By Associate Professor Emanuel A. Waddell, University of Alabama in Huntsville.
In your opinion, which scientific questions will set the trends in the coming decade, and which science problems would you like to tackle?
In the coming decade scientific problems that should be addressed include climate change, low cost health care and the impact of technology in society. With respect to technological impact on societal change one may consider the development of high-resolution low-cost charge-coupled devices (CCDs) that have become available to many in the public in the form of a mobile device. The near ubiquitous and facile recording of inequitable, racially biased, and unjust actions of individuals was not possible as a little as 40 years ago. The impact on society of this technological advancement cannot be understated as evidenced by the recording of the public execution of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Low cost, high resolution CCDs allowed citizens to live stream a public execution via affordable high-speed cellular connections. In addition to shedding light on systematic issues the availability of high-resolution low-cost CCDs also brings the questions issues about unauthorized personal, corporate and government surveillance. Public access to datasets raises similar issues. It is critically important that individuals from diverse backgrounds have access to data, possess the adequate tools to analyse data and have a voice when designing policy around data.
How do you experience diverse leadership, diversity in your lab, publication and peer-review, promotion and career progression, in your host country? What are the impediments for creating inclusive, equitable research labs, departments and practices?
Organizations that become diverse are the result of individuals who prioritized organizational diversity. Organizational leadership must be deliberate and intentional in creating an atmosphere of inclusion. Individuals who prioritize this from a personal compass are rare. Practical steps to encourage inclusion and equity in the academic enterprise include (1) establishing metrics in the tenure and promotion process that address historical inequities, (2) correlating federal and state funding to equity and inclusion, and (3) establishing equity and inclusion as part of public rankings. Big data makes the possibility of measuring short- and long-term outcomes possible.
What is your message to the next generation of scientists, and what are your tips for their success?
The scientific skill set of scientists is directly applicable towards addressing institutional and societal change. One must use data and the human narrative to create policies which drive systems to become more inclusive. We must be objective in accepting that some of our hypotheses are false and must be modified or thrown out if necessary. The current data indicates that the scientific enterprise has failed and that it is neither completely merit based or scientifically objective. The next generation of scientists must continue to examine the data so as to change the narrative.