Diversity is key to a vibrant and innovative scientific community, but early career scientists from underrepresented populations, including people of color, are leaving the field at record rates and these are much higher than their majority group counterparts. This loss of talent is particularly acute and tragic at the post-Ph.D. stages as both the individual and field have made significant investments in their education and development. Psychology Professor Sheri Mizumori [and her colleagues Drs. Joyce Yen (College of Engineering) and Claire Horner-Devine (College of the Environment)], are strengthening this vulnerable career stage through a new national program called BRAINS (Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience ) that received its second five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
The BRAINS model is unique from other professional development models in many ways. It is the only model that:
- Targets early career neuroscientists who are at risk of leaving their career;
- Provides an array of professional development tools tailored for each person's individual situation;
- Offers continued and multiple forms of guidance across years of career transitions; and,
- Is based on social psychology research that identifies critical and unique challenges that importantly determine persistence in the careers of underrepresented scientists.
BRAINS is currently the only model that directly addresses the latter point by providing specific tips, tools, and strategies to overcome the cultural challenges that underrepresented scientists face. Given the strongly positive impact that BRAINS has already had on program participants, and the recently renewed support by NINDS, Dr. Mizumori hopes to identify future strategies and best practices that ensure a diverse scientific workforce for our country.
In recent times, we have heard public figures including US presidential candidates, the FBI director, and heads of major technology corporations discuss the role of “implicit bias” in a wide range of social disparities. UW Psychology’s own Tony Greenwald (Professor in the Department since 1986) is the world’s leading scientist behind implicit bias and he invented the Implicit Association Test, a widely used tool to study these hidden implicit biases, in his Guthrie Hall laboratory in 1994.
Now that implicit bias has leaped from the scientific journals to the world at large, how does Greenwald think policy makers should approach implicit bias? Greenwald believes that making changes in society will involve more than teaching people about their implicit biases (this might even backfire as it could cause people to feel ‘accused’), and will instead require encouraging institutions to use decision-making processes that block the operations of implicit biases. For example, in his book “Blindspot” with Mahzarin Banaji, Greenwald notes how symphony orchestras became more gender balanced after auditions were changed so that the gender of the player was not evident to those evaluating their work.
Noting that changes required to avoid bias in most organizations are generally quite substantial, Greenwald observes that “in most organizations, these changes are unlikely until the person at the top of the organization takes it as a personal goal to bring about equal opportunity and equal treatment”. Learn more about implicit bias and the Implicit Association Test here. The UW Psychology Department is at the forefront of producing scientific insights that can address social disparities. To support scholarship on these topics, please consider donating to the UW Psychology Department, or our targeted Diversity Fund. You can learn more about diversity in our department here.
|David Gire||Geoffrey Boynton||Katie Mclaughlin|
Save the dates for the Spring 2017 Allen L. Edwards Public Lecture Series which explores how brain science can improve society. Professors David Gire (March 29), Geoffrey Boynton (April 5), and Katie McLaughlin (April 12), will showcase neuroscientific scholarship that informs topics such as decision making, sensory perception, and childhood adversity. Each speaker has invited a co-presenter whose research complements their scholarship. This year’s guests are: Zach Mainen from the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal (accompanying Gire), David Eagleman from Stanford’s School of Medicine (accompanying Boynton) and Charles Nelson from Harvard’s Medical School (accompanying McLaughlin). These free talks will be held at 7:30 pm in Kane Hall, and RSVP information will be available early in 2017 on our website.