The Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) is committed to convening and nurturing a diverse community of individuals dedicated to promoting excellence and leadership in neurobiology education, research, and service. Diverse perspectives, talents, experiences, and contributions as HMS students, trainees, faculty, staff, and administrators are the foundation and drivers of our efforts. Department administration and faculty members are committed to supporting historically marginalized identities in our department and in the scientific community more generally, and to strengthening our department members’ sense of inclusion, equity, and belonging. Our overarching goal is to institute concrete and permanent changes in the Department that will increase diversity at all levels of training, elevate and support diverse voices within our community, and create platforms that cultivate a sense of belonging and inclusion among department members, one that promotes inclusive excellence and allows everyone to be thrive and succeed.
To this end, we have built a Department Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (DCDI) on the premise that we can do more toward our goals by operating in parallel workstreams. DCDI launched in 2020 with the following structure: we have a standing Core Committee composed of Department Chair, Department administration, Harvard PhD Program in Neuroscience leadership, and Underrepresented Scholars in Neuroscience Executive Board members.
The Core Committee interfaces with subcommittees that focus on four priority areas: training, education, outreach and “inreach”. Each subcommittee is chaired by a member of the community who independently coordinates the activities and projects of their respective group, and is compensated for these important efforts. Additionally, the DCDI is seeking out professional support across its various initiatives, both to minimize the onus on trainees, and to ensure that our efforts are maximally impactful.
Speaking as scientists to scientists, DCDI proposes to achieve our DEI goals through the following Aims and based on the following preliminary work full Constitution here:
Aim 1: Increase belonging and inclusion in our community
In order for all members of our Department to produce their best work, we believe it is essential that all members of the community feel that their voices are heard and valued. Creating spaces for community discussion on topics related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a powerful way to foster such mutual understanding. Preliminary work by the DCDI Inreach subcommittee has hosted numerous events such as town halls, our new “Listening Labs” seminar series, and social sessions through other community groups to convene department members and engage in dialogues about shared experiences. To longitudinally track how these events and others impact communal sense of inclusion and belonging, the DCDI is also launching an annual anonymous survey, called the nerveimPulse, to assess the status of demographic diversity as well as attitudes towards DEI related topics and efforts. In the future, the nerveimPulse Survey (its deployment and subsequent data analysis) along with continued efforts to create honest and comfortable spaces for all members of the department will become a critical driver of inclusion within HMS Neuro.
Aim 2: Educate our community
Advancing DEI in the department relies heavily on the continual engagement and education of department members on anti-racism, allyship, and on successful mentorship of diverse trainees. We have preliminarily begun work in these areas in a multi-pronged approach. To collect and disseminate resources pertaining to anti-racism, systemic barriers in academia, the DCDI Education subcommittee has begun publishing a weekly series of compiled resources and literature on DEI topics, and will soon be launching a dedicated centralized web platform for our community members. Furthermore, the DCDI Training subcommittee has been charged with regularly offering evidence-based training sessions for both faculty and trainees on best mentorship and allyship practices. By Spring of 2021, 100% of HMS Neuro faculty will have undergone at least one such training, and several more training programs are currently being designed with the aid of external DEI experts. Future work entails development of new training modules for staff and trainee department members.
Aim 3: Continuously work to increase diversity at all levels of training
Preliminary demographic data describing the race/gender/SES breakdown of our department members revealed gaps in representation at all levels of hiring. In order to remedy these gaps, we are continually committed to hiring diverse candidates, and advertising available positions on broad, public platforms such as conference booths, local science fairs etc. Additionally, we have begun to develop recruiting pipelines to HMS Neuro, including high school programs and post-bacc programs, to lower the barrier to entry to academic neuroscience. Further programming is being built to increase retention of URM PhDs and postdocs onto higher academic positions. The progress of these outreach and recruiting efforts, as well as our retention and inclusion efforts, will be tracked through the nerveimPulse survey (see Aim 1) over the coming years.
Our preliminary work suggests that we have made progress towards achieving the three aims, but that we need sustained work and resources to achieve true equity in academic neuroscience.
Through sustained and steady work, our aim is that each member of the Department feels that they belong, that their voice matters, that their experience is valued and contributes to our Department’s research and education mission, and that no matter what happens in the world, the Department is a safe place where we can thrive as scientists and individuals.
A full length version of our Mission Statement can be found here.
Please see our dedicated DEI website for more in depth information.