BWF believes that a diverse scientific workforce is essential to the process and advancement of research innovation, academic discovery, and public service. Has the racial violence we’ve seen in the past year changed your approach to addressing racism in science?
Yes, it has, but not just racism in science. The current events have stressed the need for us to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of our organization. For the first time in my tenure, and perhaps, ever, we issued a public statement after the death of George Floyd. It was something that shook us to our core and made us reevaluate our values in the organization. There’s so much to say on this that I’m not sure where to even begin other than we are at the beginning of a very long road.
With a planning grant from BWF, The Conversation—a media organization that elevates scientific expertise into the public square— is identifying and cultivating scholars of color in the scientific community. What are some takeaways from that support, or from other media initiatives you’re supporting?
We are excited about the potential with The Conversation. It’s still too early to say more than that, but there are huge possibilities. Our other media efforts are supporting fellows through the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship and the BWFUND/The Open Notebook Fellowship. We’ve also recently struck up a partnership with Science Friday and the Rita Allen Foundation to support some of their work.
Our work with media organizations is in its very early phases. Our investment in this space was miniscule but that is changing as we are becoming more interested in the intersection of the public with science. The world doesn’t go away when you shut the laboratory door.
If you spend any time talking about the connection between science and society, journalism must be a part of the conversation. And it’s not the journalism that I grew up with in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. I can’t just run to the corner store and grab the Inquirer or Daily News to find out who is going to be the new Eagles head coach or quarterback. But I can look it up on their website, follow Marcus Hayes on Twitter, follow the Eagles on Instagram, etc. I can have more info than I absolutely need. We need to think and invest in spaces outside of the box.
What does the foundation want to accomplish in the next year? In the next five years?
We will continue to address DEI in science. I think it’s evident that we are still learning what this means, but our foundation’s leadership is dedicated to addressing these issues. I think we will deepen our commitment to the public interface of science and civic science, as well as science and the arts. We are just scratching the surface in this area. I am luckily enough to work with other foundation leaders in this space and it is something that I truly treasure.
Another area that we are interested in is climate change and human health. It’s another area that our president Dr. Louis Muglia is passionate about and sees as the most critical challenge society faces.
What do you want other funders to know about your work?
Mostly that we are willing to partner and collaborate with others. We are not going to solve anything going alone.
Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com or on Twitter @rcc3comm or @bwfund about any ideas or thoughts or just to connect. The lack of travel has not helped my introvert tendencies so it’s good to grab a coffee with someone virtually.