NASEM Committee on Advancing Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM Organizations Holds First Meeting

February 23, 2022

On January 26th, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) held its open session meeting launching the Committee on Advancing Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in STEM organizations. The goal is to provide a hallmark consensus report of clear and actionable advice to the nation in advancing anti-racism and DEI.

This meeting was monitored by Dr. Susan Fiske, committee member, past president of FABBS, and Policy Insights from the Behavioral Brain Sciences (PIBBS) Journal editor, and by Dr. Gilda Barabino, Co-chair of the committee and President of the Olin College of Engineering. The seven sponsors and sixteen experts of the committee presented their statements of work to better engage and specify the academy’s project as a collaborative effort from the entire NASEM institution. This committee’s work will consist of collecting and analyzing the evidence from both the published literature and lived experiences, findings and recommendations, and of offering collective wisdom to advance anti-racism and DEI programs in STEM organizations. 

Dr. Barabino advised each of the sponsors on their statements of work. The sponsors individually explained their project goals, hopes in developing an eventual report, and provided suggestions of communities or stakeholders that should be consulted for their work plans. They raised topics of research and funding and emphasized finding mechanisms for training and mentorship to produce equitable outcomes for the committee. 

Of the presenters attending, Dr. Nilanjana “Buju” Dasgupta, Director of the Institute of Diversity Sciences and Director of Faculty Equity and Inclusion in the College of Natural Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and past FABBS Board member, brought up the issues of early dissemination. She also raised the concern in the recurring pattern that most funding foundations follow: the support and funding of fundamental scientists compared to the insufficiency for cultural change programs.  Additionally, Dr. Fay Cobb, Professor Emerita at North Carolina State University and Chief Programs Officer at the Kapor Center, asked how each sponsor at their respective institution responds to opportunities of re-establishing recommendations back to their program directors in terms of scoping and scaling language used internally. This question was posed to address each individual system’s efforts in advancing anti-racism and DEI in STEM organizations. Of the sponsors, three advocated to address the roles sponsors play in reducing inequalities and funding programs that result in better informed decisions for STEM education and broad participation. 

The committee will build on the wide ranges of work across NASEM’s academies that likewise address issues in anti-racism and DEI. This includes the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health Program and the Academy of Engineering’s Racial Justice and Equity Committee. Alongside, NASEM will be evolving these existing academy’s programs and activities to better implement evidence-based policy.