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July 15, 2020 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Ten Simple Rules for Building an Anti-Racist Research Lab
As the societal reckoning over systemic racism reaches into the halls of universities, two researchers, who are heads of ecology and Earth science labs, wrote a paper with recommendations for how professors can take steps to protect their students and create a more welcoming environment. The paper, "Ten simple rules for building an anti-racist lab," is currently in review with PLOS Computational Biology. The authors, V. Bala Chaudhary and Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, emphasise that the list is a simple starting point and not meant to be comprehensive.

KQED Science interviewed Professor Berhe, who heads a research group studying soils and climate at UC Merced:
So — ‘10 Simple Rules’?

With the complete acknowledgement that nothing having to do with addressing racism is really simple, right? These are hard questions, hard conversations. But this 10 simple rules format is a pretty popular format for PLOS Computational Biology. And it's also a way to get a message across for beginners.

I should say here that in academic institutions we've done a better job in addressing sexism and issues of women. But we have been very, very hesitant to address issues around race. There's a lot of reluctance in acknowledging that racism even happens.

We're geoscientists and ecologists — this is not even our expertise — but we've been forced to study this literature because it's something we deal with all the time, to try and understand what's happening to us, what's happening to other people who look like us. We wanted to make sure we didn't come across, as it were, saying we're experts in this, but rather point people to the well-established scholarship in these areas and ideas that we all can embrace in making the situation better.
The 10 rules:
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
posted by Lexica (6 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
The (sadly) wonderful thing about this list is because of how bad (some? most?) research labs are currently, this list is full of great first steps. The next steps may be harder, but there's no reason to not take these steps first, if your lab hasn't already.

Also, this doesn't have to be limited to research labs, most rules can be applied in any group setting, with a few tweaks. Replace a few words in the list (and give credit to V. Bala Chaudhary and Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, of course), and you have your Ten Simple Rules for Building an Anti-Racist Office Workplace, or Sports Team.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:43 PM on July 15, 2020 [2 favorites]


Rule 11: develop a K-12 (especially 9-12) outreach plan and template, as a lot of lab folks may have come from high schools that were more diverse than their universities, OR had a particular group that the University did not, and either way would make for an opportunity to make some connections and guide a more diverse pool through the University and research system

*I'm making some huge assumptions here, feel free to mold, edit, whatever as you see fit
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:54 PM on July 15, 2020 [2 favorites]




Rule 11: develop a K-12 (especially 9-12) outreach plan and template

Not an expert on anti-racism in academia, but assuming overlap with issues of sexism, this is more in the second steps list than the first steps list. Yet it's a thing that everyone tries to start with, because it doesn't require any self-examination or change within academia. Folks are more than happy to put all the blame on the "pipeline" and none on ways they might be driving away the underrepresented folks who do make it to whichever university level they're looking at. So, strategically, it's not a helpful thing to include in the first steps list, because folks will get distracted from all of the other steps in the list (as if it were a bunch of alternatives, not a full to do list).
posted by eviemath at 9:35 PM on July 15, 2020 [7 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I'm sending this to some friends who are in research-adjacent fields and are trying to engage with anti-racism initiatives in their organizations. Frameworks and ideas to draw on are super helpful.
posted by FishBike at 9:51 AM on July 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


I hope that my doctoral advisor and others at the place I got my PhD are reading this. Ecology is still so white, and there were so many ways I know that our lab particularly and the whole program and university failed at this.

As the leader of my own little lab of undergrads at a minority serving institution, there is plenty for me here, too. I'm disappointed in myself in the ways that I have not always recognized the challenges for my students, specifically in field work. My field sites have ended up being in majority white areas, I have a feeling Doing Field Work While Black or Brown or Wearing a Hijab in urban streams in Atlanta can be a much more uncomfortable experience than I have acknowledged to them.

One of my students a few years ago called me out on the choice those field sites from an environmental justice perspective, and I have since then worked along with my collaborators to intentionally select new sites in the neglected (in every way) parts of town and to begin to network with their environmental advocates. We just got a new grant and are picking new sites, again, and really trying to reach out to find the places that haven't been studied and should be.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:33 PM on July 16, 2020 [5 favorites]


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