Character  &  Context

Addressing Pervasive Biases in Academia

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The current requirements for diversity training at universities fall short of addressing the pervasive gender, racial, and ethnic biases in academia. A new paper in Science today argues for more rigorous testing and evaluation of diversity training programs for scientists. Acknowledging that diversity training can often backlash and fail to correct the problem, the psychologists suggest interventions that incorporate “active learning techniques,” such as exercises, activities, and discussions that dynamically engage participants.

When asked for a specific example of such interventions, lead author Corinne Moss-Racusin of Skidmore College explained that no such interventions exist. “There are no interventions that have been tested in randomized controlled trials for use with academic science audiences,” she says. While researchers have conducted such testing for interventions to reduce implicit biases, the strategies were not geared toward academic scientists. “That intervention used tested principles of social psychology — such as counter-stereotypic imaging, individuation, and perspective taking — to effectively reduce implicit biases,” Moss-Rascusin says.

This lack of tested training is what inspired the paper in the first place.

The paper, “Scientific Diversity Interventions” by Moss-Racusin, along with Jojanneke van der Toorn of Leiden University and John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman of Yale University, was published Feb. 7, 2014 in the journal Science.

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