Also this week: COVID-19 vs. the “facilities” section of your next grant, how to politicize the classroom, statistics vs. coups, the diversity-innovation paradox in science, and more.
This open letter to the EEB community, written by a group of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) ecologists, is a very important read, and includes a list of suggestions that I encourage readers to reflect on (and begin enacting!) From the letter:
The EEB community at large is white. We are surprised that it took a national outrage to notice and reflect on the lack of diversity in EEB. We have been here all along, in the shadows, mostly ignored, and doing our best to truck along. For a scientific discipline obsessed with diversity, with measuring and teasing apart the origins of differences, this discipline is maddeningly uniform.
It’s all dandy to form enclaves, and shut your lab for a day, to decide what you will do better. This was a necessary moment of reflection, and we thank you. That you could afford to do so is a privilege and we hope you realize that many BIPOC faculty couldn’t do so due to institutional barriers. How much of your outrage and activism can we rely on in 1 week, 1 month or 1 year from now? Why should we take these exercises seriously, when it feels like it was done to assuage your sense of guilt? Why do so many statements ring superficial and hollow? You see, racism is corrosive to the very fabric of society, but it’s real target is the trust between ordinary, well meaning humans. The way forward is to rebuild a foundation upon mutual trust, and justice is a key element of trust.
Again, please read the whole letter.
This piece by Neil Lewis, Jr. is also worth reading. It includes:
These academic departments—some quite famous for espousing egalitarian and progressive values—were willing to hire a scholar with a Black face, but they made it crystal clear that they did not want the mind that came with it. The issues that mind wanted to study—issues of racial, economic, and gender inequality—simply did not belong in their hallowed halls.
So, yes, please do work toward increasing representation in your respective part of the scientific workforce. But as you do that, take a long and hard look at the structures and cultures you are recruiting minoritized scientists into and change them so that they can become places where those scientists can thrive, rather than merely survive. … We got to where we are today due to hundreds of years of exploitation and marginalization; it will take persistent and bold efforts on the part of individuals, groups, institutions, and broader society if we are to achieve anything close to equality.
Here’s a video toolkit to support the well-being of students of color.
Academics for Black Survival and Wellness is holding a wellness week beginning today (Juneteenth). It is “A weeklong personal and professional development initiative for academics to honor the toll of racial trauma on Black people, resist anti-Blackness and white supremacy, and facilitate accountability and collective action.“
Needhi Bhalla has compiled an equity reading list.
I love this idea for updating facilities sections for grant proposals:
and the responses, including:
My facilities got upgraded this week to add a skateboard and ripstik, which will provide more work time for me until someone needs to go to the ER.
Alison Flynn and Jeremy Kerr’s practical guide to teaching online courses.
The Alberta government is going to pay McKinsey $3.7 million to review post-secondary education in the province and recommend improvements. I know this is a childish and irrational first reaction on my part. So here’s a serious reaction (from the first link in this paragraph) with which I agree:
The final point here is that any of the Big Five [consulting companies] are ill-suited for one very specific portion of this project, which is the one that requires the successful proponent to facilitate “endorsement and support of…the Strategy by key stakeholders signaling commitment to shared implementation”. There should be no doubt at the end of the day institutions will show up to endorse whatever strategy the government wants to impose because, hey, people will say anything with a gun to their head. But actual commitment? Based on a shared vision? That takes some deep engagement with stakeholders. A genuine institutional consensus may in fact push back– in some respects at least – against what the government of the day may want to impose (and in this case the push-back is definitely going to be on basic research, which from my reading…has essentially no place in the government’s plans). Would any Big Five consulting firm report that? Unlikely. They are more comfortable with pronouncing “best practices” from on high and telling the plebs to get on with it than they are in genuinely engaging in discussions with autonomous institutions. That’s just the nature of the beast.
(And that’s before we get into the fact that the government is vastly overpaying McKinsey for a report which, among other things, will be about telling institutions to spend less money. This will drive many stakeholders bananas. Pro tip for the Alberta government: if you’re going to commission a report on efficiency, don’t hire the Rolls-Royce consultants).
A while back, I linked to an Organization of American States (OAS) statistical analysis claiming evidence for fraud in the 2019 Bolivian general election. The accusations of fraud contributed to Bolivian president Evo Morales being ousted in a coup. Now new analyses by others indicate that the original OAS analysis was flawed. According to the new analyses, there is no evidence of electoral fraud. I didn’t look at the OAS analysis or this new analysis in great detail myself, so I can’t adjudicate the issue. But the mere possibility that bad stats contributed to to a military coup is a horrifying possibility.
Agnes Callard on how to politicize the classroom. Very good piece, which might surprise you if you’re trying to guess what it says just based on the title.
Andrew Gelman on epidemiological forecasts of COVID-19, and critiques thereof.
I’m a bit late to this, but here’s Haushofer and Metcalf on how to figure out which interventions work best in a pandemic.
The diversity-innovation paradox in science. Interesting- and important-looking new paper. Looking forward to discussing it in my lab group meeting next week.