Irelene Ricks, PhDIssues impacting “diversity in science” usually focus on race and gender. While it is not wrong to focus on these two elements, there are other factors that are often neglected or ignored.  Income, geography, and disability status are socioeconomic indicators that are rarely discussed within the context of science diversity because their impacts are regarded as marginal at best. (For more on this discussion, see “Worth Mentioning.”) However, nothing could be further from the truth.

In January 2017, the Diversity in Life Science Programs (DLSP) convened a Task Force to examine approaches to increase the number of underrepresented (UR) senior speakers at Keystone Symposia conferences (see “Podium Productivity”) in this issue of INCLUDE. During this UR recruitment process, comments from the UR science community included observations that diversity must go beyond gender and race to include greater institutional diversity at Keystone Symposia conferences. This apparent frustration with perceived “balkanization” of scientific research efforts in the U.S. raises a question of relevance to the DLSP: “where do most UR early career researchers train?”

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF’s) Table 7-22 on “Top 20 academic institutions awarding S&E doctoral degrees, by race or ethnicity, 2011-2014,” the top 20 academic institutions to produce UR PhDs vary depending on race/ethnicity, but most UR biomedical researchers train largely at research universities on the East or West coasts. For American Indian/Alaska Natives, many of the top 20 research institutions are on the West Coast, including UC Berkeley, University of Washington (Seattle); and UC Davis.  With respect to African Americans, several of the top 20 are on coasts (i.e., UC Berkeley), and Mid-Atlantic (Howard University and Johns Hopkins). For Hispanic/Latinos, there were two top 20 institutions located in Puerto Rico (Carlos Albizu University and Pontifical Catholic University) as well as UC Berkeley and UCLA in California.  Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders counted the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Hawaii, Manoa; Cal-Tech; and UC Berkeley as their “go to” institutions.

Our 61 Keystone Symposia Fellows follow the NSF pattern – with PhD or postdoc representation mainly derived from coastal institutions with some notable Mid-Western exceptions:  Wash U in St. Louis; University of Illinois, Champaign; Michigan State University; and Northwestern.

UC Berkeley is in the NSF top 20 S&E PhD list for African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders. Recognizing this fact early on, I made a point to present in 2016 at UC Berkeley on the benefits of the DLSP and have maintained close contacts with diversity leaders at the University ever since. However, despite these efforts, we have had only one Early Career Investigator Travel Awardee (ECITA) in 2017, but no Fellows applications from UC Berkeley. This is something I seek to change – starting with that ECITA!

Over the next several months, I plan to recruit from quite a few universities and research centers across the continental U.S., and Hawaii for Fellows, Early Career Investigator Travel Awardees (ECITAs), UR Trainee Scholars, and UR Senior Speakers. If you have specific individuals you would like for me to see or visit, please let me know and I will add those names to my growing list for 2017-18 travel. To make these site visits both cost-effective and productive, I am taking a strategic approach to design a recruitment plan that considers the NSF regional “hubs” of UR PhD and postdoc production, but will also take full advantage of opportunities that you, the Keystone Symposia community, share with me. I look forward to your comments: Please share our newsletter with colleagues and friends!

Here’s to a wonderful rest of the summer!

Be well. Mentor Strong!