At the UKSRC, through scientific research, training, community engagement, and research translation, we have long worked to reduce disparities in both environmental health outcomes and minority representation within and across the scientific community. We conduct research consistent with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Strategic Plan (2018-2023), which foregrounds the “diversity of thought, perspectives, and approaches [...] critical to maximizing the public health impact of environmental health science research and translation efforts.” We support this diversity in part by operationalizing NIEHS’s “commitment to developing an environmental health science workforce that comprises a wide range of characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location, and disability.”
We can do better.
Responsibility for changing systems that limit diversity in thought, perspectives, and approaches lay with persons in positions of power and privilege. Creating equity and justice for black communities, as well as for other minority communities, requires empathy, transparency, and ensuring that marginalized communities lead decision-making processes for dismantling structures of oppression.
Action: UKSRC commits to listening, learning, and addressing practices that contribute – intentionally or unintentionally – to institutional racism. We commit to working even more closely with students, postdocs, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders to drive these actions.
Our Administrative Core, Dr. Kelly G. Pennell, and Research Training Experience Coordination Core (RETCC), Dr. Zach Hilt and Dr. Angela Gutiérrez, coordinate opportunities for co-learning with our faculty, staff, and trainees, each of whom brings unique experiences with institutional racism to the process. We will examine jointly our center’s past and current policies for potential contributions to systemic racism. We will work closely with the UK Office of Research, UK Office of Institutional Diversity, and our extensive network of colleagues within NIEHS to enact necessary changes and we will incorporate these actions as part of our review processes.
In support of change, faculty, staff and trainees within UKSRC will:
- Serve as role models for change by leading implicit bias training and discussing implications of bias on workforce development and leadership roles in environmental health and science fields;
- Collaborate with researchers within UK and the greater NIEHS community to educate ourselves about how to dismantle privilege and create decision making opportunities within marginalized communities (including, research settings, educational settings, as well as communities with disparate environmental health exposures risks);
- Identify and confront racism within our laboratories and workspaces, and implement change informed by marginalized groups;
- Educate ourselves about anti-racism through seminars and workshops, and seek new ways to incorporate these practices in our research spaces and research hypotheses; and
- Grow the number of mentors who have experience successfully mentoring trainees with diverse characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.
UKSRC will provide, and actively pursue additional, funding for faculty, staff, and trainees to enhance diversity, inclusion, equity and justice initiatives related to research collaborations, educational activities, and travel to national conferences for underrepresented individuals.
We all must do better at centering too-often marginalized voices and acting on their knowledge and experiences to transform the way we do research. Together, we will reach new levels of excellence, inclusivity, and justice.
The path will be long and hard, but worthy of our combined efforts towards changing systems of racism and injustice.
Select Resources for Education and Reflection:
- Common Missteps When Learning Anti-Racist Behaviors: https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/olson.pdf
- Three Common Approaches for Privileged Mentors and Marginalized Trainees: https://www.wpcjournal.com/article/view/20275
- A Call for Senior Faculty to Discuss Racism in Research Settings: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05646-4
- UK’s Inclusive Excellence Book Club: https://www.uky.edu/inclusiveexcellence/inclusive-excellence-book-club