Washington, DC—Though African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians are more than 30% of the U.S. school-age population, those now graduating with degrees in the natural sciences comprise less than 15 percent of total graduates annually. To address this persistent underrepresentation, it is vital to look through a research lens at demonstrably effective strategies. An emerging community of researchers is focused on this topic, especially on evidence that can serve as the basis for designing effective interventions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
The 2nd Annual Conference on Interventions that Encourage Minorities to Pursue Research Careers took place on May 2-4, 2008 in Atlanta. Organized by the Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC) of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and a Planning Committee comprising members of the broader research and education communities, the Conference attracted 200 participants. Participants included researchers, sponsors, program designers, evaluators, and policy analysts.
The Conference featured a mix of plenary panels, concurrent mini-symposia, and posters that detailed the knowledge base on interventions (investigative studies on approaches, mentoring, and career choice), as well as addressed professional necessities (funding, collaborations, and publishing). The emphasis on “how to intervene” drew heavily on the literature from the social, behavioral, and economic sciences highlighting methodologies and outcomes in STEM.
Coming a year after a 2007 National Institutes of Health-funded workshop on Understanding Interventions organized by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, the 2nd Annual Conference sought to inform policy and practice. At the same time it focused on fostering a multidisciplinary community of scholars dedicated to hypothesis-based investigations of what succeeds in recruiting and sustaining underrepresented students along the STEM pathway into the workforce.
The program book, including the agenda, abstracts of presentations, and other conference details, is posted at www.understandinginterventions.org. The website will be updated periodically to serve as a portal to, and discussion center about, interventions targeted to STEM students, educators, and sponsors.