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FASEB Receives NSF Grant for Program to Change Negative Culture in Biological Sciences

Monday, January 29, 2024

FASEB received a two-year grant for nearly $500,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to pilot a program to change the current culture within biological societies that negatively affects early-career researchers in historically excluded populations. 

Evidence shows that scientific societies can play a major role in creating a professional culture that is welcoming to individual researchers who are from groups historically excluded from science. Adopting a federated approach across FASEB’s member societies, the DRIVE (Driving Culture Change in a Federation of Biological Societies via Cohort-Based Early-Career Leaders) pilot will provide mentorship, support, and leadership training to early-career researchers from historically excluded populations and assist them in engaging in society roles. The federated approach across multiple societies will help expand the reach of the project, allowing FASEB to affect culture change on a larger scale.

“This dynamic program will help to address many of the challenges and barriers researchers in historically excluded groups face within the life sciences, enabling researchers to be change agents and scientific societies to create a welcoming environment for all,” says Mary-Ann Bjornsti, PhD, FASEB President and former Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). “We are excited to contribute to developing a welcoming culture and addressing the needs of our early-career researchers.” 

DRIVE’s objectives are to (1) document the current baseline for current policies, practices, and recommendations to promote inclusion within FASEB’s member societies; (2) pilot a cohort-based project for early-career researchers that provides mentorship, support, and leadership training; and (3) create an infrastructure for change through identified strategies, resource sharing across member societies, and outreach. Strategies to address barriers will serve as the foundation for future support to be shared across societies and will provide a framework for the participants to act as change agents. 

DRIVE bolsters FASEB’s commitment to developing programs that support historically excluded populations and help them navigate institutional barriers, thereby creating and maintaining an environment where all individuals are welcomed, valued, and respected within the biological sciences. 

“FASEB is committed to work with member societies to promote an inclusive biomedical workforce that will create and sustain opportunities for individuals from historically excluded populations. The federation has elevated these issues to the highest levels in the leadership and has made significant investments to support a range of programs. As a former president of FASEB, I am honored to be part of a talented team that is committed to this endeavor for the long-term, says Louis Justement, PhD, Professor of Microbiology at UAB. Justement is co-principal investigator for the project and Yvette Seger, PhD, FASEB Director of Strategic Scientific Program Advancement, is principal investigator. 

NSF awarded the grant under its Leading Culture Change Through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS) program, which supports the design, implementation, and evaluation of projects that leverage the work of professional societies to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biological sciences.

DRIVE is expected to launch this spring.