2020 BiasWatchNeuro Award
for Equity and Inclusivity

This year, we announced a new annual recognition for neuroscience or neuroscience-related departments, institutes and programs that demonstrate the exceptional creation of a culture where individuals underrepresented and/or marginalized in STEM feel integral to the community and thrive. There was a call for nominations by current or alumni trainees (see below). We received only few nominations, reflecting an academic environment that is only now realizing how much work needs to be done to truly provide an inclusive and welcoming experience for all trainees. The nominations were were reviewed by a committee of neuroscientists that did not include anyone from the nominated institutions. 

For the 2020 BiasWatchNeuro Award for Equity and Inclusivity in a neuroscience department, institute, or program, we are excited to recognize Empowering diversity and Promoting Scientific equity at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (EPSP).

EPSP was co-founded by Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI) graduate students Bri Carvajal and Ken Igarza and has grown into a group with broad membership at all levels of the institute. The nomination letter made clear that PNI has begun to foster an environment where students can create initiatives like EPSP and be supported in making real change. In response to a lack of sustainable support systems for empowering and building a community for scientists from first-generation, low-income, LGBTQIA+, neurodiverse, medically disabled, and racial and/or ethnic underrepresented backgrounds, EPSP proposed and is beginning to implement a series of initiatives and structural changes within the training program at the PNI. They are already providing a model for other departments at Princeton. We look forward to following the eventual impact of these efforts. Click here for the nomination letter

EPSP stood out as a group that was diverse and inclusive at all levels. In future years, we will continue to prioritize recognizing groups that demonstrate inclusivity across the leadership and membership.

Two other nominations that we’d like to recognize with honorable mentions are NeuroMatch Academy (NMA) and the IBRO-SIMONS Computational Neuroscience Imbizo. These summer schools did not fall under this year’s call for nominations, which was intended for programs that support long-term training and research, however, their contribution to increasing diversity in neuroscience is commendable.

NeuroMatch Academy (NMA) is a massive, online summer school that offers affordable computational neuroscience education worldwide. We specifically want to celebrate Megan Peters and highlight her leadership skills as President of NMA. Traditional summer schools offer an important opportunity for trainees to broaden their education and network beyond their home universities, but summer schools are often expensive and highly competitive. NMA changed the landscape of (online) education by offering affordable and accessible education to a global audience. The nomination letter highlights the many ways NMA aimed to be more diverse, inclusive and equitable, and their commitment to continuing to build and expand this resource with focused attention on equity and inclusivity. Click here for the nomination letter

The IBRO-SIMONS Computational Neuroscience Imbizo (ISi-CNI) is an opportunity for African and international students to learn about cutting-edge research techniques in computational neuroscience at a summer school in Cape Town. The nomination letter highlighted the ways that ISi-CNI has created a diverse and inclusive community focused on providing resources to African neuroscientists in Africa. Click here for the nomination letter

Biaswatchneuro has been inspired by all the collective action and impact in the community through the creation of groups and organizations that are visibly making a difference in the broader neuroscience community beyond institutional walls. Groups like Black in Neuro, SPARK Society, and individuals like Michelle Jones-London at NIH are making progress on equity and inclusion in neuroscience and related fields. There are also inspirational groups in STEM more broadly, such as Disabled in Stem, Cientifico Latino, and Academics for Black Lives among many others. We are creating an ongoing series highlighting Diversity and Equity in Neuroscience Trailblazers where we will occasionally spotlight one of these groups and the positive impact they are having on science. A link to this series will be added here once the first entry is created.


Call for nominations

The Annual BiasWatchNeuro Award for Equity and Inclusivity

Deadline extension — Nominations* for the 2020 award now accepted through September 15


Diverse voices and ideas deserve to be heard equitably in science. Since 2015, BiasWatchNeuro has worked to increase the representation of women in neuroscience and related fields, emphasizing in particular the representation of women as invited speakers at conferences. However, women are not the only group that is confronted with implicit biases and systemic obstacles in science. Minoritized groups are severely underrepresented at every level of the academic career path — from undergraduate education to faculty. Attempts to diversify departments have increased, but the reality is that many universities and institutions still embody and perpetuate both the historical influence of being established by men of privilege, and the persisting effects of systemic racism in our society. Even as more diverse student bodies are recruited, the culture in many departments and institutions is not welcoming to and supportive of those that belong to minoritized groups. Intersectionality adds another layer of disadvantage, with minoritized women being especially underrepresented and unsupported.

It is time to change this reality and build a new one, in our departments and institutions. Black scientists matter. Latinx scientists matter. LGBTQAI+ scientists matter. First generation scientists matter. Low income scientists matter. Intersectionality matters.

BiasWatchNeuro is excited to announce a new Annual Award for Equity and Inclusivity, awarded to a neuroscience or neuroscience-related department, institute or program that demonstrates the exceptional creation of a culture where individuals underrepresented and/or marginalized in STEM feel integral to the community and thrive. 

We recognize that no department/institute/program is perfect. However, some are doing much better than others, and should be recognized for this. Nomination letters for winners and runner ups will be made public (without the list of signatories, which will remain confidential), to showcase successful methods for creating an inclusive and equitable culture, and to provide prospective trainees at all levels with information that can inform their decisions of where to apply to. We hope that this will help us all improve our practices and move toward a day in which all neuroscientists feel seen, respected, and supported. 

Nominations for the 2020 award will be accepted through September 15, 2020. Awards will be announced in late September. 

Letter of nomination signed by one or more trainees (current and/or alumni; including post-bacc/RAs; faculty cannot nominate their current program) should be sent to biaswatchneuro@gmail.com. Letters should describe in detail specific actions and elements that promote inclusivity and equity, and their impact on underrepresented/marginalized groups. More than one letter and/or letters with multiple signatories will be viewed favorably.

Names of the nominating people will remain confidential and will not be seen by anyone except a small award committee, who are committed to confidentiality.  The letter itself will be made public only with permission and after redactions as warranted to maintain the confidentiality of the nominators.

* We are aware that many institutions are in the midst of a process to increase equity and inclusivity in their departments, institutes and programs, and have not yet reached close to their desired goal. However, the aim of this award — and the nomination letters — is to highlight methods and efforts that are effective, even while realizing that more work needs to be done. Please consider nominating your department/institute/program not because they are perfect, but because some of what they are doing can be helpful for others to know about. 
 
We also encourage nominations of units for the work of individuals, committees or groups within them — even if the unit as a whole has not yet moved the needle as much as one would have hoped for. If this is the case in your institution, please note in your nomination letter the subgroups or individuals who are the strand bearers and should be highlighted by the award. 
 
Please make your nomination letters as specific as possible by highlighting the activities that have been successful or are underway, for instance (but not limited to)
– Having an active inclusive teaching committee 
– Encouraging faculty to undergo syllabus review
– Making sure there are regular safe spaces (e.g., a weekly chat) to talk about issues of climate and inclusion 
– Investing in trainee and faculty recruitment and retention to enhance departmental diversity
– Organizing read-ins for faculty to discuss books on social and racial justice
– Organizing a diversity-related journal club 
etc.
 
We emphasize that any winner of the award will be congratulated for what they have done so far—but expected to do more in the future. The award is for one year only, and next year the institution will have to compete for it again. As we all improve our practices, the standards for winning will increase. That is the goal of this award — to catalyze a process.