Thursday, August 18, 2016

Diversity in the Marketplace of Ideas

During my Phi Beta Kappa visit to University of Oklahoma back in late March of this year, my host Ron Halterman added a somewhat unusual meeting to my visit. Namely, he arranged for me to go to a recording studio at the local NPR station, KGOU. While there, I had a conversation with Paige Willett Lough and Merleyn Bell on the work that I’ve been doing to promote diversity equity in chemistry through OXIDE. In much less than an hour, they recorded enough material to produce a 30-minute show as part of their Race Matters series. At first, it wasn’t clear to me who was more nervous, Merleyn or me. I’m pretty sure that it was me, and Merleyn pretended to be so just to make me adjust to the fact that I was staring at a very large microphone. In any event, it was fun to have a conversation about diversity equity and science advocacy, and I thank Ron, Merleyn and Paige for making that happen!

A 30-minute conversation includes a very long narrative that is too long to reproduce here, but I can highlight a few of the points to hopefully peak your interest. (Or you can just use this as your “cliff notes” so as to avoid going further!) The notion that we as scientists are competing in a marketplace, not of physical products, but of ideas is one that intrigues me. We develop and disseminate ideas but it’s hard to own or sell them. Yet it costs money to produce and maintain them. That money comes from the federal government or student tuition, for example. It leads to solutions and products that we all use and pay for. So it’s definitely a marketplace which has real value. For us to remain competitive in this marketplace of ideas, we need to have a diverse cohort of scientists, and this notion frames several of the segments of my discussion. Indeed, it is the need for us to remain competitive in science that drives OXIDE in its work to diversity the faculties in chemistry departments across the US. As a community, we have made significant advances in changing our policies and procedures to advance our climate, and I provided several specific examples. Meanwhile, Merleyn also asked me about how I encourage young people to be scientists. I hope that I do this by example, and by actively engaging and mentoring students when I visit colleges and universities. But scientists need help from the media to amplify our message. To this end, I mentioned that the theme in the “The Martian” —in which science was used frequently as the key to solve his challenges— is a great example of the media promoting science, and not just innovation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment