ASCB leads network to address persistent challenges to enhance inclusivity in scientific societies


The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of more than $701K to establish a collaborative network of experts to identify evidence-based inclusion strategies that can be employed by scientific societies to address persistent cultural challenges that prevent inclusive practices from taking root.

This Research Coordination Network (RCN) is funded through the LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies (LEAPS) of Biology mechanism and is called Leveraging, Enhancing and Developing Biology (LED-BIO) Scientific Societies Shedding Light on Persistent Cultural Challenges.

Verónica A. Segarra, interim chair and assistant professor of biology at High Point University, serves as the Principal Investigator. Co-principal investigators include Candice Etson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Wesleyan University; Simone Soso, program director, Quality Education for Minorities Network; Linda Hyman, Burroughs Wellcome Director of Education, Marine Biological Laboratory; and Donald L. Gillian-Daniel, University of Wisconsin-Madison and PI of the NSF INCLUDES Alliance: National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty. Senior personnel include Ashanti Edwards, Director of Professional Development at ASCB; Mercy Mugo, Senior Research Analyst and Grants Specialist, Quality Education for Minorities Network; Jennifer R. Morgan, Senior Scientist and Director for The Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering, Marine Biological Laboratory; and Robin McC. Greenler, Assistant Director, Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The grant aims to leverage a collaborative network of experts to identify evidence-based inclusion strategies to collect consistent demographic data of society memberships, better integrate scientists in transitional career stages into scientific society activities, and diversify the ranks of scientific society leaders,” Segarra said. “By fulfilling these goals, this project aims to overcome persistent challenges that frequently undermine diversity efforts and to broadly share this information for the benefit of all scientific communities. The resulting strategies and standards will be reported and disseminated through open access training materials and publications.”

Scientific societies that function as Communities of Practice (CoPs) are uniquely positioned to lead cultural change in STEM disciplines and promote inclusive environments that foster a diverse STEM workforce. The LED-BIO network will use virtual town halls and in-person think tanks at the Marine Biological Laboratories to expand and strengthen a cross-disciplinary network of CoPs.  

This RCN is coordinated by the Alliance to Catalyze Change for Equity in STEM Success (ACCESS) and its member societies in the life sciences, which, along with ASCB, include the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Pharmaceutical and Experimental Therapeutics, the Endocrine Society, and the Biophysical Society.

ACCESS was established in 2017 and has published several reports discussing opportunities and challenges associated with scientific society diversity programming, such as the implementation of travel awards and persistent lack of diversity among scientific speakers at conferences. ACCESS’ most recent publication, “Beyond Ticking Boxes: Holistic Assessment of Travel Award Programs Is Essential for Inclusivity,” appeared online October 21, 2021 in The Biophysicist. The report is open access and can be read here.  

To learn more about ASCB’s LEAPS collaboration visit its NSF award page.

About the Author:

Mary Spiro is ASCB's Strategic Communications Manager.