#BlackHistoryMonth & the importance of mentors. #DiversityJC recap

BHM_recap

February was #BlackHistoryMonth, and we decided to celebrate it in our monthly #DiversityJC, along the discussion about the importance of mentors and role models. You can read the complete Storify of our discussion here.

For our discussion, we addressed an article that indicated black science students are more likely to stay in science if they have at least one black professor (a discussion about the results of this study was also published by Inside Higher Ed).

Given that article and that February is Black History Month, we asked:

The point was connecting the research article about how black students stay in school with the point that we all need role models that look like us. This may not be recognized by those of us who see people like us in positions of power and in the people we look up to and go to for assistance.

And, as the research from Dr. Price demonstrates, it’s not just mentors and role models. It’s the people we see working in science every day that also matter.


This impacts all of us
, not just minority scientists. We are all trained that the people we look to for mentors and role models should be white, male, cis-gendered, straight, and able bodied. Whether we realize it or not, not only does leaving scientists out that don’t fit that bill marginalize them and their work, it also tells the the rest of us what a scientist should look like.
So – what can we do about this?

We can do better at both highlighting minority scientists of the past, and amplifying those currently working. We can assess our own internal biases and address our own internal ideas about what a scientist looks like. We can let go of the notion that groundbreaking science was done by a lone white man, and acknowledge instead is usually done by teams of scientists working together. We can encourage our institutions to hire diverse faculty and staff, and demand conference planners to ensure diverse speakers and panelists. Essentially, the importance of role models and seeing ourselves in the jobs we aspire to is another critical reason diversity and inclusion matter.

From Dr. Price’s work, critical piece of this is addressing those communities most marginalized. While Dr. Price found black students stay in STEM with at least one black professor, the same was not found for female students, suggesting they already felt more “normal” in the scientific community. While this does not negate the importance of more women in STEM and leadership positions, it does speak to the fact that communities of color may be more marginalized.
Another point made by the discussion looked the other direction at our topic:

That is, systemic bias and resulting conscious or unconscious stereotypes alone may overtly discourage underrepresented minority scientists from attaining leadership or mentoring positions. This stress can potentially cut both ways…

These points come back again to the importance of inclusion, and ensuring our institutions not only want to become more diverse, but also be more welcoming. In so doing, that they actively work to address internal the internal culture.

 

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Diversity Journal Club this month! Please check out the entire conversation on Dr. PMS’s Storify, and the Role Models we shared over the month. In addition, some important links shared during the discussion to check out:

George Washington Carver, Planter of Productive Farmers

Percy Julian, Natural Products Chemist

Til next month!

Doctor PMS
Emily Klein
Ian Street

Don’t forget to give our twitter account a follow at Diversity_JC!

#RoleModel #BlackHistoryMonth #DiversityJC

February was #BlackHistoryMonth, and along this month we posted some #RoleModels in our Twitter account. ICYMI, we’ve put them all together in this blogpost!

Black History Month & the importance of mentors.

bhm

 

*PLEASE NOTE A CHANGE IN DATE**: We will hold the Journal Club discussion on Friday, 24 February to accommodate the AAAS conference. Although we recommend amplifying the voices of your colleagues of color at the conference! Tweet their talks at us under #DiversityJC!

You can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, @Diversity_JC

 

For our February Diversity Journal Club, we wanted to pick a topic that allowed us to celebrate Black History Month – so in our case, black scientists in STEM fields.

You know, a regular complaint about Black History Month is the question, “well, where’s white history month?”

 

The answer, of course, is white history month is every other month of the year.

 

This is made clear when we think about the history of science we teach ourselves, and the role models we use to demonstrate who contributes most to the advancement of science. Overwhelmingly, we focus on white scientists of European descent. Every month is white history month.

 

Downplaying and downright ignoring black scientists has repercussions. It is hard to overstate the importance of role models and mentors. In being able to see people like you doing the job you aspire to. That people like you belong there and you will be valued in that career. This is one way we can increase inclusion in science – by having diverse role models.

For this Black History Month Diversity Journal Club, we’ll be looking at research that demonstrates black science students are more likely to stay in science if they have at least one black professor (the work is also discussed by Inside Higher Ed). We also encourage you to read about the importance of mentors for minority students (some examples here and here).

Please join us to discuss this research and the importance of mentors who look like you, as well as celebrating and sharing the stories of black scientists that serve as role models for all of us.

 

See you Friday, 24 February at 2pm Eastern time!

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Addressing Entrenched Beliefs: Recap.

In our January Diversity Journal Club, we discussed addressing entrenched beliefs.

While the article discussed talked about the how misconceptions are embraced, spread, and held onto, there have been a few other useful stories out there to look at. One is here:

Biochem Belle shared this post by Hilda Bastian that is also relevant:

Another is this interview with George Lakoff, about making sure any counter-messaging isn’t reinforcing misinformation, the “don’t think of an elephant” principle. It’s about creating a new frame, one that reinforces a narrative of inclusion, science, protections, and public goods.

Another is Will Storr’s book The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, recently discussed by the 538 science writer’s team on the Sparks podcast. One thing that gets brought up is that misconceptions can be cultural and help people, as they show with the concept of someone in Pakistan being infected with a Djinn..what we in the west would call mental illness. But Djinn framing helps people take care of those afflicted and people are taken care of. It’s worth a listen and describes just how complicated it can be to figure out when it is and isn’t worth attempting to correct misperceptions.

As Doctor PMS points out, there is a difference between uninformed and misinformed. For the former, people are much more likely to be open to new information if they are curious to learn/listen. As a general rule, adopting the curiosity mindset and being humble and honest about what we do and don’t know can help us overcome misinformation. While these require self-reflection and sparking that curiosity may be challenging, the distinction remains critical.

In terms of unwinding misconceptions, either for the mis- or uninformed, Ruthie Birger pointed out that that re-framing things so they are relevant to people’s lives can help people to understand new things, such as expanding on the use of safe spaces, although this comes with a downside:

In addressing entrenched beliefs, it’s also important to remember that even those misinformed often feel they are doing the right thing for the right reasons, something that Will Storr gets at in his book as well. The misinformed are most often good, likeable people:

Finding a way to make things personal and relevant to their lives is also crucial – or as Lakoff might say, use a frame that resonates (i.e. here’s how this affects you and your family, how it affected mine, etc). Humans work through stories. And realize, that especially online, the goal isn’t always to persuade. Allowing everyone see and understand your story also matters.

Despite the challenge, there is hope in addressing entrenched beliefs and misperceptions. Sparking curiosity may be one way (however you do that). In addition, recent research has shown that telling an opponent a story, a lived experience, can change minds. One thing to keep in mind is that once people are moved, the change is often for the longer term. After all, our brains change over time, and there is no going back. The world we live in always has new wrinkles to it as well as echoes of history that remain familiar.

We also need to be aware of our own biases, as Echo Rivera points out. Science works because it can falsify testable hypotheses through observations. We must consistently be recognizing what we don’t know, and the point in which we need to seek out other credible sources, think more, and be humble. Knowledge is power – and sometimes it is someone else who has that knowledge.

Finally, even thought people generally do have good intentions, it is also important to realize some lines can’t be crossed. If a belief is actively harming someone, or is a belief being brought into a context of science when it isn’t science – these need to be addressed, not accepted as opinion.

Thanks to all who contributed and joined our discussion, which can also be seen on storify, thanks to Doctor PMS!

See you next month for our February discussion under #DiversityJC. Share any thoughts in comments or on Twitter under the hashtag, or ping out Twitter account, @Diversity_JC.

Ian (@IHStreet)

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Addressing Entrenched Beliefs.

 

byyourlogictigerfrinkiac
Lisa attempts to Teach Homer about misinformation and logical fallacies and inadvertently spreads misinformation about tiger-prevention rocks. Via Frinkiac. From The Simpsons S7E23 “Much Apu About Nothing”, Fox Studios.

Diversity JC has a Twitter handle: @Diversity_JC. The three of us will tweet relevant things and one of us will moderate discussions from the account. We also have out newsletter that you can subscribe to

**NOTE:** Our first discussion of 2017 has been moved to Thursday January 19 at 2pm Eastern Time due to the inauguration and the potential for people to be traveling to protests on the 21st. We’ll discuss this paper, The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions (pdf).

There’s been a lot written and said this past few months about reconciling the “post-truth” world with the one many of us in science believe we live in: the one of data, facts, and science.

  • Where confirmation bias is minimized and not everything is evidence of conspiracy.
  • Where our own beliefs are self-interrogated and, at the same time, aren’t held so tightly that any contradictory evidence, real or imagined, continues rationalizing of  misconceptions, instead of new dialogue.
  • Where vetted sources are trusted by many – instead of groups that decide to listen or not based on vague principles instead of facts, and anything perceived as a challenge to one’s identity or even requires change is met with resistance or outright denial.

Inclusiveness in academia is not immune to this trend: There are those that simply deny there’s a problem or see it as a challenge to their identity in some way.

Our Diversity Journal Club aims to not only discuss issues of diversity and inclusion in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, but to make a difference. We also hope to provide a way to engage for those that haven’t discussed these topics in the past, and want to learn and listen. There is evidence that an open conversation telling people directly about lived experiences works to combat misperceptions. Yet we need people to come to the table first – to admit the need for discussion and change.

As Brianna Wu points out in this Twitter thread (& many others have as well), facts do not really matter when trying to convince people:

Even Galileo in letters to The Duchess of Tuscany was aware of entrenched beliefs that are hard to get through, even if the facts are on your side:

These men have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible. These they apply with little judgement to the refutation of arguments that they do not understand and have not even listened to.

Galileo used a telescope to observe “new worlds” (moons) around Jupiter. 500 years later, NASA/JPL scientists have further confirmed that observation in unprecedented detail with the Juno mission’s time lapse as it approached and entered orbit around Jupiter. Some scientists argue that exploring nature in greater and greater detail reveals the magnificence of creation, putting a religious narrative structure on why they love science and exploration. The religious story as a way to relate science may not be given by scientists, however, as Dudo and Besley found that scientists in their survey put the lowest priority (& thought their colleagues did too) on tailoring narratives (Dudo and Besley, 2016, open access).

This month in #DiversityJC we’ll discuss this publication by DJ Flynn, Brendan Nyhan, and Jason Reifler “The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions: Understanding False and Unsupported Beliefs about Politics” (pdf).

The paper concludes:

If the conclusions reached so far are correct, however, the threat of misperceptions to democracy cannot be avoided, especially in the highly polarized world of contemporary American politics. Facts are always at least potentially vulnerable to directional motivated reasoning, especially when they are politicized by elites. The polarization that our politics must confront is thus not just over issues and public policy, but over reality itself.

The paper delves into political misperceptions, however, similar principles apply to issues of inclusion and diversity issues in STEM (and beyond). There are entrenched beliefs that increasing inclusion means losing something for those currently in positions of power and influence. To name one misperception.

It is long article, but  the most relevant sections in order of appearance are The introduction, The definition of misperceptions, The effects of misperceptions and corrective information, and Why misperceptions matter for democracy, and the conclusion.

Deficit models don’t work. People come to new information with prior knowledge that can be persistent, and messages not tailored to specific audiences can easily fall flat, as Southern Fried Science recently addressed regarding climate change. The communicator and the message can both matter when correcting misinformation. Some evidence suggests starting with the misperception and filling it with the correct information can be effective (though it takes effort on the part of the person absorbing new information). However, delivering it in a narrative/story form is likely to be most effective. It shouldn’t be shocking that learning is a social process and what matters is what goes on inside the head of the learner.

There also has to be a way for a story to resonate with an intended audience. Identifying that may be especially challenging, as Flynn et al. point out.

The questions we’ll be having in mind and stories we’d like to hear are:

  1. Have you had experienced actually changing someone’s mind on an issue of Diversity/inclusion? Or changed someone’s mind on another STEM topic (like climate change)?
  2. How do we best connect with those expressing strong disagreement? (& are there people that genuinely seem more open to hearing the other side of an argument than others?
  3. How important is it to continue ‘preaching to the choir’ and is there a value in doing so?
  4. What narratives work best with social/inclusion/diversity issues that can appear invisible? With a social issue like inclusion/diversity that may not be seen as solidly researched as say, established physics, are there narratives that work better or worse than others? What has been your experience?
  5. How do you stay open to new ideas/hearing another perspective?

Join us for DiversityJC on Friday, January 20 at 2pm ET! 

@Diversity_JC is:

Ian – @IHStreet

Emily – @DrEmilySKlein

Doctor_PMS – @Doctor_PMS
PS- One thing we should all start to be mindful of is not sharing fake news ourselves, especially be careful if it confirms what you already believe. Here is one list of ways to spot – and then not share- fake news stories (and find what the actual story might be and share that instead).

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)

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).