NSF News

New NSF awards support societies in changing culture in biological sciences

Societies will partner to increase inclusivity, diversity, equity, and participation across biology

The U.S. National Science Foundation announced five new awards to establish a more diverse scientific workforce, broaden participation in the biological sciences, and forge partnerships with scientific societies across the field. The awards, which come under the LEAPS of Biology Dear Colleague Letter and total $4.5 million, will support three Research Coordination Networks, or RCNs, as well as two workshop series. A diverse scientific workforce that includes all disciplines is required to advance cutting-edge research and breakthrough developments that support the economy, health, and national defense.

"Science is fundamentally a social endeavor, and as such it advances fastest in a culture that is inclusive and accepting of diverse perspectives." said NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences Joanne Tornow. "I am thrilled that so many scientific societies responded to our call for their help in changing the culture of biology to attract and engage a broader segment of society, and thereby enrich the biological sciences."

One RCN will combine the efforts of several organizations to focus on improving Indigenous representation in biological research professions. This effort builds on the successful, NSF-funded Lighting the Pathway to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM project.

The Alliance to Catalyze Change for Equity in STEM Success, or ACCESS, RCN will create a network of communities of practice across disciplines to identify evidence-based inclusion strategies that address persistent challenges identified by member organizations, including lack of demographic data on membership composition and dearth of diversity among highly visible thought leaders.

The third RCN will support societies that represent plant science by coordinating the development and dissemination of resources, training in equitable practices and operations, and creating shared resources and action plans to educate and inform the community.

One workshop series will focus on developing an inclusion, diversity, equity, and access audit tool through a series of facilitated meetings and workshops. The second workshop award will help the leadership of participating societies understand the components of inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accepting -- or IDEA -- cultures. Those workshops will play an integral role in assessing the current culture in biology and creating action plans to address barriers to enabling IDEA environments and collaborate on how to move the culture of biology forward.

More information about the LEAPS of Biology DCL can be found on NSF's website and a list of awards made in Fiscal Year 2021.