- Need for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plans
- Research Elements to Strengthen DEI
- Useful resources at Washington University and beyond
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are long-standing and urgent challenges in academia and research communities. To date, universities and federal funding agencies have addressed these challenges through institutional and educational activities. Recently, both federal agencies and scientific communities realize that research activities provide critical opportunities to address challenges and build strength in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This webpage provides a primer for the Washington University research community on activities and planning that build diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The Research Development Office (RDO) encourages all researchers to utilize this primer, to adopt practices that connect to your research and build DEI. Further, researchers applying to funding opportunities that require DEI plans can utilize this primer to strengthen their application and their impact toward DEI.
For guidance on developing DEI plans in your research application, please contact Kurt Thoroughman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion activities need to match the research and the researchers
All research plans need to specify their goals carefully, narrowing fields of study to practical aims and objectives that will generate significant advances in knowledge. Similarly, DEI plans need to specify practical aims and objectives, which when achieved, will generate specific gain in diversity, equity, and/or inclusion. Each DEI plan needs to cohere with the research activity and the researchers doing the work. RDO therefore advises each investigator, in their practice and in their funding applications, to discern the particular activities that connect to their planned research.
Many elements of the research enterprise can connect to activities that strengthen DEI
The barriers to DEI in science pervade all aspects of science. For investigators, this indicates that many approaches to strengthening DEI in their research activity can have novel and important impact.
Below we identify several possible DEI plan elements; how each element can connect to research and provide DEI impact; and further resources on each element. Investigators should choose and tailor each element to provide natural connection and synergy to the research activity.
Who leads the research
Literature in team science finds that the quality of research increases with the diversity of the investigative team. Diversity in investigators also improves the diversity of research questions and the breadth of application of the research to critical problems in the US and the world. The diversity of researchers, however, remains low across science and critically low in particular fields.
Investigators can show impact toward improving DEI through their own personal involvement in the research, and through collaborating with diverse scientists. PIs can demonstrate how personal background, experience, communities, and goals provide novel perspective on the research, its design and outcomes, and its contribution to broader impacts to society.
Who trains through conducting the research
The National Science Foundation has long-standing programs and support toward increasing diversity in STEM education. The division that specializes in DEI in STEM, called Human Resource Development (HRD), believes “that increasing the successful participation of individuals from historically underrepresented groups in STEM will result in a diverse, highly capable STEM workforce that can lead innovation and sustain U. S. competitiveness in the science and engineering enterprise.”
Further, the National Institutes of Health finds that students from diverse groups offer new perspectives and raise new questions, and students who interact with diverse peers in and out of the classroom show increased critical thinking, intellectual engagement and growth in academic skills.
Investigators can therefore build DEI through recruiting and retaining diverse trainees; by growing skills in mentoring for diversity; and through substantive connection to campus and national resources for diverse student success.
What institutions collaborate on the research
Investigators can broaden the diversity of their research team by collaborating with diverse scientists, at Washington University or at other institutions. PIs can also contribute to growth in DEI by collaborating with diverse institutions, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), or other institutions not typically active in large research activities. Such collaborations can provide important building blocks toward strengthening capability, capacity, and opportunity to undertake research at a diverse set of institutions.
How the research develops new training and mentorship
Investigators can demonstrate creativity and innovation in their mentorships of diverse trainees, through novel research, educational, collaborative, or outreach activities. These innovations can provide unique strengths for your trainees, and can also improve DEI practices more broadly, at Washington University and far beyond.
PIs should identify the novel approach; how trainees will engage; how the approach will be evaluated; and how innovations will be shared, locally and/or nationally.
How the research connects to community, campus, and national DEI work
Many research projects have direct relevance to local, regional, and national communities, for example through clinical, environmental, or social impacts. Many of these communities are diverse, and authentic connections help diversify the insights that shape the research design, implementation, and application. Building connections fosters long-term impacts for communities, for healthy relationships with Washington University, and for future research projects.
Although focus on DEI is emergent and expanding in science research funding, there are many established theories and practices generated by Washington University. Connecting your DEI work to campus centers helps provide substantive rationale and clear activities for your plan and provides opportunities for investigators to contribute their experience to campus-wide improvement in DEI.
Investigators can also build substance and clarity for their DEI activities through connection to national organizations and initiatives that strengthen diversity. Such connection will make available nationally tested and recognized approaches; provide broad community to guide DEI efforts; and generate opportunities to strengthen and scale activities long term.
Useful resources at Washington University and beyond
Broadening Participation Plan guidance in Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities – NSF Scroll to ENHANCING DIVERSITY IN ENGINEERING – THE BROADENING PARTICIPATION PLAN, within I. Introduction.