Guest Lecture on Arboviruses for UNR MICR 425 Human Virology
Recorded on March 23, 2020.
Someday, we'll get around to this ...
Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in STEM
Ten Simple Rules for Building an Anti-Racist Research Lab
This article under review at 'PLoS Computational Biology' outlines some of the steps labs can take to build an anti-racist research environment. Briefly, these are:
Rule 1: Lead informed discussions about anti-racism in your lab regularly
Rule 2: Address racism in your lab and field safety guidelines
Rule 3: Publish papers and write grants with BIPOC colleagues
Rule 4: Evaluate your lab’s mentoring practices
Rule 5: Amplify voices of BIPOC scientists in your field
Rule 6: Support POC in their efforts to organize
Rule 7: Intentionally recruit BIPOC students and staff
Rule 8: Adopt a dynamic research agenda
Rule 9: Advocate for racially diverse leadership in science
Rule 10: Hold the powerful accountable and don’t expect gratitude
Thoughts and action items for the use of gender inclusive language
This text has been adapted from an original list created by Dr. Emily Gallichotte, CSU Fort Collins. I wanted to thank her for compiling this really useful and comprehensive summary, but I also wanted to clarify that I have re-worded some of it to fit into my own words/style. I am not an expert in this field, so any feedback or criticism are always welcome (firstname.lastname@example.org).
So much of our society, and therefore language, are unnecessarily gendered and hetero-normative. The way we use language often assumes that the target audience is straight, white, and male. For a long time, the audience was all that in the majority of American and European board rooms, business meetings, higher education, and academia. However, with increasing efforts to be inclusive, our use of language can lead by example and help create inclusivity. Issues of non-inclusive language also disproportionally impact BIPOC.
Here are a few easy action items to make your language more inclusive:
Biological sex and gender are two very different things
- People often refer to gender, when they really mean biological sex. An easy action item, is to make sure you understand the difference and use them correctly (see here).
- When talking about laboratory animals, such as mice or mosquitoes in a study, male/female refers to their sex, not gender.
- If you’re writing a survey and you’re asking for biological sex, don’t write “Gender: ___M ___F”. Following up on that point, if you are actually asking about gender, make sure to include all options, not just male and female (non-binary, pangender, transgender-male, transgender-female, …). Inform yourself – assuming there are just two genders is a false binary, ideally provide an ‘other ______’ to be fully inclusive.
Using pronouns correctly
- Pronouns are used in everyday speech and writing in place of people’s names. Often, when speaking of someone in the third person, these pronouns have a gender implied (he/him or she/her). These associations are not always accurate or helpful.
- The only way to know someone’s pronouns is by them telling you. Assuming someone’s pronouns (even if correct), sends a potentially harmful message that people have to look a certain way to demonstrate a gender that they are or are not. Using someone’s correct gender pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their identity.
- Common examples of pronouns are he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, etc. (see here).
- Unless you explicitly know someone’s pronouns, you can use they/them, as default pronouns. If you are referring to a person you don’t know (or a hypothetical person), use they/them pronouns.
- ‘But isn’t it weird asking someone their pronouns?!?’ Maybe, but it doesn’t have to be if we normalize it. Pronouns have nothing to do with sex/gender/sexuality and it is more respectful to ask and use them correctly immediately than to assume.
- Action items: the more we normalize stating our pronouns ’I’m Claudia, I’m an Assistant Professor at UNR, and I use she/her/hers pronouns”, putting them in your email signature, your website profile, write them on your nametag, makes it more normalized and inclusive. If you use he/him or she/her for yourself and think it’s weird to broadcast it, please imagine yourself in the position of someone using non-binary pronouns as the only person to always have to point out their pronouns.
- So much of our language is gendered. Action item: be aware when you use gendered/heteronormative language, and try to replace it with something more inclusive. Freshman = first-year student, chairman = chairperson, manpower = person power, you guys = you all, all, friends, folks, folx, etc.
- Here are some good links on using gender inclusive language in recruiting and on promoting inclusive language at your organization.
- Do not ask a female or male presenting person if they have a boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife, respectively. You can ask if they have a partner and thus remove any assumptions about their gender, the gender of their partner, and their sexual orientation.
- Also do not refer to women as girls. We do not call grown men ‘boys’. Further, do not assume women are students (even if they look young).
- Inclusive language also means not using ableist language (e.g. do not refer to difficult situations as crazy or insane - try to use neutral words like ridiculous, messy, unimaginable, wild), and not co-opting/appropriating traditional/cultural language
Accommodating disability in STEM
Personal Statement: One of the aspects of diversity that is often forgotten or added as an afterthought is disability. Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that just had its 30 year anniversary and the disability resources offered by universities, individual faculty members often remain clueless about the issues and hesitant to make accommodations. I am just learning myself what accommodations exist and what is possible for disabled scientists in STEM. I can understand that, without making an effort, many of us do not understand disability and its individual challenges, as well as what disabled scientists may be capable of. The idea that any disability reduces a person's ability to contribute at the same speed is ingrained in our brains. This is ableism - the idea that people with disabilities are 'less than' able-bodied individuals and 'need fixing'. This is an incredibly harmful mindset that means many of us immediately think someone with a disability is less qualified for a job, even if they may have superior qualifications.
However, let's think about this for a moment. First of all, do all of us currently able-bodied scientists work at the same speed? No. Does working fast fundamentally mean someone is a good scientist? No. Imagine someone with a severe physical disability who has a fantastic mind and has worked five times as hard to get a degree in STEM - how can we decide that they are not worth a few minutes of our time to figure out an accommodation that will allow them to take part in lab classes or contribute to research labs? If you think there are limits to what can be accommodated, you are not the person to make that decision without any discussion! This is something I recently learned and am trying to internalize. When I voiced a concern along the lines of 'but this would be hard/dangerous', it was immediately answered with a solution by a disabled person. So even if you think something is not possible, as an able-bodied scientist, you are probably not educated enough about disability to know what's possible. Consider accommodating that service dog. Consider what simple measures may support someone with mobility issues in the lab. Only after having a thorough discussion, with an open mind, can the decision be made whether the accommodations are reasonable.
Here are some links to provide information on accommodations that can be made:
- For disabilities that impact learning and/or attention in lab classes
- For various disabilities to create an accessible lab
- A general guide is provided by the Springer book: The Guide to Assisting Students With Disabilities
One of the things we can all work on is getting rid of casual ableist language - this video is a very honest and personal view that highlights the issues with using ableist language. Try to think about the words you use and learn new ways to express yourself without ableist language. This can be a long road, I am certainly still learning and tend to overuse some terms, but it will be worth it and is the only way to make disabled people feel truly accepted and included in STEM (society).
More content to follow as I learn ...
Articles informing about racism and anti-racism in STEM/academia
In this article called 'Lab heads should learn to talk about racism' Devang Mehta calls on lab heads to take a lead in creating an inclusive and safe environment for junior researcher to discuss racism and microaggressions they experience. Students/employees won't approach a lab head if they are not sure that it's safe to do so.
In the article 'Too many senior white academics still resist recognizing racism',