NSPN’s Next Steps to Support Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Within and Beyond Our Network

NSPN’s Next Steps to Support Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Within and Beyond Our Network

In light of the knowledge gained from listening to our Members during our NSPN Town Halls and reflecting on our values as an organization, we are dedicated to making concerted change in the following ways:


Expand support for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion efforts throughout all levels of our organization 

We are increasing our capacity to support equity and inclusion throughout our organization first and foremost by expanding our leadership team. In the short term this includes supporting two paid co-chairs of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee to cultivate growing collaborations with NSPN Committees and other organizations outside of NSPN. Each Committee and Regional Hub within NSPN will appoint at least one liaison to work with the DEI Committee to ensure cohesion and integrity throughout all internal NSPN programs and social justice efforts. For example, the Grants & Finance and DEI Committees have ongoing discussions about how to best expand our definitions of what constitutes professional and Chapter development for NSPN’s funding opportunities to better support a diverse array of intersectional identities, needs, and goals. All NSPN Committees will also publish their goals for the upcoming year and how these activities and projects will uphold our values and commitment to be an antiracist organization. 

Our longer term goals include hiring a fifth Director to focus on equity and impact in our community and in the broader field of science policy. Some programs that this Director will lead include expanding our funding to support the recruitment, development, and support for Chapters at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs), publishing best practices and tool kits for inclusive event facilitation, and supporting Members and Chapters as advocates for change in their own universities and communities.

For all of our hiring, we commit to elevating Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) voices with affirmative action and will prioritize candidates with a demonstrable commitment to advancing racial justice and promoting greater equity in science and policy.  

WHY? In the words of Ibram X. Kendi: “You’re either racist or antiracist; there’s no such thing as ‘not racist’”. This is true for everything that we do as scientists and engineers, as science policy practitioners, and as an organization. If we do not take the time, invest in the people, and support the work throughout every level and layer of what we do, we cannot be an antiracist organization. NSPN is still a predominantly white, and white-led organization. Expanding and restructuring our leadership and programming in combination with affirmative action hiring will allow us to better support BIPOC voices at all levels. 


Provide and normalize antiracist education, training, and resources for our network leaders and members

We understand that we have a long way to go as individuals and as an organization to be a truly antiracist institution. We will support the education of our community about the racist history of science, our own underlying unconscious biases, the unintentional and intentional oppression of people by policies, the impacts of technological advancements on marginalized communities and more. To this end, the theme of our 2020 Annual Symposium will be the intersectionality of science, policy and racial justice. A central thread of the event will be the essential inclusion of justice in every conversation from health policy to climate change to science communication, tech transfer and accessibility. As for the education of NSPN leaders, we are requiring anti-racism and bias training for all of our Directors, Hub Leaders, Committee Chairs, and Program Coordinators as part of our annual leadership retreat each fall. This training will be provided by paid experts who have committed their lives to this work. 

For our Members and Chapters, we are providing funding to support their own education efforts and specific training opportunities in inclusive event planning, facilitation, and moderation. In addition, our Committees have already started collecting resources from a range of partners to support best practices for accessible events and toolkits for advocating for systemic change. This will be part of a public database for NSPN Members and other advocates to use and share within their own institutions. 

WHY? It has become increasingly clear that there is significant work for allies to do to combat their own silent prejudice and assumptions. This self-work should not preclude taking action for change, but is part of the unlearning and relearning process to recognize racist policies and practices everywhere and to have the tools, language, and resources to fight for change throughout all of our organizations. We know that catalyzing individual efforts are essential to confronting racism in science and society at large. 


Invest in collaboration and programming with minority-serving organizations and societies

To further racial justice in all areas of science, policy, and society we are committed to expanding existing and developing new partnerships with minority-serving organizations, including direct financial support. Currently, we are sponsoring 10 individuals to attend the first Reclaiming STEM Virtual Conference, which provides science communication and policy training to scientists from diverse backgrounds, and are sponsoring #BlackInNeuroWeek, which celebrates the achievements of Black scientists in neuroscience related fields. Our short term goals include sponsoring joint events with other young racial justice leaders like WokeSTEM and Black in STEM, as well as developing more robust partnerships with SACNAS, NSBE, SHPE, ABRCMS and MANRRS. We expect all of our Chapters to identify local MSIs and groups to support and amplify throughout their communities. To support these efforts, we are creating Partnership Grants for NSPN Chapters to host events, initiate projects, and build resources with organizations like those mentioned above to facilitate connections, conversations, and change. We have also set a goal of establishing 10 new NSPN Chapters at MSIs within the next two years and are committed to providing $500 in start-up funds for each new Chapters at MSIs. This is on top of the $1,000 annually available to chapters through the Chapter Development Fund, which is designed to support the growth and development of new or existing chapters.

WHY? It is clear that we cannot advocate for change alone-- it is imperative that we lift up organizations and individuals whose voices are historically silenced or overlooked. Partnering with and supporting these organizations and societies is essential to further racial justice and science policy at large. We have significant work to do towards developing minority-serving partnerships in our young network. 


Catalyze change in science institutions and public information beyond NSPN

There is a critical need for racial justice throughout our society, and scientific and academic institutions are no exception. We are committed to supporting the work of our Chapters and members calling for action, not just statements of solidarity, within their own universities and scientific societies. We are creating resource guides and best practices for our members to maintain regular contact with administrations; leverage their own power, resources, and allies; and build long-term connections to larger racial justice initiatives in STEM to advocate for meaningful change. We will publish our own demographic data as part of our 2019-2020 annual report in comparison to STEM student populations, and will encourage other scientific societies to do the same. Transparency will be essential to determining the efficacy of any programs and policies for diversity and equity. We understand that it is our responsibility to speak up against the status quo and ineffective mentoring practices, and to elevate and support our BIPOC peers through any transition. Our Graduate Education Committee and several NSPN Chapters are already leading these efforts with their webinars and conversations about reforming graduate education and mentorship policy change. We are embracing academic policy change that contributes to more diverse, equitable and inclusive research environments as a crucial component of science policy.  

We also recognize there is power in reaching large communities through public news outlets and Wikipedia; therefore, we will continue to emphasize and expand our Op-Ed Accelerator collaboration with Science Rising and our sponsored training for NSPN WikiScientists through Wikipedia Education. The Op-Ed Accelerator provides an opportunity for any member of our community to share their stories, and will continue to promote issues and opportunities related to racial justice. Our WikiScientists team will lead efforts to specifically address the lack of public resources and Wikipedia pages related to social justice leaders and BIPOC scientists. 

WHY? Historically, academic institutions have been plagued by and steeped in racist ideology, often with badly done science taking the lead in supporting these notions and exploiting vulnerable populations. While much has changed over the last several decades, there is still a long way to achieve justice and equity in the institution. We continue to see significant underrepresentation of BIPOC in positions of power in academia; limited diversity of tenured faculty and few administrators of color reinforce existing power imbalances to perpetuate the status quo rather than forging new creative solutions. We must leverage the power and voices of early career scientists and engineers to shed light on these issues and advocate for change. 


These are just the first steps and a small piece of a long overdue effort by our network and the broader science and policy communities to fight for racial justice. We will continue to grow, learn, and push for change in collaboration with our members and partners. To learn more about the specifics of these immediate next steps, help us fulfill our mission to achieve these goals, and actively shape our future work for justice and science policy, please join upcoming NSPN Committee and Regional Hub meetings and engage with your local Chapter. A full list of existing groups and upcoming events can be found on our website.

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