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1/ For #ShutDownSTEM today, our lab put aside research and crafted some concrete ideas for what we can do to help reduce anti-black/indig. racism, and more broadly, increase diversity in STEM. Our focus was local, specific acts to the lab. I wanted to share what we came up with.
2/ (Item 1) we decided that we could alter the way in which members of the lab are selected, in order to reduce the potential influence of unconscious biases and barriers that could potentially keep BIPOC from getting into the lab.
3/ Currently, the process is informal: ppl email me, and if I am impressed, I have a Zoom meeting and/or they give a talk and meet the lab. I then ask the lab's opinions, and make a final decision.
4/ This will tend to select for people who already feel confident in STEM, and who know how to write an email that impresses me. There is obviously a danger of unconscious bias informing this process, and of selecting for ppl who are already from a traditional STEM background.
5/ So, we agreed to put together a clear, structured application form on the lab website, clear instructions on what to include, and a clear statement that we want to recruit diverse/BIPOC members. We will then have a formal scoring system, and ratings from all lab members.
6/ We won't get rid of the interview stage, but we hope that changing to this system will at least reduce the extent to which the initial process filters for ppl who already feel confident and know how to write an email that clicks with a middle-aged Oxbridge educated white dude.
7/ (Item 2) We will include on the website a clear statement of our support for diversity in STEM, a message that anti-black/indig. racism in STEM is a problem, and links to evidence. We hope this will give the lab a less intimidating, more welcoming web presence for BIPOC.
8/ (Item 3) We will craft a new "Welcome Package" for the lab. This will include a standard letter of understanding, but also a statement that lab members must agree to keep the lab a space where we work to reduce bias (and a promise that they can speak up if it is not).
9/ As part of this, we will include info on unconscious bias training at the uni and a requirement that all lab members take some. As well, we will include advice from former students on how to get the most out of research and how to cope with bias they may encounter in STEM.
10/ (Item 4) We agreed that we will establish a system for rewarding/opening up space for contributing to pro-diversity initiatives in science, such as @WiMLworkshop or @black_in_ai, without having to sacrifice one's research hours.
11/ Specifically, we will make it so that lab members who help organize diversity initiatives are *paid* for doing so, thereby freeing them from, e.g. TA duties. This is a luxury we have as a lab with funding, not everyone can do it, but I think it's the right thing for us to do.
12/ (Item 5) We will include a chat area during lab meetings, even when physical distancing is over. Why? Lab members noted that during COVID the chat abilities on Zoom, etc. have allowed less vocal lab members to participate in the discussion as well. So, we will continue this.
13/ (Item 6) We will put together a set of short, achievable projects for undergrads (or even senior HS students) and commit to recruiting people from URMs for these projects. We will coordinate with the uni or existing pro-diversity orgs (very happy for recommendations here!)
14/ (Item 7) We will include all of our papers as free pdfs on the lab website in order to ensure that people interested in our research, or interested in applying to the lab, can access our papers, even if they are not already at an institution with journal access.
15/ (Item 8) We will do some actual literature review on best practices for increasing diversity in STEM to see if we can guide some of the above changes we're planning with empirical evidence.
16/ (Item 9) We will commit to conducting these same diversity meetings like we did today once every semester to check on our action items and make sure we are actually delivering on them.
17/ This is all going to be some work for us, but we think it is worth it. I am sure there are larger initiatives that we can be a part of too, but I am also a firm believer that doing what you can do in your specific circle of influence is a great way to help in societal change.
18/ In conclusion, I think it was a really productive session, and I feel like it was a good way to participate in #ShutDownSTEM and make clear that #BlackLivesMatter in science!
19/ I thank all the lab members for participating, including @wagonspeedracer, @dongyanl1n, @AntChen_, @SlaSamiee, @colleenjgillon, @BenjaminAkera, @psurya1994, and others not on Twitter.
20/ I hope everyone else had a productive #ShutDownSTEM today, and I hope that within our lives we will really see the impact of the work that we are all committing to now.
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