Toward Achieving Racial Equity in Research:

Progress and Next Steps

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Toward Achieving Racial Equity in Research:

Progress and Next Steps

Collectively, the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery between late May and June 2020 became a watershed moment for our nation’s understanding of structural racism—a moment during which, at once, we grieved the tragic loss of Black lives and mobilized for justice.

In the wake of these events, individuals and institutions, including universities, sought to recognize, understand, and dismantle systems of racial injustice woven through every aspect of their mindsets and processes. The University of Arizona was no exception.

On June 10, 2020, I wrote to the Office for Research, Innovation & Impact (RII) community to make clear I would take steps over the next year “to work toward creating a more equitable environment in STEM.” With a deep and pressing sense of responsibility, RII expanded its commitment to anti-racist programming and resources, seeking meaningful outcomes to move us forward in addressing racial equity in research.

By July 8, RII had hosted the first of four, hour-long virtual workshops on Achieving Racial Equity in Research for faculty, staff, and graduate students. You generously gave your time and energy to discuss a range of topics, including cultural taxation, data-driven solutions, promotion and tenure, systems of accountability, and more.

With roughly 300 participants, these were frank, fruitful conversations. The experiences and potential solutions you shared provided a framework for change, within RII and in units and colleges across campus. While the work is far from done, this report highlights the progress made towards racial equity between July 2020 and July 2021 and next steps planned.

RII and the Office of the Provost provided initial funding to establish a UA Mentoring Institute, led by Andrea Romero, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs. Four sub-groups have been established, including committees dedicated to the search for an assistant director of Faculty Mentoring Initiatives, creating peer-to-peer communities, and compiling mentoring resources.

New Inclusive Mentoring Programs piloted: Sonja Lanehart, professor of linguistics, developed a faculty-to-faculty mentoring program, funded by the Graduate College, specifically for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) to be partnered with non-BIPOC to receive training and enter a learning community around inclusive mentoring. Additionally, RII’s STEM Learning Center in collaboration with the College of Education and Pima Community College have developed an inclusive mentor training that is being piloted through an NSF S-STEM grant and is now working with the second faculty cohort.

Next steps: Mentoring Best Practices Training is being developed and will be available on EDGE learning by December 2021. RII’s Societal Impact office, in collaboration with the new Mentoring Institute, is creating a survey to deploy to academic departments to better understand current mentoring practices and policies. Societal Impact also is completing a mentoring resource landscape analysis documenting mentoring resources across campus.
Sponsored Project Services will enable new “flags” for grant proposals, allowing users to track submissions and awards that are specific to Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), include resources and activities towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and/or include an industry or community partner.

 

Next steps: As RII transitions to a new proposal routing system, the new flags will be implemented into the process. This additional data on awarded projects with DEI commitments will allow RII to identify those funded projects that are applicable and provide additional training and support at the institutional level. Those involved in awarded projects with community partners will be encouraged to participate in additional trainings for working equitably with partners.
Several new internal seed funds have been established.

 

Progress made: The RII Racial Equity in Research Challenge grant seeds new collaborations and activities that have the potential to offer transformative advancements and engage with innovative thinking around the topic of racial equity in research. Thus far, there have been four REIR grants submitted and awarded for a total of $252,596. The RII HSI Faculty Seed Grant supports scholarly research and creative work among faculty who enrich the university’s designation as an HSI, advances scholarship that directly impacts BIPOC populations, and aligns with the university’s Purpose and Values. Forty-three proposals were submitted and reviewed by 18 faculty members. The tremendous response and quality of the projects led RII to add an additional $25,000 to the funding source in order to fund seven projects, totaling $123,875.

Next steps: RII is developing a fellowship opportunity for BIPOC faculty to provide training, support, and a learning community around research development and writing competitive proposals. Additional challenge grant opportunities will be released this fiscal year.

The Societal Impacts Office promotes culturally responsive research by offering literature and other forms of support through consultations with researchers as they develop proposals.

 

Progress made: On its newly redesigned website, Societal Impacts includes a navigation menu titled “What brings you to the Societal Impact website?” There, users can select options including, “We want to engage with Native American/Indigenous communities,” “We want to create an inclusive research environment,” and “We want to incorporate effective practices that support diverse students in research,” to more easily access the resources and expertise they need to conduct culturally responsive research.

Next steps: Societal Impacts is developing a workshop around this topic in the coming year in partnership with relevant campus units and departments, such as departments wherein faculty teach indigenous research methodologies.

Further, campus-wide results stemming from last summer’s virtual workshops include the following:

 

  • The university now offers more inclusive gender and ethnicity reporting options for students, staff, and faculty. The new inclusive ethnicity data category will capture and identify each response when someone identifies as “more than one race or ethnicity.” Gender self-identification for students will be available fall 2021. In the coming months, University Analytics & Institutional Research will conduct trainings for staff who use these analytics.

  • The Office of Diversity & Inclusion within the Office of the Provost is developing and will implement online DEI training for students this fall and for the larger campus community by January 2022. All funded researchers will be required to take this training prior to release of funds.

  • Faculty are now required to include a table that quantifies their mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral researchers when submitting for promotions and tenure.

  • A Promotion and Tenure Criteria Committee has been created and will begin meeting in Fall 2022 to review and update current university-level criteria in order to be aligned with peer institutions practices for equity, innovation, entrepreneurship, open access, HSI status, and more.

  • An HBCU Liaison will join the Provost’s team to lead efforts towards establishing meaningful partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

  • University Marketing & Communications developed institutional cultural logos for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, Black, Native American, and Hispanic heritage.

  • The university crafted an updated institutional land acknowledgement in consultation with leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and with Native American scholars on campus: “We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples. Today, Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, with Tucson being home to the O’odham and the Yaqui. Committed to diversity and inclusion, the University strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign Native Nations and Indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships, and community service.”

  • Instituted in 2016 by the Arizona Board of Regents, the ABOR 1-118 Tribal Consultation Policy recognizes fundamental principles of tribal sovereignty, consultation, and respect and outlines requirements when engaging with Native Nations. The policy requires that all human and non- human research projects, including both unfunded and funded sponsored projects, UArizona Foundation initiatives, contracts, intra-university agreements, and other instruments related to tribal engagement be supported by documented evidence of consultation and approval. In 2018, RII adopted a set of “Guidelines for Research & Institutional Engagement” for conducting respectful, ethical research and institutional engagements with Native Nations. These documents, and information on training resources, can be accessed on the new Native American Advancement, Initiatives, & Research web portal.

Thank you for your participation, insight, and commitment to helping RII and the university take steps toward measurable changes in racial equity. As RII continues this work, staff, faculty, and students are encouraged to continue actively participating in that process.
To learn more about efforts within RII and across campus to address racism in research, please visit www.impact.arizona.edu and attend the virtual Sept. 27 Convo with Cantwell, in which several panelists and I will further discuss these updates.
Warm Regards
Betsy Cantwell's signature
Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, PhD, MBA
Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation