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Canadian Science Policy Centre | Panel 116 - Shaping science policy to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion

Panel 116 - Shaping science policy to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion

Conference Day: 
Day 1 - November 7th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Shaping Science Policy to Improve Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

Organized by:  Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ), Fanny Eugène, EDI and Strategic Advisor

Speakers: Mary-Rose Bradley-Gill, Co-President, Science & Policy Exchange; Shirley Malcom, Director, Education and Human Resources Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Denise O’Neil Green, PhD, Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion, Ryerson University; Anne Webb, Senior Policy Advisor Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Moderator: Maryse Lassonde, President, Conseil supérieur de l’éducation (Government of Quebec)

Takeaways and recommendations

  • There is a growing body of evidence showing that greater EDI strengthens research by making it more rigorous, reliable and impactful.

  • Fix the system, not the people. Changing one person, department, program or lab at a time is slow and far less effective than more systemic approaches. Build structures that help people learn about these issues.

  • Barriers to EDI are experienced differently by different populations, age groups and contexts. Barriers can include:

    • Unintentional and intentional biases

    • Microaggressions

    • Hostile work environments, stereotype threats

    • Biased indicators of excellence

    • Few role models

    • Assumed linearity norm of research career paths

    • Under-valued service and outreach contributions

  • You can encourage industries and organizations to do the right thing by incentivizing, recognizing and rewarding positive behaviours (e.g., the Athena SWAN initiative, or in a different area, the LEED green building rating system).

  • EDI is not a transactional sport; it is a relationship sport where you have to engage communities that have historically been marginalized. Engage equity professionals in identifying both the challenges and the solutions.

EDI case study: Quebec’s research granting agencies, the Fonds de recherche du Québec

  • In 2018, the FRQ appointed its first EDI advisor (Fanny Eugène), and an EDI committee was formed that comprises all three Quebec research funds, to ensure EDI principles are applied and evaluated within its staff, communities and programs.

  • Starting this year, the FRQ are implementing implicit bias training for personnel responsible for the evaluation committees and are inviting all reviewers to complete implicit bias training.

  • The Strategic Clusters supported by the FRQNT (natural sciences, mathematics and engineering) are now being evaluated on their efforts toward EDI.

  • FRQ grantees receive: paid parental leave for scholarship holders; travel expenses outside Quebec for post-doctoral fellows and their families; childcare during conferences and field explorations for researchers; and paid maternity leave for students supported by FRQNT grants.

  • The Quebec Research and Innovation Strategy and the Strategy for Equality Between Men and Women each have specific measures to promote scientific careers to girls and women.

  • FRQ and Quebec’s ministry of economy and innovation launched the SAGA Project, a UNESCO project that looks at policies and measures to promote gender equality in science and technology, from early childhood to adulthood. The Quebec group, involving participants from government, industry and academic, has identified 97 measures to support gender equality in STEM (report expected by end of 2018).

EDI case study: Initiatives in the United States

  • The population of the U.S. does not look like the population of STEM. Participation rates are low among women and minority groups (i.e., Blacks, Latinos, Indigenous).

  • Broadening participation among women and underrepresented groups is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) mandate, largely as a result of the Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering Act (1980).

  • The NSF has had two main EDI programs that promote structural change: ADVANCE (to facilitate women's advancement to the highest ranks of academic leadership), and the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) (for underrepresented minority doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty). The NSF’s new crosscutting INCLUDES initiative aims to support models that can lead to structural change.

  • The AAAS hosts the Stem, Equity, Achievement (SEA) Change, an awards and recognition program adapted from the U.K. that takes a LEED-like designation approach to support institutional transformation. Key components are evidence-based self-assessments that can lead to institutional and departmental awards; development of a SEA Change Community and SEA Change Institute to support research and training for institutions related to EDI.

EDI case study: Canada’s tri-council agencies*

  • Previous targeted efforts aimed at increasing opportunities for women and girls in science and engineering have not had the impact hoped for over the past 20 years. Current initiatives take a more systemic approach to improve EDI within research and among researchers.

  • Based on shared objectives, the tri-agencies have developed an EDI action plan that combines their efforts and draws on international best practices to embed EDI considerations and analysis in policies, processes, programs and indicators of excellence. The action plan has two main shared priorities: equitable access to funding opportunities, and how applicants are treated once they are in the application process.

  • The actions are being promoted, resourced, implemented and monitored. For example, additional staff are being hired for EDI initiatives, and resources and tools are being made available to reviewers to increase their awareness of bias.

  • Developed tools and systems to collect and monitor data on underrepresented group participation in funding programs, peer review and going forward, on committees.

  • Bias awareness training provided to reviewers and agency staff.

  • Specific funding programs now include EDI-related recommendations in relation to personnel and research.

  • Agency websites include guidance and resources related to EDI, and analysis in research, research teams and institutions.

  • Agencies are integrating Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) into evaluation and policy reviews.

  • For some agencies, a proportion of award holders who are underrepresented individuals is a performance indicator for monitoring and reporting to Parliament.

  • Liaison with and alignment of EDI considerations with university research offices increased.

  • Instituted new requirements for universities participating in the Canada Research Chairs program.

  • Work is underway on the design and implementation of a made-in-Canada Athena SWAN program. A five-year pilot program, announced in Budget 2018, will be announced early next year.

  • The tri-council participates in public forms to consult and engage external experts and knowledge holders on agency EDI initiatives.

* Tri-council: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Genome Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation

EDI case study: Ryerson University

  • In 2012, Ryerson appointed its inaugural assistance vice-president/vice-provost of EDI.

  • Later, the university realized that EDI was an important issue that needed to be elevated to help drive strategy direction, planning and decision-making for the whole organization. In response, in 2017 the university appointed its first vice-president, equity and community inclusion. This individual serves as a member of the president’s executive team and reports directly to the president.

  • Too many EDI initiatives are designed and implemented without the assistance of EDI professionals. In February 2018, Ryerson and NSERC convened a roundtable in Toronto involving the federal research funding agencies, the FRQ, research professionals, academic leaders and EDI professionals to discuss how to make EDI happen. Among the themes to emerge from the roundtable:

    • Persist in overcoming barriers to EDI

    • Training needs to be reimagined and delivered in different ways “so it can stick”

    • EDI is part of excellence, not EDI in spite of excellence

    • System-wide accountability is paramount

    • Leaders play an essential role in thinking about these problems and addressing them

    • Have those difficult conversations around EDI; don’t avoid them

A student perspective on EDI

  • Institutions can help promote EDI issues by providing funding and visibility to local groups that work in this space.

  • The Science & Policy Exchange held an SPE Café in March, 2018: Breaking Gender Barriers in STEM (most participants were female graduate students). The group produced a report that identified seven gender barriers:

  1. Family planning: Standardize and encourage parental leaves, creative policies

  2. Criteria for excellence/merit: Revise criteria to take into account unconscious bias over a lifetime

  3. Hiring practices: Radical transparency

  4. Discrimination outside hiring (harassment to more unconscious): Sustainable positions for monitoring inclusion and diversity

  5. Role models and mentorship: Formalize mentorship programs, give credit

  6. Lack of men in the conversation: Leadership from the top, more equity and diversity training

  7. Societal pressures and unconscious bias we all hold: Financially and socially support conversations and dialogue

  • The report also made 20 recommendations for addressing these barriers:

  1. Create awareness and transparency around rights for parental leave.

  2. Create parental leave plans for students/postdocs left out of coverage by specific grants.

  3. Create policies to better accommodate families - for example, childcare subsidies for students and postdoctoral fellows.

  4. Brainstorm creative solutions to foster a family-friendly environment.

  5. Revise the criteria used to judge merit for any type of application and nomination to reflect the reality that underrepresented groups are not on a level playing field and to value different types of merit (such as mentorship).

  6. Include discussions of implicit biases against female and minority candidates among hiring committee members before the hiring process begins.

  7. At the department level, implement written reports for each shortlisted candidate that should contain explanations on the final decision.

  8. At the institutional level, adopt a transparency policy for the hiring and promotions by publishing statistics annually.

  9. Consider the possibility of gender quota or reward system for hiring; explore different systems of implementation

  10. Create clear, accessible harassment policies that are enforced.

  11. Hold faculty accountable and be transparent about disciplinary actions.

  12. Clearly advertise process for reporting abuse.

  13. Establish sustainable positions for monitoring progress on equity, diversity, and inclusion.

  14. Improve equity training policies and provide up to date training.

  15. Collect and publish data about their policies and practices, based on clear targets and indicators of reduced harassment, bias, and discrimination.

  16. Incorporate equity, diversity, and inclusion training/discussion within each department’s core curriculum for students and faculty

  17. Re-evaluate traditional language used in reference to prestigious awards and opportunities.

  18. Financially and socially support conversations, dialogue, and specialized groups that will identify and propose targeted solutions for the specific group needs.

  19. Include students in discussions for equity, diversity, and inclusion.

  20. All leaders need to engage, including and especially men