Addressing racism, equity and diversity in the sciences

On June 10, researchers around the world undertook deliberate efforts to challenge systemic anti-Black racism in science and academia. In light of recent events, which follow patterns going back to the earliest days of our nation, people are seeking, with renewed vigor, ways to elevate and support the voices and contributions of Black people, Indigenous people and people of color.

University Communications, which publishes the UWMadScience blog, observed the call to action. Organizers of the day’s events asked scientists and academics to participate in a day of listening, education and reflection, and to develop plans to actively combat racial injustice. What follows are resources we use in our own work. We are sharing them with our campus community because they may be useful in your support of marginalized faculty, staff and students.

Many people on campus contributed to this post, and we welcome suggestions for additional resources. What you will find below is by no means exhaustive, and we acknowledge that resources alone won’t begin to address the challenges.

This is about centering the perspectives of our Black community and those whose voices have been underrepresented in science and academia at large.

Resources for Leadership, Mentorship and Teaching

In most research fields, racial minorities remain underrepresented, especially in leadership positions. Many changes must start at the top. The Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute offers workshops that provide people in positions of power with the resources they need to make smart hires and lead departments well.

  • The Searching for Excellence and Diversity workshop is a two-part, four-hour session dedicated to teaching search committees how to attract a diverse pool of qualified candidates and avoid unintentional biases that can weed out the wrong people. To address unique needs, it’s divided into sessions focused on the health sciences and non-health colleges.
  • The Assessing and Enhancing Department Climate workshop helps chairs survey the climate of their departments and collaborate with other chairs to address shortcomings. Across three sessions, chairs assess how welcome members of their department feel and brainstorm how to transparently improve department climate and avoid pitfalls that can push people, especially underrepresented groups, away.
  • Department leaders can also offer the WISELI workshop Breaking the Bias Habit, a three-hour session providing an introduction to assessing unconscious bias and teaching evidence-based strategies for reducing the impact of these biases on campus.

Successful mentorship is vital to early career researchers. The Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement offers a a six-hour workshop to improve mentorship to diverse trainees, interrupt implicit biases, and support greater diversity in research. The office also offers training for graduate students, many of whom work with undergraduate students. These workshops provide training in implicit bias and equity, best practices for inclusive teaching, and information about relevant laws and policies. Additional training is available for graduate students researching or teaching about race and ethnicity.

Inclusive teaching can dramatically affect the experiences of students. The Collaborative for Advancing Learning and Teaching offers training in inclusive teaching that teaches, among other skills, how to interrupt biases in the classroom.

The BEAM Initiative in the School of Medicine and Public Health and the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research pairs underrepresented first-year medical students with diverse faculty mentors. The Native American Center for Health Professions promotes the health and wellness of American Indian people by: enhancing recruitment of Native students to UW health professional schools and programs, improving the experiences of Native students in health professions,  enhancing Native health education opportunities, supporting and increasing Native faculty, and growing Native health academic and educational programs with tribal communities. In addition, Angela Byars-Winston at ICTR leads the National Institutes of Health-funded Culturally-Aware Mentorship Initiative and recently chaired the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Math Committee on The Science of Effective Mentoring in STEMM.

UW–Madison also runs the PEOPLE Program, the Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence, for traditionally underserved students, which often includes Black students and other students of color.

Allyship and Self-Education

The Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement offers a wealth of resources intended to help White community members educate themselves about the systems of racial oppression that undergird American institutions and victimize people of color, and for effectively allying with the cause of anti-racism. DDEEA also offers the annual Diversity Forum. This year’s event will take place in October, and Robin DiAngelo, author of the book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism,” is the keynote speaker.

UW Libraries offers a commitment to diversity and inclusion and a host of anti-racism resources and materials, including an Undergraduate Resource Guide to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

PBS Wisconsin has a brief, interactive guide on race and racial history in the U.S.

A number of professional academic communities also make available resources and information specific to their fields, though most are also broadly applicable. Some of these can be found below:

Student, School, College, and Department-Led Efforts

School of Veterinary Medicine: Has pledged a commitment to diversity and includes a local chapter of the VOICE Club. VOICE stands for Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment and is dedicated to raising awareness of social and cultural issues.

Department of Astronomy: Includes graduate student statements on racism and, on June 10, the department is hosted a town hall event on diversity, equity and inclusion from 10 until noon. The department also hosts the Gender Minorities & Women of Wisconsin Strengthening Astronomy program, which fosters mentoring, networking and inclusion in astronomy and related fields.

School of Medicine and Public Health: The local Student National Medicine Association has created a White Coats for Black Lives chapter, part of a national movement aiming to eliminate racial bias in medical practice. WC4BL is hosted an event at the Wisconsin State Capitol on June 13, which will included faculty mentors, members of the School of Pharmacy, and others. They have also created a list of anti-racism sources for White people.

Department of Chemistry: Has engaged in a variety of efforts to improve diversity and inclusion and lists a number of resources.

Department of Geoscience: Includes the Association for Women Geoscientists UW–Madison chapter, along with the Earth Science Women’s Network and the UW–Madison Geoscience Graduate Student Association’s GeoPath. Among the opportunities offered are “Diversi-tea hangouts,” geared toward first-generation students, students of color, and other underrepresented students. Additionally, a group of Geoscience graduate students, faculty and researchers at UW–Madison and other institutions created GeoReadingForEquity, a repository of materials for sharing educational resources about equity and dedicated to improving access to the field for people from underrepresented communities.

School of Nursing: Offers the Wisconsin Network for Research Support to help researchers effectively communicate and reach project participants and other stakeholders, particularly those from underrepresented communities.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences: The CALS Equity and Diversity Committee hosts an ongoing Lunch and Learn series, with archived past events and/or materials and planned online offerings in light of COVID-19. An upcoming workshop on July 21 called “Allyship: Reflecting on systems and biases” will provide opportunities for participants to better understand individual bias and the the ways in which individual, interpersonal and systemic oppressions connect.

Additional groups may be found at the Wisconsin Involvement Network.

Additional Information and Resources

Many of these were contributed as suggestions to the UWMadScience blog, some specific to #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia:

Medium: 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

Science: Researchers around the world prepare to #ShutDownSTEM and ‘Strike For Black Lives’

Gizmodo: Scientists Call for Academic Shutdown in Support of Black Lives

The National Association of Science Writers: NASW Stand in Solidarity with the Black Community | #SciWriDiversity

Nature: Grieving and frustrated: Black scientists call out racism in the wake of police killings

Cell Press: Commentary – Race Matters

The American Society for Cell Biology: An essay from Professor of Genetics Ahna Skop, which includes tips for creating inclusive environments. Skop also leads the UW–Madison chapter of SACNAS, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, Inc.

Ologies podcast: Very Special Episode: BlackAFinSTEM with Various Ologists. Website includes list of Black scientists and students to follow and a host of additional resources.

We especially thank Ankur Desai, Robyn Perrin, Angela Byars-Winston, Erika Marín-Spiotta, Mary Carr Lee, Ahna Skop, Carrie Eaton and others for their contributions. University Communications science writers Eric Hamilton and Chris Barncard also assisted in compiling and editing this post.