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February 3, 2003
Volume 81, Number 05
CENEAR 81 05 p. 31
ISSN 0009-2347


ACS COMMENT

UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITIES IN ACADEME

STANLEY C. ISRAEL, CHAIR, BOARD TASK FORCE ON MINORITIES IN ACADEME

In the May 13, 2002, issue of C&EN (page 46), I described the work of the Board Task Force on Minorities in Academe. This task force was established to address the problems facing the chemical academic community in regard to the paucity of underrepresented minority (African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian) faculty. ACS is concerned about this issue for reasons of equity and because of predicted shortages in the science, engineering, and technology workforce coupled with the impact of our changing national demographics on these shortages.

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ACS is concerned about this issue for reasons of equity and because of predicted shortages in the science, engineering, and technology workforce.

While acknowledging the underrepresentation of minorities early in the educational pipeline, the task force believed that its study should be committed to higher education. The task force adopted the following objectives: increase the number of underrepresented undergraduate minority students choosing to pursue graduate work in chemistry, increase the number of underrepresented minority graduate students choosing an academic career, and increase the number of underrepresented chemistry faculty that become tenured.

The task force focused its attention on what it described as the crucial decision-making junctures leading to an academic career: namely, the decision by an undergraduate to pursue graduate work, the decision by a graduate student to seek a career in academe, the decision by a new Ph.D. to find a postdoctoral position, and the decision by a new faculty member to persist through the tenure process.

The task force developed 14 recommendations grouped into six categories and presented them to the ACS Board at its August 2002 meeting for preliminary review and again in December for acceptance and funding. The recommendations, as accepted by the board for implementation over three years, are as follows:

  • Develop partnerships within, across, and beyond the profession. It is recommended that the ACS Board host a retreat with representation from the leadership of minority advocacy organizations to solicit their input as partners with ACS to address this issue. It is also recommended that the society host a comprehensive working summit involving representatives from historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges, together with organizations, such as NSF and NIH, that support research for students with the goal of developing a structure and mechanism that facilitate partnerships with minority-serving institutions and research universities.
  • Add value by reshaping boards and other bodies of leadership within the profession through a board-appointed ad hoc committee to recommend appointments of underrepresented minorities to various editorial boards, review panels, and award canvassing committees.
  • Achieve educational outreach of products and services through a Web clearinghouse of undergraduate research opportunities for students, workshops for underrepresented faculty and students to help them better understand and evaluate their career options, funding for a distinguished university lectureship program, and a recommendation that the Committee on Professional Training (CPT) host, with representation from minority-serving institutions, a workshop to better understand the infrastructure within these institutions as it pertains to ACS approval.
  • Collect and disseminate data by requesting that CPT add race/ethnicity data collection to its current annual report and periodically collect data from non-ACS-sponsored schools; commit $10,000 in funding to the Presidential Working Group on Data Collection on Minorities & Women Employed in the Chemical Sciences to mine appropriate data from NSF databases relative to minorities.
  • Enable mentoring by establishing programs for underrepresented students at all levels to help them facilitate mentor/protégé relationships. This would include developing resources pertaining to mentoring for the clearinghouse website, providing a statement in the CPT guidelines for ACS-approved programs as to the sensitivity and need to mentor junior faculty, and developing a supplement to the guidelines describing effective mentoring practices.
  • Establish financial incentives designed first to catalyze action--including a recommendation that the ACS Petroleum Research Fund make available grant supplements to existing PRF grants for the purpose of directly supporting underrepresented minority research--and second, for ACS to build a continuum of programs that in the early years would initially feed into Project SEED, continue through the ACS Scholars Program, and extend beyond the scholars experience into employment as junior faculty. This would include graduate fellowships for former ACS Scholars and Project SEED college students, and start-up packages to former ACS Scholars and Project SEED college students as part of their first faculty appointment.

The task force believes that its recommendations provide an initial step in addressing underrepresentation of minority chemical science faculty and looks forward to implementation.

Members of the task force express our collective appreciation to the ACS Board and the Committee on Budget & Finance for their support. We also thank the large number of you who responded to our initial request for help to shape the final recommendations. As we move toward implementation, look for updates on the society's progress on this initiative.



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