practices and scientific resources.
- National Council for Science and the Environment: EnvironMentors. EnvironMentors is NCSE’s youth mentoring and college preparation program for underrepresented high school students across the country.
- Identify and build relationships with faculty and administrative contacts in your field at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), MSI (minority serving institutions), and tribal colleges. They can help steer outstanding students and alumni toward your opportunities.
- Many identity-specific organizations have job boards and will share announcements for a small fee. Plan to include these recruitment expenses whenever you budget for a new position.
- Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Opportunities Board (fellowships, RFPs, student opportunities) is free — and they also have a resume bank. Job opportunities (including postdocs) go on the jobs board, which starts at $309 for a 30-day posting.
- American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) ($300 for 30 days and email to >15,000 subscribers
- Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) ($150 for 30 days)
- Latinos in Science and Engineering (MAES) ($150 for 30 days)
- Minority Postdoc ($400 for one month)
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.
- The GRE fails to identify students that will graduate and hurts diversity, new study finds
- Typical physics Ph.D. admissions criteria limit access to underrepresented groups but fail to predict doctoral completion, Casey W. Miller et al. 2019. Science Advances.
- #GeoGRExit: Why Geosciences Programs Are Dropping the GRE (EOS)
- To GRE or not to GRE (Speaking of GeoScience)
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.
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.
- The Diversity-Innovation Paradox in Science. PNAS. 2020.
By analyzing data from nearly all US PhD recipients and their dissertations across three decades, this paper finds demographically underrepresented students innovate at higher rates than majority students, but their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions. The discounting of minorities’ innovations may partly explain their underrepresentation in influential positions of academia.
- Gender-heterogeneous working groups produce higher quality science
- Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers
- Why are some groups smarter than others?
- Research team 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.
- LTER Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
- LTER Statement in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter
- LTER Network Office (2016)
- Diversity Working Group Report (2012 ASM)
- Georgia Coastal Ecosystems (2012)
- Virginia Coast Reserve (2014)
- Baltimore Ecosystem Study (2018)
- Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER Diversity and Inclusion Plan (2018)
- Florida Coastal Everglades (updated 2020)
- Cedar Creek LTER Action Items for an Antiracist Organization (2020)
- Moorea Coral Reef LTER (coming soon)