2016 #DiversityJC – Doctor_PMS’s Year End Review


It’s the end of 2016 and it’s been a year of change in all sorts of ways (for hopefully good, but also almost certainly for the worse in many ways too, especially on the diversity/inclusion front as at least the US became demonstrably less friendly following our 2017 election). 

In these first 2017 posts, Ian, Emily, and the good Doctor give our thoughts about this past year of DiversityJC and some ideas for the future. Ian’s post is here, and Emily’s is here.

Remember you can subscribe to the DiversityJC Newsletter to keep up with all our discussions and posts.

 

Although 2016 was not a great year globally, it was a good year for me personally. I started to get more comfortable in my new job, with my age, with myself – as a whole! That included accepting that I was not in academia anymore, and I had to find my new niche on Twitter. Oh yes, not before a period of Twitter crisis and not knowing exactly what to tweet. That crisis also included our #DiversityJC. According to our about page, “The premise of this journal club is to discuss articles and blog posts about Diversity in academia”. So how could I keep moderating our #DiversityJC if I was not in academia anymore? It seemed a little hypocritical at the time, but I thought about when and why we started doing this to begin with, back in 2014.

And now, at the end of 2016, I am SO GLAD I kept doing it. Why? Because diversity matters, and not only in academia!

Looking at the list of topics discussed in 2016, we covered so many important issues, including being an ally, ideological diversity, imposter syndrome, and elections. Now after the election, it is more important than ever that we raise our voices and fight for Diversity and Science! Our soon-to-be POTUS is a known white nationalist and skeptical about Science, to say the least. Currently our nation is deeply divided. It is extremely important for us to unify to fight against current threats on Diversity and Science. That can be achieved in many ways, but we want our #DiversityJC to be a safe place where we can discuss issues, listen, and RESIST!

I feel like 2016 was a slower year for our #DiversityJC. We tried to recruit moderators to run the journal club at different times, to give opportunity to people living in other times zones to attend. We are planning to keep it up, stronger and more actively in 2017, but we need YOU! Find an interesting article that you want us to discuss? Use our hashtag! Is Friday 2pm EST a good time for you? Let us know! Also, we are always opened to publish guest posts. Contact us if you want to contribute. And lastly, subscribe to our #DiversityJC Newsletter to follow our discussion announcements and recaps.

And here’s for a happy new AND DIVERSE 2017!

Cleyde (@Doctor_PMS)

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2016 #DiversityJC – Ian’s Year-End Review

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It’s the end of 2016 and it’s been a year of change in all sorts of ways (for hopefully good, but also almost certainly for the worse in many ways too, especially on the diversity/inclusion front as at least the US became demonstrably less friendly following our 2017 election). 

In this post, Ian, Emily, and the good Doctor give our thoughts about this past year of DiversityJC and some ideas for the future. Emily’s post is here.

Remember you can subscribe to the DiversityJC Newsletter to keep up with all our discussions and posts.

 

One of our topics this year was ideological diversity and the discussion focused on how to incorporate different political ideologies into academia, a generally more liberal place outside of a few disciplines (Economics, for instance). It’s not always easy – for example, we can’t incorporate creationism since it isn’t a science (and even runs anti-science, as when it ignores evolution). There are also some social attitudes that shouldn’t be tolerated – racism and sexism for instance (these things are present enough already and have prevalent myths surrounding them).

Julia Shaw, a scientist studying memory wrote a post for Scientific American “I’m a scientists and I don’t believe in facts” writing

“Scientists slowly break down the illusions created by our biased human perception, revealing what the universe actually looks like. In an incremental progress, each study adds a tiny bit of insight to our understanding.

But while the magic of science should make our eyes twinkle with excitement, we can still argue that the findings from every scientific experiment ever conducted are wrong, almost by necessity. They are just a bit more right (hopefully) than preceding studies.

That’s the beauty of science. It’s inherently self-critical and self-correcting. The status quo is never good enough. Scientists want to know more, always. And, lucky for them, there is always more to know.”

That is exactly how science works (and it does work, just look around at your entire world and realize it’s the result of curiosity-based scientific inquiry).

The science of studying inclusion and diversity is similar. In this case, research shows us that science is still not an inclusive place, the Nobel prizes being one example of that.

Inclusiveness takes understanding and compassion. All of us need to at least try and understand where the bias, fear, and even possible outright hatred come from.

Science breaks down and expands our perspective. It can challenge tradition and authority. These aspects of science are needed now more than ever, given what is shaping up to be an anti-science, anti-inclusive, anti-compassion administration. There are steps to take in moving forward, both nationally, but especially locally, as we go about our lives.

I’ve been introspective and thought a lot about how to be inclusive as a cis white male this year, especially as I’ve been writing more and more. Thinking about how to talk about these issues, because these are tough topics to talk about, and thinking about them because white people generally don’t experience them.

It’s all the more important to continue to have these discussions and figure out how to bring people along, raise everyone up (whether that is economically or in terms of ensuring everyone is truly treated as a human being deserving of compassion, empathy, and support).

It isn’t always easy. Being in a hurry, feeling under pressure and under multiple stressors in our lives (the raw chase to keep up, make money to live, etc.) can easily blind us to social issues, to issues of fairness and inclusion – or to see beyond our own experiences. Part of this past election was a sizable portion of people feeling disenfranchised. They voted for change despite the hateful language and actions of the “change” candidate. I hope more of them speak up to say that the racism, sexism, and xenophobia Trump espouses and is now appointing in his cabinet picks does not represent them, is not what they believe or support, even if they agree with him on other issues (sadly, I haven’t seen a lot of that out there, because it was a package deal). It’s important to keep in mind that Trump didn’t get the most votes as well. 90 million people did not vote, and of those that did not vote for Trump but did pick a presidential candidate, 74,000,000 votes were counted (to Trump’s 62,000,000).

Going forward, be kind, act locally to support inclusion and repudiate bias (even implicit biases as well as ones we might harbour ourselves).

Ian (@IHStreet)

Image from Flickr by Leland Francisco,  CC2.0 : Kindness is like snow “Kindness is like snow – it beautifies everything it covers” (Quote possibly by Khalil Gibran).

 

#DiversityJC 2015 review – Doctor_PMS’s edition

As we rapidly approach the end of 2015, I’m going to be the last one to write my #DiversityJC 2015 review. If you missed, you should check out @IHStreet‘s review here and @DrEmilySKlein‘s review here! They did a great job listing topics covered in 2015, so I’m going to focus more in what’s for 2016.

The Diversity Journal Club (#DiversityJC) was born of conversations between Emily and me back in September, 2014. We planned to discuss articles and blog posts about Diversity in academia. So much changed in 2015! Ian joined our group in March, 2015, as I was madly trying to find a job. That was very much needed, and an excellent addition to our group!

However, I’m not sure why, our #DiversityJC started to slow down a bit. Maybe because people got busy. Or because we already covered most of the topics about Diversity and started to repeat ourselves? Probably a combination of both and some more. But, as Emily wrote in her review, “there will be new ways the community will find to demonstrate how important diversity, in all its forms, is for not only critical for scientists, but for science.” I believe our #DiversityJC is an important way to bring awareness of this topic to our busy lives! And as Ian mentioned in his review, we need to “Remember science is done by people, but in the rush of doing science, it’s easy to look over that fact.”

I know you’re busy. We’re all busy. I am busy too! But we still need diversity initiatives not as a matter of altruism or avoiding controversy, but because it matters! What is diversity? Diversity matters, not only race, ethnicity, and gender but also religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and age. Diversity brings a wider range of perspectives, increasing overall creativity. Interactions with different people increase our knowledge and enhance our self-awareness. By moving beyond yourself, you gain a panoramic perspective of the world around you and a more complete view of your place in it. Not only in Universities, but in our daily lives! So, regardless if you are in academia or not, we need to be aware of the importance of Diversity and talk about it. And turn words into actions, trying to make the world a better place. Am I being too naive or idealistic? Maybe, but I prefer to think that all of us can contribute in a small way to bring diversity to our lives and help to change things, one step at a time.

Because of our busy schedules, we are going to change a bit the format of our #DiversityJC for 2016. We will still have live discussions once a month (3rd Friday of the month, 2-3pm EST), but we want to publish more blogposts about Diversity and more importantly, we want to hear about what YOU have to say! Last year we had two excellent guests posts: @AlyciaPhD talking about her hiring success history and @wandsci‘s tips for handling career anxiety. Let’s bring more diversity to our #DiversityJC in 2016! Emily, Ian and me are going to keep an eye on Twitter and invite peeps to write guest posts to our blog, but feel free to reach us anytime if a topic comes to mind that would fit the scope of our #DiversityJC.

Hoping we all have a diverse and happy 2016!

2015 in Review, Emily’s edition: Advice from #DiversityJC

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I’ve spend some time thinking about what to write for my Year in Review – rereading posts and recaps for inspiration. In 2015, the Diversity Journal Club explored the intersection of diversity and vaccine refusal, technology in the classrooms, peer review, workaholism, and student evaluations. We talked about the mental toll of science, and under-acknowledged reasons minority students may still avoid some disciplines. We discussed #TimHunt, #DecolonizeSTEM, #AddMaleAuthorGate, and #distractinglysexy.


In sum, we covered a lot of ground in 2015.


Reflecting on all of this, I’m reminded how much I’ve enjoyed our conversations, how fired up I’ve gotten about some of the things I’ve read – and how much I’ve learned, from the reading and from the community of people who engaged with us on this range of topics. These conversations weren’t abstract – they were personal. We aimed for tangible ways forward. This, for me, was and is one of the most important things this community can do. For my 2015 Diversity Journal Club Review, I return to the advice that’s been shared:

  1. Be prepared: Know that discussions of diversity, social justice, mental health, etc, can be uncomfortable and can devolve into confrontation. Don’t let that stop you – but do find and think and discuss ways to address tough situations ahead of time. Also learn how to be a good ally. Learn to listen, learn it’s ok to be wrong and to be comfortable with someone else’s anger, and learn to be open to being educated – but also know where the lines are and what behavior or ideas aren’t ok.
  2. Develop safe spaces and community: On topics from mental health to raising kids to addressing bias, a running theme for me was the importance of safe spaces and of community. We need safe spaces to talk about these issues, as they will likely always be uncomfortable at best. We also need a community to support us –of people like us, of informed and committed allies. We can develop these by speaking out on issues from diversity to work-life balance. Even if you are unsure how to move forward on them or feel uninformed, you can still ask questions of your institution: What is being done about diversity? How do we address work-life balance? What are we doing to prevent racism, sexism, sexual assault? Are there resources to bring in professionals to train staff – if not, why not?
  3. Maintain those safe spaces and community: Once established, these do need consistent engagement to thrive. Attend meetings or workshops on diversity or work-life balance, speak up and out about the importance of these issues. Address sexists, racist, homophobic, or other biased language and jokes. Come out of the closet. This is especially critical if you are tenured and established, and/or in a position of leadership. Often, those of us earlier in our careers feel less safe speaking out – we need examples from those higher up. There’s more on addressing comments at the end of this recap.
  4. Be self-aware and introspective: For me, this is something I do for myself consistently. I know I still have much to learn, and I will never understand the experience of others – but I can be a good ally. I can listen, I can learn from others, I can reflect on what is said to me, and on my internal reactions to situations and interactions.
  5. Walk the walk: If you care about diversity, social justice, mental health, work-life balance – really any of the topics we’ve touched on – don’t just talk about them. Again and again, the fact is those most affected by these issues often take on more of the responsibility for them – even though it is often undervalued or even de-valued. It adds to workloads that are already very demanding. Take on some of that – even if it feels scary or you feel unprepared. You can do this work, too. You need to do this work, too.
  6. Get help and find support: If you feel unprepared to address any of these issues, talk to someone: your friends, your family, faculty members and on-campus groups, centers and activist groups. Read the excellent literature and research out there, including blogs and online resources. And finally, be ok with being wrong; it’s better to say something and be educated. More on this in our recap here.
  7. Learn to listen & amplify underrepresented voices: Be a good ally by learning to let others share their experience, their views, and what should be done. Listen when they say there’s a problem, don’t assume that because you haven’t experienced it it doesn’t exist. When you’ve listened, don’t then take those words as your own. Amplify that voice, that message.
  8. Be a good mentor and role model – and encourage and spotlight other mentors and role models: One of the major issues around diversity that I have heard over and over is the lack of not only good mentors, but good role models. As a white person, the importance of seeing other people who look like you, doing something you could be doing, had to be explained to me. I had people that looked like me in most careers that sounded cool my entire life. More on mentors and role models here.

 

In addition to this advice, as I look forward to another year, I find myself thinking… what new topics can there be? Will we remain fresh and relevant? From race to gender to work-life balance and back again… haven’t we talked about everything?


The answer, of course, is yes. Unfortunately, there will be another Tim Hunt or Geoff Marcy , and I won’t be surprised to hear from the #GasLightingDuo again. We didn’t even get to Antonin Scalia. And there will be new ways the community will find to demonstrate how important diversity, in all its forms, is for not only critical for scientists, but for science.


Here’s to those new discussions, those new explorations of diversity and what it means to be a balanced scientist in STEM. And, as always, here’s to you, #DiversityJC contributors. I so look forward to the next things I will learn from all of you.


Here’s to 2016.

Diversity JC 2015 review- Ian’s edition

The #DiversityJC managers are all going to write year end posts with thoughts about the discussions we’ve had about Diversity in STEM and perhaps some things looking forward to 2016. 

In March, I think, Doctor_PMS and Emily asked me to join the editorial team and be a discussion moderator and pitch topics, etc.

I’m happy to be part of the DiversityJC team, but I was nervous about becoming part of the regular crew, after all, I’m a white, straight, male in STEM working at an Ivy League institution. When one of the central problems is unconscious bias, I’m probably as blind as they come.

I did take the implicit bias test for gender in STEM and fell in the middle as not particularly biased. And I’ve been mostly listening to discussions surrounding diversity, women in STEM, etc. on Twitter the last few years before becoming a moderator here.

I also got to help coordinate putting together a panel on Diversity for the Future of Research Symposium in San Fransisco. And I found the Diversity panel at the Future of Research symposium in Boston this last fall was enlightening.

I believe in fairness and equality; I genuinely get upset at injustices I see in the world even though I feel powerless to do much about most of them.

My lens into diversity is two topics we did discuss this year: mental health (I’m working to manage depression) and introversion. In the US at least, the quieter ones among us are often discounted or ignored. I’ve had my ideas in meetings and other places ignored only to have something similar brought up by someone else and given credit. But from the stories I’ve heard of the lived lives of women and POC in the world, my experiences with feeling like an outsider or unwelcome somewhere are minor.

In some ways I prefer being invisible, but that also feels like a privileged position for me to be in to make that choice (& it isn’t all upside, either).

So with that, I’ll list a few thoughts that I’ve had in thinking about diversity in STEM more this year than I have probably in any other year.

  1. Even being aware that there’s bias in the world and it affects certain populations isn’t sufficient to prevent bias. It’s like the general cognitive biases all humans have. Being aware of confirmation bias or loss aversion does not make me any less prone to do it. I can be aware of biases, but the fact is I will almost always be able to put it aside to go live my life while those with direct experience can’t really do that (barring a cultural change which I do think is starting to happen, but it’s a long slow process).
  2. Time matters. A lot of diversity issues seem to come from people having a lack of time, feeling rushed, and not incorporating empathy into their daily routines. I think there’s a famous study where seminary students were induced to feel late and therefore a lot less likely to give money to a homeless person on their route to a class. Listening, empathy, not dismissing someone out of hand takes time. Learning about diversity takes time (it’s not a light switch you flip). If you’ve said or done something offensive, thinking about it and learning takes some time. And when someone in an institution does something wrong, it will take at least a few days for them to act to dismiss anyone too (by all means call out the behavior and ask for dismissal, but demanding it be immediate is unlikely to occur).
  3. Economics is a factor. In STEM, there is a problem in many fields of not having many women or POC. And there are many cultural factors at play that have to be addressed. The life sciences have done a bit better on the gender front at least, achieving parity of PhDs awarded and getting there at the postdoc level. The pool of talent is there for promotion to the faculty level and yet it’s been at ~20% for at least the last decade. What gives? Some of it is certainly culture that needs to change; those making decisions about hiring are too often not aware of their unconscious biases and it is difficult to envision a blind academic interview. However, another factor is the economics of the STEM world right now. Funding is tight, there aren’t that many tenure track jobs available and they are fiercely competed for. While I can’t say for sure, diversity would be more easily increased in an expanding job market, or at least one that’s not as restrictive. And for white male postdocs like me, being pro-diversity almost by definition feels like it means leaving the career path (note: this isn’t a woe is me statement, but I, by definition don’t currently contribute to the diversity of STEM, luckily I want to find something outside of STEM). I know the booming tech world might be a counter example here, though I also find it possible that #gamergate and the #IamAnEngineer flash points are happening because diversity is rapidly increasing in those sectors and the negative reaction might be an extinction burst; a unleashing of outrage before something changes permanently. At the same time, tech has had a huge diversity problem since at least the 1980’s and probably before (but women did used to be the majority of computer programmers).
  4. Build diversity in from the beginning and being a good mentorTwo things brought up at the Future of Research Diversity panel brought up some good points that diversity works best when it’s jus there from the beginning of planning anything, any panels, etc. Making it an afterthought is almost always problematic. Moon Duchin, a professor of mathematics at Boston College (I think) talked about two dangers that mentors (esp. men, but anyone) of an under-represented groups or women can tend to over-praise and fail to warn mentees in their work that can ring false or not do the mentee any favors down the line in their careers. This is why any mentor needs training in diversity and as the, I hope, well known definition of feminism states: treat everyone as equal.
  5. Being pro-diversity. I don’t call myself an ally, feminist, or other supportive person, though I’d like to think I generally am. And I do my best to write in a gender neutral way (following the Finkbeiner rule). This is because self-labeling champions of diversity often seem not to be. I don’t need thanks or praise or acknowledgement for something basic like trying to treat people as they would like to be treated. I’m sure I am not perfect in this and as noted above feel like I have many blind spots still and though I haven’t analyzed this, I don’t have a huge amount of exposure to diversity (except maybe on Twitter, but even there, probably not great).
  6. (Added post-posting): Remembering science is done by people. I’ve been doing a lot of literature searching and reading of science and was struck by just how often I ignore the authors of a study to get right to the content, data, etc. It’s hard to remember that science is done by people. Sometimes it’s possible to note the lab or senior/corresponding author of a paper. Though this may not be an explicit example of bias as I skip it no matter who the authors are (especially if theres’s a long author list), it is a step where we just miss those that are contributing to science and that might well impact women/URMs more than men (not that it’s OK to dehumanize men, either). There’s an obscuring of contribution that can happen. I’m not naturally a self-promoter, in fact, I’m the opposite. I am aware science is done by people, but going back to point 2, in the rush of doing science, it’s easy to look over that fact.

In 2016, I look forward to continuing diversity discussions here and listening more to other’s stories in the new year.

Look for Doctor_PMS and Emily Klein’s posts in coming weeks and for some questions on Twitter about our 2016 schedule.

Ian Street (@IHStreet).