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Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief (2020)

Chapter: Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief

Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
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Proceedings of a Workshop


IN BRIEF

October 2020

Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training

Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief

Recent events in the United States, including the murder of George Floyd, have exposed long-standing systemic racism in all parts of society, including in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, said Gentry Patrick, professor of neurobiology and director of mentorship and diversity for the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Critical issues regarding racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion cross all aspects of neuroscience training, with implications not only for trainees and mentors but also for the future of the field, said Patrick.

Patrick is a member of the Action Collaborative on Neuroscience Training: Developing a Nimble and Versatile Workforce (Action Collaborative), an ad hoc activity convened under the auspices of the Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders (Neuroscience Forum) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Action Collaborative was created to explore pathways to the development of a nimble and versatile neuroscience workforce inside and outside of academia. It includes a diverse group of early- and mid-career neuro, data, and computational scientists and representatives of disciplines adjacent to neuroscience, such as engineering.

Originated from and informed by the work of the Action Collaborative, the Neuroscience Forum launched a virtual workshop series to examine the rapidly evolving neuroscience career landscape and how neuroscience training programs can help trainees to develop the knowledge and skillset needed to advance their careers and biomedical science. The first of these workshops, held on August 20, 2020, tackled complex issues related to racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The workshop brought together a wide range of stakeholders representing neuroscientists from different sectors and career stages. In the first of two panels, four participants shared their personal experiences as people of color working in a field dominated by cisgender white men. A second panel explored how institutions are attempting to bring about positive change in their efforts to eliminate bias and racist training environments, as well as career development policies that have limited the advancement of underrepresented minority scientists. These panel presentations were envisioned as a starting point for an ongoing discussion around the ways scientists can stand against racism and support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in neuroscience and academia, both in their local communities and in the broader world, said Patrick. Following the two panels, a general discussion further explored some issues raised by the panelists.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES IN NEUROSCIENCE TRAINING: COMBATING SYSTEMIC RACISM AND EMBRACING ONE’S IDENTITY TO ADVANCE SCIENCE

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, and the resulting demonstrations across the country and world, layered on top of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Patrick said he and many other people of


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Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
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color have experienced a range of emotions, including grief, anger, and exhaustion, but also renewed energy, resilience, and a commitment to contribute to change. “This is our truth, our personal and collective reality where we must juxtapose our scientific curiosity, intellect, and drive in neuroscience to make the world a healthier and better place for all—with a new and deadly pandemic and with an old and tiresome tale of racism and police brutality against already marginalized members of our community,” he said.

To begin the workshop, Patrick moderated a discussion among a panel of neuroscientists who shared their personal stories and reflected on how systemic racism impacts their ability to build vibrant and productive research careers. He started by asking them to discuss why identity matters and why it is important to eliminate institutionalized racism and structures that force minoritized scientists to choose among their identities.

Why Identity Matters: Eliminating Institutionalized Racism and Structures That Force Minoritized Scientists to Choose Among Their Identities

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Daniel Colón-Ramos, the Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at the Yale School of Medicine, shared his thoughts about how one’s upbringing influences who they are as a human being as well as their scientific interests. “While the concepts that emerge from scientific research are universal … and our interest in science is based on a fundamental instinct, a common humanity, and a common aspiration to understand, how we get there is specific to individuals and influences what kind of questions we are interested in,” he said.

When scientists from different backgrounds are not able to fully participate or benefit from the scientific enterprise, there is an opportunity cost to science, said Colón-Ramos. The questions asked, the discoveries made, and the impact of those discoveries will be diminished when diverse voices are excluded by bias or institutional racism, he said. Moreover, he argued that not recognizing where scientists come from is a form of white supremacy in that it reflects the notion that only the identity of the majority matters.

Neuroscience and genetics have historically played roles in perpetuating white supremacy and the marginalization of minority populations through justifications and biases that underlie and support racist ideas, said Colón-Ramos. For example, terms borrowed from neuroscience are often used wrongly to describe concepts such as intelligence and cognition in a way that sustains prejudice and systemic racism, he said. Members of the neuroscience community in their roles as educators, gatekeepers, and creators of those concepts thus have the responsibility to combat this misuse. Staying silent when these concepts are misused to support prejudice and hate makes neuroscientists complicit in perpetuating racist systems, said Colón-Ramos.

At the same time, scientists must acknowledge that the institutions in which they work, some of which have been around for hundreds of years, were not designed for diverse populations, he said. Most of the people participating in the panel would not have even been allowed into those institutions for most of the history of the institution, and no matter the accolades the individuals had received, said Colón-Ramos. Moreover, he said, these historic legacy structures influence present institutional structures and frameworks, in an analogous way to how within the nervous system the previous neural trajectory influences the future trajectory.

Thus, neuroscientists must first acknowledge that they are immersed in racist frameworks and then question those frameworks, integrating the scientific method into identifying and addressing them, said Colón-Ramos. They must collaborate with bioethicists and others, and train future neuroscientists to reframe current narrow concepts, such as IQ, which can be used to sustain racist notions. Finally, they must do this thoughtfully to ensure they are not injecting their own biases to exclude other marginalized groups, he said.

Integrating Identities and Realizing the Power of Black Women in STEM and Academia

Kaela Singleton, developmental neuroscientist at Emory University, described how during a low point in graduate school, Beyoncé helped her understand how to be her full self, to be proud of her successes and failures, and to show pride in her blackness. Like Beyoncé, Singleton did not attend a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). At the all-women’s, minority-serving Agnes Scott College, Singleton had no Black professors and no Black mentors. Although she did have white mentors who used their privilege and power to stand up for her, she said it was Beyoncé’s documentary Homecoming that provided her with a Black female role model and instilled in her a sense of belonging and purpose. “I woke up one day and was like, ‘I am going to be the Beyoncé of neuroscience. I am going to instill in other people what Beyoncé gave me … compassion, entertainment, joy, happiness, and validity and pride in my experience as a Black woman.’”

Singleton added that as a Black queer woman, recognizing the intersectionality of identity is equally important. It is not enough and would be inauthentic to identify as a Black woman while erasing such an important and

Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×

intrinsic part of her identity as her queerness, she said. She analogized the importance of intersectionality to the formation of a neuron, which requires the interaction of both intrinsic genetic factors and extrinsic environmental signals and cues to become the type of neuron it was meant to be. In science, she said, embracing intersectionality means recognizing, highlighting, and advancing queer, disabled, transgender, and non-binary scientists among others. For Singleton, that means working in a lab where Black women are celebrated and where they can listen to their music and talk about where they get their hair done while running western blots. “Your identity is not unprofessional,” she said.

Balancing and integrating one’s identities—as a scientist; a Black or Brown individual; a person who identifies as a woman, a man, or a non-binary individual; straight or queer; or as a person with a disability—can be challenging. “There is always a struggle of knowing where I came from and knowing that there are very few people that look like me in these spaces,” said Patrick. “This is a challenge when I am trying to struggle against institutionalized racism, the micro aggressions, and the things that people do not even understand that work against me,” he said. But Patrick said he wants to do this work and build bridges. “I’m happy and enthused when I see my colleagues step up to work against racism and to make a change in our communities and at our university because we cannot do it all by ourselves.”

Singleton said she tries to find balance by not thinking of her identities as separate. “I am always Black first,” she said. “I am a Black queer developmental neuroscientist. It is who I am every day in every room I walk into.” In communicating with students or faculty about her struggles, she said, this means “not changing yourself or shrinking yourself or prioritizing different aspects of your identity—just coming through holistically and being like, ‘help all of me.’”

Colón-Ramos agreed that intersectionality must be integrated into conversations about how to change racist frameworks. Thirty years ago, the notion of additive identities would not have even been mentioned, he said. “What are going to be the additive identities that we are excluding today, that we are not even aware we are excluding?” he asked.

The Role of HBCUs in Supporting Black Communities, Combating Racism, and Training Black Scientists

HBCUs were established after the Civil War to help African Americans gain access to education, and they are more important today than ever, said Kimberlei Richardson, associate professor of pharmacology at the Howard University College of Medicine. About 20 percent of all African American college graduates and 25 percent of graduates with STEM degrees received their degrees from an HBCU, said Richardson.1 These institutions have educated many leaders who have shaped the nation, including George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King, Jr., Oprah Winfrey, John Lewis, and Kamala Harris. By integrating academic instruction, mentoring, and support services within a caring community, and by providing a rigorous academic experience comparable to predominantly white institutions, they are able to recognize and address inequities in post- and secondary education pipelines to ensure that Black people receive a proper education, she said. Moreover, Richardson said that they combat racism by building confidence in students to excel in spite of the racist culture in which they live and the low expectations that may be set for them. As an educator at Howard University today, she said her goal is to make sure her students have confidence and pride in their Blackness as well as the confidence they need to defend their science.

Patrick noted that in addition to the more well-known HBCUs such as Howard University and Spelman College, there are many other institutions as well as partnerships with institutions such as UCSD that provide students with what he called “the secret sauce” to ensure that they come out of these programs ready to take on graduate school in STEM fields.

Challenges to Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training

Achieving DEI in neuroscience is a tall order according to Richardson, particularly because these characteristics have not been prioritized by many institutions and neuroscience departments. To discuss these concepts, Richardson started by defining them. Diversity simply reflects the makeup of a population or workforce in demographic terms—like pieces of a puzzle that may come in different shapes and colors, she said. Equity takes into account that different groups require different supports, and inclusion requires equal access to opportunities.2 The first step in advancing DEI initiatives at the neuroscience faculty level is to acknowledge and confront the legacy of racism, bias, and exclusion that underlies the lack of representation in communities and schools, said Richardson. As Singleton mentioned earlier, a lack of Black professors and mentors left her to struggle on her own with identity. But students of color are not the only ones who

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1 For more information, see https://uncf.org/the-latest/why-hbcus-still-matter (accessed October 12, 2020).

2 For more information, see https://www.nwhu.on.ca/ourservices/Pages/Equity-vs-Equality.aspx (accessed October 12, 2020) and https://www.cfmco.org/valuing-diversity-moving-towards-inclusion (accessed October 12, 2020).

Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
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suffer when there are few Black and Brown faculty in leadership positions, said Richardson. Students of all races benefit when there are people in authority who can counteract some of the implicit and explicit biases that plague many departments by addressing issues related to hiring, retaining, promoting, and granting tenure to Black and Brown faculty (Bhalla, 2019), and reducing their sense of isolation through mentoring and championing.

Singleton added that achieving DEI also requires representation, compensation, and accountability. Singleton was a co-organizer of #BlackInNeuro Week, which ran from July 27 to August 2, 2020, on Twitter as part of the Black In Neuro initiative,3 a social media project designed to celebrate and amplify Black voices in STEM. When another graduate student pointed out that Black and disabled scientists were left out of the program, the organizers recognized their mistake, acknowledged it publicly, and gave the graduate student a platform to educate the community about an identity that had been erased, said Singleton. “You can increase the number of Black and Brown people in your institution or your department, but [it’s not enough] if you are not giving them the space to call you out when things are bad, and if you are not giving them the tools to succeed and to thrive,” said Singleton.

INSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVES ON APPROACHING DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION IN TRAINING: MEETING THIS MOMENT TO LISTEN, ASSESS, AND DRIVE REAL CHANGE

In a call to action for the neuroscience community, a goal of this workshop was to re-envision what a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community and training framework would look like, said Michelle Jones-London, chief of the Office of Programs to Enhance Neuroscience Workforce Diversity at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Changing the structural biases and racism that are a part of our scientific ecosystems will take not only actionable work, she said, but also disruptive actions. It will mean leveraging recent events to encourage all stakeholders to do more and do it faster and better, and to recognize that all individuals, institutions, and scientific societies have a role to play.

Creating Sustainable Anti-Racist and Equitable Environments at the Institutional Level

Promoting anti-racist, equitable environments and creating sustainable change at the institutional level will require dismantling institutional racism and fighting racism wherever it is found, said Ayana Jordan, associate program director of the Yale Psychiatry Residency Program. More specifically, for institutional change to occur, white people and others committed to anti-racism must leverage their power. Rather than being content to remain as the head of a department or institution for many years, they must use their power to promote diverse voices that will bring about different outcomes, said Jordan. That means changing the way faculty positions are filled, tenure is determined, and committee positions are appointed, among other actions.

Underrepresented students and trainees should also be involved in efforts to bring about institutional change, said Rosalind Segal, professor of neurobiology and dean of graduate education at Harvard Medical School. Letters written by students at Harvard and many other institutions after the murder of George Floyd—and the nationwide reaction to the murders of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others—have identified many of the policies that need to change, said Segal. She and her colleagues are now developing a plan with timelines and check-ins that incorporates feedback from those letters and that will be publicly available to students. “We are setting ourselves up for accountability, but we do not want the effort or the accountability to be on the backs of the students,” she said.

Segal added that Harvard has hired a recent graduate who encountered racism during her time as a student to serve as associate director of diversity. She will take her own experience as well as her rapport with students to guide the rest of the administration in how to move forward, said Segal.

A third initiative at Harvard involves partnering with HBCUs, particularly Morehouse College in Atlanta. Working with Peter MacLeish and Morris Benveniste, Segal said the collaboration with Morehouse demonstrates how institutional leadership combined with leveraging of the HBCUs benefits both institutions.

Embracing Diversity to Support the Educational and Research Missions of Institutions

The importance of diversity in the workforce pertains not just to the numbers of people from diverse backgrounds and racial groups, but also to the value they bring to the educational or research mission of the institution, said Jones-London. For example, since the Society for Neuroscience (SfN)4 was founded 50 years ago, its mission has been to advance the understanding of the brain and nervous system by bringing together scientists of diverse backgrounds and increase participation of scientists from diverse cultural, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds, said Barry Everitt, professor of

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3 For more information, see https://www.blackinneuro.com/home (accessed August 31, 2020).

4 For more information, see https://www.sfn.org (accessed September 1, 2020).

Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×

behavioral neuroscience and director of research at the University of Cambridge and current president of SfN. Today, its diversity and inclusion strategy creates educational, networking, and professional development opportunities to nurture and advance the needs of its diverse community both during and outside of its annual meeting, which was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SfN’s flagship diversity program—the NINDS-funded Neuroscience Scholars Program (NSP)5—has supported the training of about 1,000 underrepresented minority researchers since its inception 40 years ago, said Everitt. The 2-year online program also aims to increase the likelihood that diverse trainees who enter the neuroscience field will remain and advance their careers, he said. Indeed, a recent 30-year retrospective survey revealed that about 70 percent of alumni who responded reported achieving standing in academia, including full professorships and other faculty positions. Those not in academia have made progress in other sectors, including industry and within federal funding agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health [NIH]), said Everitt.

Everitt acknowledged that NSP is limited in size, supporting only 18 Fellows each year; however, it may be possible to use it as a model for supporting mentorship and professional development in other institutions. Moreover, he said, even a good program like this cannot, by itself, address systemic problems that contribute to the underrepresentation of Black and ethnic minorities in academic research.

He added that professional societies such as SfN can play an important convening role, providing space for members to come together and talk about issues such as systemic racism in academia, explore what has worked or not worked, and commit to taking action moving forward. For example, in July 2020, SfN hosted a Black Lives Matter webinar6 that attracted more than 5,000 registrants and is still available for viewing, he said.

The mission of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)—to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure—also relies on a diverse workforce and environments that support DEI, said Shelli Avenevoli, deputy director for NIMH. Diversity of perspective is reflected broadly in the transdisciplinary science supported by NIMH and through the availability of tools for implicit bias mitigation, she said. Avenevoli described several NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research and NIH programs targeted at enhancing diversity of trainees throughout the pipeline of educational and career opportunities:

  • ENDURE—Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences.7 This program, an initiative of the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, provides underrepresented diverse undergraduates with training that will prepare them for success in neuroscience Ph.D. programs.
  • D-SPAN—NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience8 focuses later in the pipeline on the transition of underrepresented graduate students to neuroscience research postdoctoral positions.
  • FIRST—NIH Common Fund’s Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation9 program, which seeks to sustain institutional culture change by providing funding to develop and implement faculty cohort models for cluster hiring. This will enable the simultaneous hiring of a diverse group of research faculty. The program will focus on faculty development, mentoring, sponsorship, and promotion.
  • DSP—NIH Distinguished Scholars Program,10 which plans to recruit a diverse cohort of up to 15 investigators from within the NIH intramural research program each year to receive mentoring, sponsorship, and other professional development activities to advance their careers.

Federal agencies also partner with HBCUs, said Richardson. For example, NIH funds 11 Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMIs), including one at Howard University, to strengthen research infrastructure for biomedical research (Ofili et al., n.d.). Howard University’s RCMI has been funded to conduct research into diseases that disproportionately affect disadvantaged and minority populations. Richardson also mentioned a program funded by the National

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Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
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Science Foundation, the HBCU-Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP), which was designed to strengthen STEM undergraduate education and research.11

Creating Diverse, Inclusive, and Equitable Institutions and Companies

Elizabeth McNeil, medical lead for the cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy program at bluebird bio, described four areas where a more granular assessment is needed as a precursor to enhancing the diversity of a department, company, or institution: hiring, development, promotion, and retention. With regard to hiring, for example, knowing who has been hired is not enough: other important data are how many diverse people were interviewed, how many were offered a position, were any of those positions at the executive level or just below the executive level, and were people of color randomly distributed throughout the department. Applicants who are rejected should receive a detailed description of the reasons, she said. This not only helps the applicant to correct areas of weakness but also lessens the likelihood that the person rejecting the applicant has done so based on vague reasons that may be masking some sort of implicit racism, said McNeil.

Granularity is also needed concerning career development, said McNeil. For example, to be considered for promotion, important metrics to assess include how many opportunities the mentor has offered to the students they are mentoring and whether these opportunities were offered equitably across all mentees. Jordan added that these metrics should also include how many Black and Brown students were mentored, what has been done to translate basic science work to communities that may be impacted by the research findings, and what kind of anti-racism work was undertaken by the person seeking promotion.

When it comes to promotion, McNeil said, individuals should also be given an action plan with clear metrics about what they need to do to move forward. For example, if promotion requires them to give more presentations, they should know this up front so they can work on them, she said. An action plan can not only enable them to strive to meet requirements but also holds the employer accountable when someone achieves these metrics but is still not promoted.

Finally, departments should collect data that provide insight into why people leave and what is being done to retain them, said McNeil. For example, she said if an employee leaves because of better opportunities elsewhere, the department should try to understand what makes the opportunity better and whether similar opportunities could be offered within the current workplace.

GENERAL DISCUSSION

DEI in the neuroscience workforce matter in part because of the disproportionate impact of neurological disorders in Black and Brown communities, said Katja Brose, science program officer at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Who is at the table—whether at the lab bench doing basic research or in the clinic developing and testing treatments—influences what research questions are asked, whether those questions have translational implications, and for which populations, she said. Yet, Brose acknowledged a dilemma in figuring out how to balance advocating for systemic change versus adapting and optimizing the current flawed system.

Disrupting Versus Improving Existing Systems

Pipeline programs such as those discussed in the previous panel are not sufficient to address the systemic racism in the neuroscience community, said Jordan. If they were adequate, the continued disparities, some of which are now worse than they were in the 1970s, would have abated. Jordan suggested that one reason for the failure of pipeline programs is that while they may address diversity and inclusion, they fail to address something equally important: belonging. “You can put me there. You can invite me to the party, but if I do not feel included, if I do not see anybody that looks like me, if you are not understanding what it means to be the only, if you do not experience my pain or my pleasure, and if the world is not respectful of my humanity, it does not matter how many pipeline programs you have,” she said.

When it comes to tenure, just putting Black and Brown people at the table will not ensure that decisions are made based on what have value, said Jordan. “You must have people who look like the populations who are being adversely affected to be able to have some say in how the research questions are even being asked,” she said. Inherently racist systems, however, prevent those voices from being heard, Jordan added. As a consequence, when a study demonstrates a persistent disparity gap in funding for Black scientists but fails to mention racism as a cause; or when a study shows that Black investigators are less likely than white investigators to get R01s funded on their first or second attempt, what becomes clear is the pervasiveness of racism and the realization that the entire system needs restructuring, said Jordan.

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11 For more information, see https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5481 (accessed September 1, 2020).

Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×

She suggested that people in charge (i.e., chairs of institutes and committees) need to realize that they lack the expertise and understanding of what it means to be oppressed and marginalized, then step aside. Study sections composed of all white members should not be allowed; journals should refuse to publish studies about disproportionate impacts of minority communities if Black and Brown scientists were not engaged in the research; and clinical trials that look at disparities and addiction should be required to involve people from the community affected in the planning, design, and implementation of the trial, she said.

Avenevoli agreed that more needs to be done to enhance the workforce, break down barriers, and promote people of color within organizations. NIH has established advisory councils and workgroups to gather a wider spectrum of input, but even these efforts have had limited success, she said. Moreover, to promote culture change at multiple levels, collective action will be needed, said Avenevoli. “We are not going to solve the funding problem without solving the tenure problem or the education problem or the opportunity problem or the hiring problem,” she added.

While recognizing that pipeline programs cannot solve all issues, their existence has been critical to the progress that has been made to diversifying the workforce—they are necessary but not sufficient. Programs such as ENDURE and D-SPAN create identifiable communities and networks where budding scientists can learn self-efficacy, she said. It is not an issue of pipeline programs or culture change, we need to do both, she said.

NIH also has the ability to shape the composition of study sections and initiate a second level of review to address concerns about diversity, said Jones-London. NIH has also engaged in conversations about topic choice,12 she said, in light of a recent paper suggesting that the choice of research topics contributes to lower rates of funding for Black scientists (Hoppe et al., 2019). “We like to think of science as this very pure system where everything funded is meritorious,” she said, “but the decisions we are making are inherently full of implicit and explicit biases.” To change this, everyone will need to work together, said Jones-London, noting that diversity benefits not only the diverse but also science and innovation itself. “The whole enterprise loses out when we do not have representation,” she added.

Defining Success or Victory in Achieving Racial Justice in Neuroscience Training

Patrick asked panelists to describe what would represent success or victory in the fight to achieve racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Colón-Ramos suggested that victory will require integrating the scientific method into solving the problem of systemic racism. More broadly, it means being aware of what is not known. “We cannot be afraid of our own prejudices. We have to be aware that we all carry frameworks that help us in many circumstances, but in other circumstances might hurt other people. And the more privileged you are, the more your frameworks are helpful to you and not to others,” he said. “We have to have introspection about the systems that we occupy, our roles in them and what we know and do not know, and then use the scientific method to dig through that,” Colón-Ramos added.

For Singleton, victory and success would be reflected in more satisfied Black and Brown scientists, and more Black and Brown women in positions of power where they feel confident and emboldened to make change. More broadly, she said, it means removing the tone of policing from conversations about Blackness, race, queerness, and identity, and teaching Black and Brown trainees how to unlearn the traumas of the past, in life as well as in graduate school, so they can feel empowered in new environments.

Richardson described victory as living in a society that values everyone, where administrators, policy makers, and community leaders work in an authentic way to create an environment that truly embraces DEI. On a broader scale, she said, “Success and victory are represented when there is equitable justice, when people do not have to declare in the streets that Black lives matter. Success is when we know that our lives matter and our society respects and honors the fact that we matter.” Richardson challenged workshop participants to become more active, to give to organizations that promote anti-racist views, to denounce things that promote a racist agenda, to talk to their own kids about being anti-racist, and to be more intentional about the changes they believe are necessary.

Success, according to McNeil, will be when no one is surprised by a person of color presenting at a scientific meeting, when no one questions how they got there or implies that they received extra help.

In closing the webinar, Patrick thanked the participants for their transparency in identifying the range of problems needing to be addressed. “If you come away from this thinking, ‘wow, we still have a lot to do,’ that is the truth.” ◆◆◆

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12 To view the report from NIH’s Center for Scientific Review discussion involving bias in review, see https://public.csr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2020-09/CSR_July_2020_Racial_Disparities_in_Funding_comment_summary.pdf (accessed October 11, 2020).

Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×

REFERENCES

Bhalla, N. 2019. Strategies to improve equity in faculty hiring. Molecular Biology of the Cell 30(22):2744–2749. https://doi.org/10.1091/mbc.E19-08-0476.

Hoppe, T. A., A. Litovitz, K. A. Willis, R. A. Meseroll, M. J. Perkins, B. I. Hutchins, A. F. Davis, et al. 2019. Topic choice contributes to the lower rate of NIH awards to African-American/Black scientists. Science Advances 5(10):eaaw7238. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaw7238.

Ofili, E. O., P. B. Tchounwou, E. Fernandez-Repollet, R. Yanagihara, T. H. Akintobi, J. E. Lee, M. Malouhi, et al. n.d. The Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Translational Research Network: Building and sustaining capacity for multi-site basic biomedical, clinical and behavioral research. Ethnicity & Disease 29(Suppl 1):135–144. https://doi.org/10.18865/ed.29.S1.135.


DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Lisa Bain, Sheena M. Posey Norris, and Clare Stroud as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The statements made are those of the rapporteurs or individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants; the planning committee; or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was reviewed by Michelle Jones-London, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and Gentry Patrick, University of California, San Diego. Lauren Shern, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, served as the review coordinator.

SPONSORS: This workshop was partially supported by contracts between the National Academy of Sciences and Alzheimer’s Association; Cohen Veterans Bioscience; Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (5R13FD005362-05) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) (75N98019F00769 [Under Master Base HHSN263201800029I]) through National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Eye Institute, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research; Department of Veterans Affairs (VA240-14-C-0057); Eli Lilly and Company; Eisai Inc.; Foundation for the National Institutes of Health; Gatsby Charitable Foundation; Janssen Research & Development, LLC; Lundbeck Research USA; Merck Research Laboratories; The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research; National Multiple Sclerosis Society; National Science Foundation (DBI-1839674); One Mind; Sanofi; Society for Neuroscience; Takeda Pharmaceuticals International, Inc.; The University of Rhode Island, and Wellcome Trust. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.

For additional information regarding the workshop, visit https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/08-20-2020/topic-1-racial-justice-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-in-neuroscience-training-virtual-workshop.

Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion in neuroscience training: Proceedings of a workshop—in brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25966.

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Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
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Page 1
Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×
Page 2
Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25966.
×
Page 8
Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience Training: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief Get This Book
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The Action Collaborative on Neuroscience Training: Developing a Nimble and Versatile Workforce (Action Collaborative) is an ad hoc activity convened under the auspices of the Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders (Neuroscience Forum) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Originated from and informed by the work of the Action Collaborative, the Neuroscience Forum launched a virtual workshop series in order to explore the rapidly evolving neuroscience career landscape and how neuroscience training programs can help trainees to develop the knowledge and skillset needed to advance their careers and biomedical science. The first of these workshops, held on August 20, 2020, tackled complex issues related to racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Panel presentations of the workshop were envisioned as a starting point for an ongoing discussion around the ways scientists can stand against racism and support diversity, equity, and inclusion in neuroscience and academia, both in their local communities and in the broader world. This publication highlights the presentations and discussion of the workshop.

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