SC Co-Sponsored Workshop Reports

From 2006 through 2008, the DOE Office of Science co-sponsored a series of equity workshops with other Federal agencies and with scientific professional societies whose membership represent scientists and engineers supported by the Office of Science. Each workshop included panel discussions and breakout sessions, and produced a report. The reports contain a number of recommendations aimed at increasing diversity, equity and inclusion of women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in academia and the DOE national laboratories. The recommendations and actions proposed to faculty, staff, and funding agencies are still very relevant today.

  1. Gender Equity: Strengthening the Physics Enterprise in Universities and National Laboratories. May 6-8, 2007.Sponsored by DOE Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences and the National Science Foundation; organized by American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics.;
  2. Workshop on Building Strong Academic Chemistry Departments through Gender Equity. January 29-31, 2006. Sponsored by DOE Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.
  3. Workshop on Excellence Empowered by a Diverse Academic Workforce: Achieving Racial & Ethnic Equity in Chemistry. September 24-26, 2007. Sponsored by DOE Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.
  4. Gender Equity in Materials Science and Engineering. May 18-20, 2008. Sponsored by DOE Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

Highlighted Report Recommendations Relevant to DOE Office of Science Business Practices

The following are excerpts from the cited community reports.

Overall Funding Process
  • Evaluation criteria for grant applications should be set in advance and should be clear.1
  • Sustained funding for scientists is as important as starter grants. It is suggested that the proposal process be streamlined as much as possible to enhance overall productivity.1
  • Programs that enable early-career women to establish research programs leading to tenure should be created.1
  • Develop policies to ensure gender equity in proposal review through modifications of peer review processes where necessary to ensure gender equity.2
  • Funding agencies should require an institutional/departmental diversity plan from universities applying for institutional awards for research.3
Reviewer, Advisory Committee, Workshop Participant Selection (as Related to Funding Agencies)
  • It is very helpful for junior scientists if they can get the opportunity to learn what is important to reviewers. Funding agencies are encouraged to include early career researchers on their review panels.1
  • Important decision-making panels should have a critical mass of women, although it is important not to overburden the women who are frequently tasked to serve on them. We encourage Funding agencies to keep track of who is asked to serve on committees and make an effort to include some of the lesser-known women.1
  • Develop policies to ensure gender equity in proposal review by fostering gender equity in highly visible Federal programs such as national labs, large research centers, and prestigious awards.2
Training: Implicit Bias and Diversity
  • Funding agencies should provide implicit bias training to their grant review panels, study sections, scientific review administrators, and all others involved in the process of reviewing grants and making rewards.3
  • Funding agencies should institute training workshops for junior faculty in grant writing and grant reviewing.3
  • Reviewers should be sensitive to the elements of hidden bias that can enter the review process. A short discussion on diversity at the beginning of all agency review panels and other meetings where decisions on resources are made is encouraged. Specific examples, both good and bad, should be given on items that could arise, such as gaps in a résumé due to family issues or the accumulation of subtle biases.1
  • Develop policies to ensure gender equity in proposal review through instituting procedures for training of reviewers and grantees on diversity issues.2
  • Raise awareness of gender biases and work to eliminate hostile attitudes and environments. With respect to raising awareness, a new type of training session should be developed that would be more effective in conveying the facts and consequences of gender bias than the conventional presentations typically available, which seem not to be highly effective in changing attitudes or behaviors. Any new training should make explicit the implicit, unintended, and generally unrecognized impact of some actions and behaviors.4
Family-Friendly Policies and Work-life- Balance
  • To help enable transitions for those re-entering the workforce after having children, the length of time for people to work on their grant should be extended by the length of time taken off for child-rearing. The ability to do this with a no-cost extension should be widely publicized.1
  • Funding agencies should be supportive of university maternity/family leave options for graduate students. Small supplements to grants should be allowed if an additional person is needed on the project to maintain momentum. No-cost extensions and/or re-allocation of funds as well as allowances for slower progress in these situations should also be an option for the PI.1
  • Recognizing that concerns for the ability to balance family needs with the demands of an academic career often discourage women from pursuing faculty positions, steps to improve work/life considerations for grant recipients are suggested.1
  • Funding agencies should provide ways to ensure that childcare needs do not prevent attendance at professional meetings.1
  • Agencies should consider a task force to brainstorm ways to help people to transition through life changes (children, elder care, etc.) and continue to be part of the scientific workforce. Examples of programs that would retain people in the field include: 1) Grants that allow faculty to focus on research but decrease teaching/service activities following family care/life changes; 2) Grants funding additional post-docs to help keep a lab active during a family leave; and 3) Re-tooling grants for people returning after a short absence.1
Guidance and Setting Guidelines for Diversity
  • Funding agencies should continue to enhance their efforts to make excellence with diversity one of their core values.3
  • Funding agencies should set clear guidelines on building diversity and ensure that these values are incorporated in the award process. Awareness of diversity issues should be embedded at all decision-making levels in the funding agencies and at the national labs that they fund. For example, the National Science Foundation “broader impacts” criterion can be used to encourage diversity among grant awardees and those supported by these grants, but applicants and reviewers may not understand how this is to be interpreted. Such policies should be clearly stated and explained.1
  • A certification of “family-friendly” or “gender equivalent” institutions that would encourage organizations to meet standards for minimizing gender bias and promoting supportive work environments. The approach would be to develop “strawman” criteria for certification and then to involve professional societies and/or the National Academies in developing and/or endorsing the certification policies. Family-friendly or gender equivalent requirements would encompass both “bricks and mortar” facilities as well as implementation of institutional policies such as those listed above. Any such policies should extend to both senior staff/faculty and junior staff/graduate students and should be compatible with environments at universities, national laboratories, and potentially industry.4
Outreach: Workshops and Conferences
  • Funding agencies should continue to support workshops and other activities to promote diversity and to monitor progress on gender equity.1
  • To improve the prospects for early career scientists to obtain grants, support should be made available for programs that educate postdocs and graduate students about the grant writing process.1
  • Early career faculty/scientists should have the means to meet with program officers. Agencies are encouraged to set up individual and group meetings with program officers at conferences.1
  • Support for outreach activities, particularly those which would encourage early career female and minority students to consider physics careers, should be made available not only to PIs but also to departments and institutions.1
  • All funding agencies need to collect data on gender and minority status in funding support. These data should be aggregated and made publicly available.1
  • We encourage funding agencies to keep track of who is asked to serve on committees and make an effort to include some of the lesser-known women.1
Additional Recommended Actions
  • Funding agencies should facilitate contact between their undergraduate/masters-level grantees that train under-represented minority (URM) and their grantees at major PhD-granting research universities.3
  • Funding agencies should facilitate, through fellowships and other mechanisms, the entry of talented URM graduate students into postdoc appointments at major research universities that have a record of placing their alumni in faculty positions.3
  • Funding agencies and institutions should brainstorm additional ways to increase the diversity of the grantees.1
  • The agencies should better advertise small grants for exploratory research, if they have them, or consider creating similar opportunities if they do not.1
  • Research grants with a longer structure (4-5 years) and more umbrella grants would significantly reduce the overhead of maintaining a successful research program while making research more attractive to early career scientists. All funding agencies are encouraged to form a task force to review the optimum balance between long/short grant periods and individual/group awards.1
  • All funding agencies should increase post-doctoral awards with mentoring components, such as DOE national laboratory fellowships (Lawrence, Oppenheimer, Wilson, etc.).1
  • Opportunities for more postdoctoral exchanges between universities and national labs are valuable and should be a priority for funding.1