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Understanding Interventions that Encourage Minorities to Pursue Research Careers: Summary of a Workshop
stand “what aspects of the program are the major and important contributors to that sort of success,” according to Berg. This challenge is especially difficult, noted Zerhouni, given that social science research needs to deal with systems, and systems are often difficult to simplify in such a way that the effects of one part of the system can be isolated from other parts. “We cannot use the simple analogy of ‘let’s reduce the problem,’ because by reducing it to certain parameters that everybody agrees to, you are losing, in fact, the essence of what the issue can be,” Zerhouni said.
Today, social science researchers have not answered the three questions Berg specified. Even knowing what questions to ask and how to answer those questions can be challenging. “I am not so sure that I am hearing cogent analyses [or] powerful arguments about what are the real drivers,” Zerhouni said. People have good will and want to have a fair and just representation of population groups involved in science, he continued, but the numbers are not changing as fast as many wish they would.
“So the charge [to the workshop] is simple,” said Poodry. “What do we need to know in order to define effective interventions? What are the important questions? And what are the researchable questions? There are a lot of questions, but which ones can actually make progress with research? What kinds of research and what kinds of methodologies are needed to guide and test promising new interventions? … Today we want your help in focusing the questions that should be asked and your guidance as to the appropriate methods to answer them.”