The strength and malleability of the life sciences community going forward will depend on our ability to build a life sciences workforce that is representative of the great diversity of people and backgrounds in our society. We envision a diverse workforce that is ready to collaborate and innovate to solve today’s challenging problems as well as those lying ahead. As we consider the impacts of these potential solutions, it is important not to lose touch with the different sectors of society these innovations should benefit. A large body of evidence from both academia and the private sector demonstrates that high-performing teams are diverse in their makeup—they embrace gender, ethnic, and racial diversity. Yet an important question remains: How do we achieve this diversity?
The answer to this question continues to be of vital importance to the U.S. scientific enterprise. Much effort has been put into understanding the challenges associated with recruiting, retaining, and mentoring individuals from diverse backgrounds in the context of our life sciences workforce. This is evidenced by the fact that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have dedicated funding and grant mechanisms that aim to foster the design of programs that will catalyze such diversification. An important element of these new efforts is the potential to harness data collected from these studies in the way of assessments and measurable outcomes. Research efforts that analyze these data will help us better understand how to build and sustain a diverse life sciences workforce in an effective and thoughtful way. For these reasons, it is with great enthusiasm that we received the September 1, 2016, issue of CBE—Life Sciences Education (LSE), an issue focused on Broadening Participation in the Life Sciences (www.lifescied.org/content/15/3.toc).
This issue of LSE presents snapshots of our progress in building a diverse life sciences workforce at different levels of academia. This issue highlights various strategies for constructing inclusive programs at different levels of scientist training. This issue also highlights effective pedagogical interventions that target mentors and faculty, not just students or trainees, as a means to foster long-term changes in our scientific communities.
As Co-Chairs of the ASCB Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC) it is our mission to find ways to help the ASCB foster the building of a diverse life sciences workforce. But just as the larger life sciences community will benefit from the success of these efforts, we all share a common responsibility and ability to contribute! We encourage you to examine the articles in this special issue of LSE and look for ways in which your local scientific communities can contribute to these efforts. Thank you for continuing to help us to meet this challenge of diversifying our scientific community!
About the Author:
MAC Co-Chair, National Science Foundation
Verónica A. Segarra is an assistant professor of biology (@SegarraVeronica) at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina. Her lab studies membrane trafficking under stress and starvation conditions. She has a strong interest in outreach that provides talented and creative high school students an opportunity to experience scientific experiments to help shape their future goals.