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APA Cohosts Workshop on Enhancing Diversity in Science

On February 28, APA collaborated with several other organizations and held a full day workshop for professional association and scientific society leadership to brainstorm opportunities to enhance diversity in science.

By Elizabeth Hoffman

On February 28, APA collaborated with several other organizations and held a full day workshop for professional association and scientific society leadership to brainstorm opportunities to enhance diversity in science. Norman Anderson, APA’s Chief Executive Officer, participated in the workshop and served as the “idea leader” in the morning session on Mentoring. The Consortium of Social Science Associations, Society for Research in Child Development, American Sociological Association, American Educational Research Association, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research, along with APA, co-sponsored the workshop. This planning group represents just a small sample of a growing number of professional associations and scientific societies concerned about building the scientific workforce to respond to global challenges and to the needs of an increasingly diverse population.

Increasingly few underrepresented minorities are pursuing careers in science, and leakages in the science pipeline for minority students and professionals happen at various stages, but especially within higher education. Professional associations and scientific societies represent permanent homes for scientists and students of science, many of whom relocate several times throughout their careers. As sources of stability for their members, associations and societies have an opportunity to provide educational and career support that might not otherwise be consistently available. They can also work together to develop common approaches to enhancing educational and career opportunities to help ensure greater participation of underrepresented minorities in science.

The workshop included catalyst panels of experts as well as both small and large group discussions and was designed to generate a shared commitment to the problem, new opportunities for collaboration across diverse organizations and areas of science, and specific action steps, including lobbying efforts, that could be undertaken by the associations and societies to move progress.

The agenda focused on (1) Obstacles to the Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Minorities in Science, and (2) Successful Models and Future Initiatives. The morning panel of experts focused on understanding the various obstacles in this area, including those identified in research, in recent court decisions, in the careers of individual scientists, and by university and association leaders. The afternoon panel focused on successful models for overcoming obstacles, drawing upon the perspectives of federal funders, private funders, and program leaders.

With the ultimate aim of arriving at recommendations for action on the part of associations and societies, small groups brainstormed ways that the scientific community can work together to enhance minority training and scientific career development, and offered specific recommendations and calls for action to address the challenges that individuals face in participating in scientific research endeavors. Participants were assigned to one of five groups, each with a specific focus for action: (a) developing program outcomes data, (b) mentoring trainees, (c) retaining students and early career professionals, (d) retaining early through later career professionals, and (e) generating public support.

At the end of the afternoon, the groups were tasked with producing up to six action-oriented steps but many had difficulty constraining their lists to just six items.

To view the agenda and other materials, visit the COSSA website. A full report of the workshop, including speaker presentations and action steps generated by the breakout groups, will be online soon. If you have questions or comments, please contact Elizabeth Hoffman.