DR. VALANTINE'S FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Hannah A. Valantine, MD
Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity
Diverse, inclusive environments in science get a lift from individual champions but require a team approach. Read about a neuroscientist in Puerto Rico who for two decades has produced a diverse community of neuroscientists studying the neurobiology of fear. Also in this issue - a posthumous scientific honor for female DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin, new findings on team science, and more.
A large scientific family of neuroscientists from diverse backgrounds trace their scientific roots to an NIH-supported "fear lab" in Puerto Rico. The lab, led by Gregory Quirk, has so far published 80 papers, some the first ever from Puerto Rico for certain journals. Of 130 young people trained in Quirk’s lab, 90 percent are from Puerto Rico and Latin America and half are women. He says, "Like most labs, the key has been fostering intellectual growth through journal clubs, lab meetings, weekly one-on-ones, and philosophy of science retreats." Quirk offers tips on his approach to nurturing discovery and mentoring "off the beaten track" in an article published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Add "size" to the list of the many types of diversity. According to a new study, small research teams are more likely to create innovative, "disruptive" solutions, whereas large research teams perform a different function: filling in the gaps and solidifying evidence for wider adoption. Lead scientist behind the work is sociologist James Evans of the University of Chicago, who mined a vast amount of research data: from the Web of Science, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the software repository GitHub. The study’s conclusions appear to hold true in fields as different as psychology, zoology, and astronomy.
Often, diversity is described as being invited to a party, whereas inclusion is being asked to dance. Of course, both diversity and inclusion are important, and ideally intertwined. A new study suggests we have a ways to go when it comes to inclusion in medical-residency programs. The research, published in journal JAMA Network Open, interviewed a relatively small group of minority resident physicians, including women and those from racial and ethnic minority groups. Among the most common themes of their responses: a daily barrage of bias and microaggressions, frequent calls to serve as race/ethnicity ambassadors (the "diversity tax"), and challenges negotiating professional and personal identity when viewed as "other."
A previous issue of this newsletter highlighted Donna Strickland as only the third woman in history to win the Nobel Prize in Physics and noted that women have won only 3% of the science-related Nobel prizes overall. Many people have considered Rosalind Franklin one of the three co-discoverers of the double-helix structure of DNA. Yet, due to her untimely death at age 37, she did not share the 1962 Nobel Prize for the work with three male colleagues. Franklin will now receive a huge public honor, fitting as she was also a space enthusiast. A public call for suggestions to name a new Mars rover yielded 36,000 responses across Europe. The Rosalind Franklin, a six-wheeled vehicle, will be equipped with instruments and a drill to search for evidence of past or present life on the Red Planet. It will launch in late summer 2020.
The links above are pulled from the top news articles trending on the subject of diversity in science and technology.
The stories selected are not a reflection of the views of the National Institutes of Health.