Science Online NYC (SoNYC) is a monthly discussion series held in New York City where invited panellists talk about a particular topic related to how science is carried out and communicated online. On August 24th the focus will be on niche groups; whether that’s scientists from developing countries, science mums or the ways we reach out to make science interesting to the younger generations.
To complement the conversation, this month on Of Schemes and Memes we will be exploring the world of the minority scientist by hosting a series of guest posts. Our first installment is by Jeanne Garbarino, a Postdoc at Rockefeller University. Jeanne, co-organiser of SoNYC, regularly discusses being a mother and a scientist in her blog The Mother Geek, where this post is mirrored.
Last week the United States government passed legislation – with only a few hours to spare – that would help prevent our country from going into default. However, despite these measures, America was not able to salvage our AAA credit rating. So, as our markets keep spiraling into the great unknown that is fiscal instability and it’s associated state of chronic joblessness, can we squint our eyes and see light at the end of this long, convoluted tunnel? Now, I’m no economist but I would say that science, technology, math, and engineering – collectively known as STEM – can offer more than a glimmer of hope for our future.
A recent report (PDF) published by the U.S. Department of Commerce has provided evidence that, even in the face of economic distress, the U.S. exhibited a 7.9% increase in STEM-related employment compared to only 2.6% for non-STEM jobs over a ten-year period spanning from 2000-2010. Furthermore, the authors of this report predict that STEM employment opportunities will increase by 17% from 2010-2018 whereas non-STEM positions is only predicted to increase by 9.8% (Figure 1).
Good news, right? Well, if the demographics remain steady, these opportunities will mostly help white males, as these are the people who currently make up over 50% of the STEM workforce (Figure 2). As can be seen from this data collected by the National Science Foundation (NSF), women and minorities are sorely underrepresented in STEM occupations (included under the scientist category are life scientists, computer/information scientists, mathematicians, physical scientists, psychologists, and social scientists).
Given the desire (need?) to achieve economic vitality, should we not limit the amount of people in the talent pool? I have written the specific perspective that women bring to the discussion and the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM is a widely addressed topic. But, are we making any progress?
These issues have inspired the organizers of Science Online NYC to focus on local programs and tactics that help make science more available to anyone who is interested. On August 24th, we will hold our fourth SoNYC discussion series – Reaching the Niches: Connecting underrepresented groups with science, featuring an all-star panel of science advocates. The description for this event is as follows:
How do we reach and connect groups that are underrepresented in science? Women, minorities, and researchers in developing economies often face challenges when integrating into the scientific community. It can also be difficult for researchers with a niche interest to find and support each other. Groups such as teens often fail to view science as interesting or significant in its own right and have poor access to reliable, engaging scientific content. Our panel will take a look at how minority networks form and develop both online and off, and discuss targeted efforts to reach communities that are underrepresented or disinterested in science.
• Khadijah Britton is the founder of BetterBio, a nonprofit focused on helping minority communities connect with science.
• Meghan Groome is director of the NY Academy of Science’s K-12 Education and Science & the City programs.
• Dhiraj Murthy is an assistant professor at Bowdoin College, where he studies the use of social media tools within minority communities.
• Nancy Parmalee, a graduate student at Columbia University, will talk about how forming online communities have advanced her research.
• Daniel Colón Ramos is the director of CienciaPR, a group dedicated to promoting scientific collaborations and literacy in Puerto Rico.
• Bernice Rumala is co-chair of Rockefeller University’s Achieving Successful and Productive Academic Research Careers (SPARC) initiative.
If you are in the NYC area and are interested in attending this free event, please sign up via our Eventbrite page. If you can’t make it, do not fret – we will be Livestreaming the event here. Looking forward to the discussions!
If you would like to contribute to our series focusing on minorities in science, feel free to get in touch.