Interim Report Project Update uri icon

DCO ID 11121/1166-9754-3270-3242-CC

Update Text

  • Increasing the Participation and Retention of U.S. Underrepresented Geoscientists in the Deep Carbon Observatory

    Interim Report Jan 2015 – Dec 2015

    Submit Date: Feb 2nd, 2016

    Report Prepared By: Heather Houlton, PI

    The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) seeks to increase the participation and retention of United States citizens and permanent residents who are geoscientists from underrepresented groups (African American, Hispanic, Latino/Latina, Native American, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) actively participating in the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO). This project focuses on bolstering and advocating a broad awareness of DCO activities for early- to mid-career underrepresented geoscientists, including graduating doctoral candidates, post-doctoral fellows, assistant professors and their counterparts in the private sector. The program intends to enhance the overall visibility of DCO to underrepresented groups in the geosciences and bolster their professional success by engaging them to become active members of the DCO Science Network and contribute to DCO’s high profile, interdisciplinary research. By improving professional success, increased career retention and the development of a cohort of role models and mentors who are underrepresented geoscientists is anticipated.

    This report on, “Increasing the Participation and Retention of U.S. Underrepresented Geoscientists in the Deep Carbon Observatory” supported by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation includes a summation of activities accomplished in Year 1 of the grant, with target goals for Year 2.


    Project Launch and Strategy

    The launch call for the program was held on January 8th, 2015. AGI staff, Heather Houlton (PI), Pat Leahy (Executive Director) and Chris Keane (Director of Technology and Communications) attended the call.

    DCO representatives from the Secretariat (Craig Schiffries, Yael Fitzpatrick) and representatives from the Data Science Team and the Engagement Team (Peter Fox and Sunshine Menezes, respectively) attended the call. Additionally, Jesse Ausubel representing the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation also attended to give guidance with the Sloan Foundation’s perspectives for the project.  The call agenda included:

    ¥ Heather’s introduction and a roundtable introduction.

    ¥ Perspectives from Jesse Ausubel and expectations of the project.

    ¥ AGI’s role and how AGI can leverage networks and experiences.

    ¥ Information about DCO structure and tools from the Engagement Team and Data Science Team.

    ¥ Strategies for implementation, execution and promotion.

    Following the launch call, AGI staff and DCO Engagement Team discussed the overall strategy, leading to AGI developing a detailed Strategy Outline for the project.

    The Strategy includes identification of specific goals, a set of three actionable tasks, and a bibliography of relevant diversity research. The official strategy was disseminated to the DCO Secretariat and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation representative Jesse Ausubel. Staff from DCO’s Engagement Team also advised AGI who to contact regarding the project to encourage DCO participation.

    The following is an abridged version of the Strategy.


    OVERALL GOAL:  Develop self-sustaining program at the Deep Carbon Observatory that increases the participation of underrepresented individuals actively engaged in DCO activities, programs or research. This project also focuses on bolstering a broad awareness of DCO activities for early- to mid-career underrepresented geoscientists.

    Task 1:  AGI builds relationships within DCO to engage researchers in program.

    Strategic Value of Task 1: It is imperative that AGI staff identifies DCO researchers who are enthusiastic and willing to participate actively to build a self-sustaining program with individuals passionate about increasing diversity. Through these relationships with DCO researchers, AGI will build a network of individuals committed to engaging underrepresented geoscientists into the DCO Science Network. These cooperating DCO researchers will become the ambassadors for the program.

    Task 2: AGI promotes the program and opportunities through its networks to connect underrepresented geoscientists to the new DCO research community (from Task 1). This task is focused on broadly raising awareness of DCO research and activities to the diversity community in the geosciences, and expanding the base of active underrepresented participants in the DCO research community.

    Strategic Value of Task 2: AGI has long standing relationships with many different diversity- related organizations (SACNAS, MSPHDS, UNAVCO’s RESESS, and GSA’s On To the Future Program), active participation in all major geoscience conferences (AAPG, SEG, GSA, AGU, SME) in addition to maintaining contact information for recipients of AGI’s Minority Participation Program (MPP) Scholarship. AGI staff will utilize these established relationships to raise awareness of the DCO research program as well as to identify geoscientists from underrepresented groups whose research interests align with DCO’s science themes. AGI staff will directly introduce interested candidates to the appropriate DCO researchers whose projects align with the underrepresented geoscientists’ research. This will establish a sense of community and collegial relationships. In addition, AGI will disseminate information about the program through its GeoSpectrum quarterly publication and through its social media networks.

    Task 3: “Seed” awards will be distributed to incentivize deeper engagement of underrepresented geoscientists to support their participation in DCO research programs by lowering potential financial barriers. These awards are designed to bring the researchers together with DCO colleagues though participation in workshops, access to analytic equipment managed by DCO researchers, and participation in conference activities within existing DCO sessions.

    Strategic Value of Task 3: By reducing the financial challenges of expanding the scope or framing of existing research efforts by the underrepresented researcher, AGI hopes to build the time and place to facilitate active personal interaction between the researcher and their colleagues who are already active in DCO. This process can establish the rapport and community needed to sustain the researcher’s active engagement with DCO beyond the nominal funding period.


    Year 1 Progress

    Task 1 from the Strategy Outline was initiated in February, 2015. AGI staff held an online meeting with Melitza Crespo-Medina on March 5th to discuss the project overview and goals. Melitza agreed to serve as an ambassador for the project. The Strategy Overview was sent to Melitza as a framework for her recruitment of other DCO representatives.

    AGI staff held a telephone meeting with Chair of Deep Energy Isabelle Daniel (France) on March 13th, 2015. Isabelle expressed her interest in the project and that she would do what she could to help recruit ambassadors to be representatives from the Deep Energy Science Community. Isabelle sent an email to key individuals requesting their participation as ambassadors, as well as a call for volunteers to be Selection Committee Members for future award activities. Isabelle attached the Strategy Outline to her email with these requests. Unfortunately, there was minimal response from Isabella’s networks and no ambassadors or Selection Committee members were recruited.

    AGI staff had a telephone meeting with Dan Hummer, a representative of the Extreme Physics and Chemistry Science Community, on March 17th. Dan organized the Early-Career Workshop. Synergistic activities were identified between projects. Dan agreed to become an ambassador for the diversity project, and AGI agreed to promote the Early-Career Workshop through its networks. An email promoting the workshop to geoscience faculty was distributed on March 27th, 2015. Dan promoted the diversity project while at the DCO meeting in Munich, Germany. He distributed the Strategy Outline, including AGI staff contact information, with the organizing committee. Additionally, he agreed to distribute the information while at the conference in Munich to find potential ambassadors for the project. Unfortunately, despite Dan’s networking efforts at the meeting, no representatives from the Extreme Physics and Chemistry Science Community volunteered to collaborate on the diversity project.

    At the end of March, AGI staff interviewed and hired a summer intern to help with the project. Wale Ajiboye is a geology graduate from West Virginia University. He started his Diversity Internship on March 30th. After being briefed on the project, Wale started writing emails to solicit participation from DCO researchers to be ambassadors. He also created a database of current U.S.-based DCO researchers and those affiliated with DCO research to understand the base population demographics of the DCO community within the U.S. The base demographic data are imperative to evaluate measurable impacts throughout the life of the diversity program. Information garnered from this effort is presented in Section 4, “Lessons Learned in Year 1” of this report.

    DCO held the Modeling and Visualization Workshop: Toward a 4D Planetary Carbon Circulation Model in Washington, DC from May 11th through the 13th. AGI contacted the lead organizer, Elizabeth Cottrell about recruiting additional underrepresented participants to participate in the workshop. Elizabeth indicated that she had underrepresented scientists attending in leadership and in participatory roles and that she believed to have reached the majority of those underrepresented scientists whose research aligns with the workshop topic.

    In May, 2015, AGI staff corresponded with Terry Plank to see how AGI’s diversity grant could support several new participants for the DCO Thematic Institute on Carbon from the Mantle to the Surface, which was held in early July, 2015. A call for grant applicants was distributed to recruit individuals to apply for the AGI diversity support to attend this workshop. Unfortunately, with more information, the underrepresented individuals from Terry’s list were already part of the DCO network, and were not eligible to apply for the grants to attend the meeting.

    On May 5th, AGI staff successfully recruited underrepresented geoscientist Elizabeth Padilla to attend the DCO Early Career Scientist Workshop at the University of the Azores in Portugal in September, 2015. Elizabeth is a member of the MS PHDS community as part of the Institute for Broadening Participation. Her participation in the Early Career Scientist workshop was the first successful placement by the program of an underrepresented geoscientist into the DCO enterprise. Elizabeth indicated, “Never before, had [she] participated of a … workshop that perfectly combined science and practice.” She also demonstrated her feelings of belonging at the workshop, “At the DCO workshop I always felt at ease, and I believe that part of the magic resided in that we were all at the same stage facing the same excitement of the beginning of our careers but also the professional struggles of the academic world, funding and work/life balance.” Overall, Elizabeth participating in the workshop was a great success, and we look forward to seeing how she continues to engage the DCO community.

    We had identified two additional eligible geoscientists who wished not to apply for the diversity grants to become engaged with the DCO community. The first was a woman who is a part of the MS PHDS community along with Elizabeth. She indicated that she felt even though she was interested in attending the Early-Career Workshop and has extensive background in carbon science relating to source, sinks, and isotopes, her current doctoral was not focused on Carbon. Even though she was encouraged by AGI staff and members of the DCO Communications Team to attend as a gateway into the DCO community, given her overall focus on Carbon, she did not feel it would be appropriate use of those resources given her current work.

    The second individual was identified during the 2015 Geological Society of America National Conference. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Cornell University studying organic-rich shales. He was concerned that his project only tangentially focuses on the carbon processes, and additionally that he did not want to add another project on top of his workload so close to his graduation date. He indicated that DCO facilitates a lot of powerful and dynamic research and he felt his project did not rise to the scope and expectations DCO’s mission. However, after discussions with the DCO ambassadors, it was clear that his interests definitely are well within DCO’s mission and scope, which has lead to a facilitated ongoing dialogue between the researcher and DCO members. During the course of this recruitment, we learned that a major challenge to increasing diversity is the low self-efficacy of potential applicants regarding the scope and depth of their work as compared to the high-profile research of DCO. This applicant in particular, but also as asides from other interactions with recruitment targets, they find the publicly promoted DCO research intimidating. A solid core of ambassadors can help alleviate this concern and increase potential applicants’ self-efficacy of joining the network.


    Recruiting Strategies

    We have taken several different approaches to recruit individuals from underrepresented groups to become engaged with the DCO community.

    Leverage AGI's diversity networks to recruit individuals

    AGI staff has reached out to a number of diversity organizations and groups to advertise funding opportunities to their members. We worked with the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) On To the Future (OTF) Program staff to advertise the opportunity to their program’s alumni. AGI’s diversity advertisement was distributed to 237 individuals who have been engaged with GSA’s diversity effort between 2013 and 2014. In addition, AGI worked with UNAVCO’s RESESS program director to identify eligible applicants from their networks to apply to AGI’s diversity grant to engage with the DCO community. The MS PHDS community from the Institute for Broadening Participation (IBP) has been the most helpful in identifying eligible applicants for our DCO engagement grants. With our first successful recruitment of Elizabeth Padilla, we plan on using her testimony for additional recruitment materials to engage our networks for the upcoming year. The MS PHDS group has a very strong contingency attending the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco. AGI is engaging this group while at the meeting this December. Lastly, on November 17th, AGI engaged the President of the National Association of Black Geoscientists Michael Carroll. Michael offered his personal assistance in identifying individuals in his networks to apply for the grants and become involved with the DCO community. We continue to follow up with Michael Carroll about engaging his colleagues and encouraging them to apply for this funding opportunity. We have yet to hear back from Michael, or any of his contacts.

    GeoSpectrum and email promotion

    In Spring of 2015, AGI published its quarterly newsletter GeoSpectrum, which disseminates news about AGI’s 51 Member Societies. AGI’s article provided background information on the DCO diversity grants and opportunities about becoming involved with the project.  The article is attached here in the appendix. In early December 2015, AGI reached out to 11,473 geoscience faculty and Heads/Chairs of departments to promote the funding opportunity. Information regarding DCO and how to obtain more information about eligibility requirements and application procedures were included in the email. The email was specifically targeted at academicians who were likely to attend the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. AGI both exhibits and has a wide and active presence at this meeting. The email provided information about talking with AGI staff at the booth and other events about the opportunities. After sending the email to geoscience departments and faculty, we received six new inquiries about the funding opportunity. AGI staff are currently fielding questions regarding the application process, and starting to facilitate networking opportunities between potential applicants and the appropriate DCO researchers.

    AGI attendance at National and International meetings

    From October 29th to the November 4th, AGI staff attended two conferences that were ideal for disseminating information about the DCO diversity grants. The first was the annual meeting of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Annually, since 2012, there are around 3,500 to 4,000 attendees at the meeting, with a 5:3 ratio of students to professionals. AGI staff advertised the funding opportunity to institutions of higher education, exhibitors and to students through sessions and networking. The second conference was the Geological Society of America’s National Conference, which had an attendance of 7,400 geoscientists, with 3,333 student or early-career professional attendees. AGI disseminated information about the DCO diversity grants to exhibitors, institutions of higher education, to faculty and students through an oral presentation during a session specifically regarding diversity, through its exhibition booth, at the diversity evening reception, and during the AGI/GSA Joint Societies Meeting, which brings together the leadership of geoscience professional societies. Specifically, Craig Schiffries from the DCO Secretariat noted the diversity project during his talk to the Member Societies’ leadership.

    Lastly, AGI promoted the grant opportunities during the AGU Fall Meeting, which has the largest body of potential applicants, and has the strongest DCO presence within the geoscience community. In addition to the email sent out to faculty about learning more about the grants at the AGU meeting, the opportunity was promoted at the AGI booth, during the diversity reception and during student poster sessions. It is important to note that the AGU Fall Meeting, which is considered a must-go for doctoral students and early-career faculty, is the primary venue for promoting this project and identifying eligible individuals to apply for the awards. Unfortunately, the original award was made shortly after the conclusion of the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting, which has delayed the peak recruitment for the program until close to the end of Year 1.


    Key Lessons Learned in Year 1

    For the project to succeed, AGI staff needed to understand the DCO geoscience community better, including their research specialties and demographics. In March through June 2015, AGI staff hired an intern to help with the groundwork. The intern cross-compared the data found within the DCO People Browser and AGI’s Directory of Geoscience Departments database. For those researchers identified in both datasets, we were able to determine their research specialty, home institution and estimates on demographic information. The most common geoscience specialties included: Biological Oceanography, Experimental Petrology/Phase Equilibria, General Geochemistry, General Geophyscis, Geobiology, Geochronology and Radio Isotopes, Ignegous Petrology, Low Temperature Geochemistry, Marine Geochemistry, Marine Geophysics, Metamorphic Petrology, Mineral Physics, Mineralogy and Crystallography, Organic Geochemistry, Shore and Nearshore processes, and Volcanology.

    DCO researchers’ most common highest degrees conferred are from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (5.9%), University of California, Berkley (5.9%), Harvard (5.4%), California Institute of Technology (3.9%), University of Washington, St. Louis (3.9%), Cambridge (3.4%) and Princeton (3.4%). These few institutions make up nearly one-third of the entire U.S. DCO geoscience community.

    Additionally, nearly 22% of DCO geoscientists graduated with their highest degrees between 1985 and 1990.  We estimate that within the DCO geoscience community, 71.5% are male researchers, while 26.1% are female, and 2.4% geoscientists have an undetermined gender. Lastly, we estimate that nearly 84% of the population is Caucasian, 12% Asian, 3% South Asian, and only 2% are from traditionally underrepresented groups. To obtain a more robust dataset, we would need to conduct a demographic survey and administer it to the DCO community. However, doing so was determined ineffective through discussions with DCO representatives as they expected very low participation rates.

    There are select individuals in the DCO network, such as Elizabeth Cottrell, who are already dedicated to increasing diversity within the DCO community. Elizabeth has a strong network of underrepresented scientists who participated in her Modeling and Visualization Workshop, and has been an advocate for engaging scientists from underrepresented groups. The U.S. cohort of the DCO community is relatively small and covers very specific research topics, and Elizabeth has excelled in finding the appropriately qualified and interested scientists from underrepresented groups to become engaged in her efforts. We can learn from her strategies for identifying and engaging underrepresented geoscientists, specifically, for our diversity initiative.

    DCO leadership has indicated that they are willing to accept applicants to attend their workshops and special events, and have shown interest in finding researchers who would use DCO instrumentation and facilities as part of the diversity grants. However, due to DCO researchers’ time constraints, we have found it difficult to engage individuals in our diversity initiative. AGI has changed strategies to focus on direct recruitment and match making of individuals to get underrepresented geoscientists connected with the DCO community. Given that applicants indicate that they feel their research isn’t of the scope and merit to fit in with the impressive DCO portfolio, this has added the challenge of concurrently improving applicant self-efficacy, which adds another dimension to the early interactions between applicants and current DCO researchers.

    An additional lesson we learned about our strategy involves engaging students at the doctoral level at the appropriate times in their careers. In most cases, doctoral candidates who have recently started their degree program are not far enough along in their projects to become engaged in the community. However, those who are within the last year of their doctorate work are heavily occupied writing and defending their dissertation, and thus are not available to become engaged until the completion of their degree. Identifying ways to engage individuals at the correct opportunities in their career is a critical goal of the project moving forward.


    Plans for Year 2

    We will follow up with potential applicants from the AGU Fall Meeting to continue discussions and bolster their involvement with the DCO community. We will take the individualized, one-on-one approach to match potential applicants with DCO researchers. AGI staff will continue to work with Michael Carroll from the National Association of Black Geoscientists to identify qualified individuals, as well as identify and employ new recruitment strategies. We hope to promote the project through the DCO networks by writing a co-authored “Deeper View” article by DCO and AGI leadership.

    There will be a strong focus on hitting optimal windows of opportunity for future applicants. This includes evolving the messaging of DCO’s research portfolio for the appropriate target audience, and improving the transition between interfacing with AGI staff and networking with a DCO member. We intend on awarding support specifically for equipment and instrumentation use at Carnegie, as they have pledged cooperation on that front. Year 2 will have the most opportunity for recruiting and supporting new underrepresented geoscientists to participate in the DCO Science Network.