Diversity

NCAR’s responsibilities as a national center include both advancing science and serving society. Our ability to do both will be enhanced if we diversify our workforce to better reflect and leverage the changing demographics of the United States and the world. Evidence suggests that creativity and problem solving improve with diverse teams. Since both are prerequisites to scientific insight, this suggests that scientific teams will be well served by diversity. It also argues for careful management to create well functioning teams that leverage the advantages of diversity.


NCAR is committed to do science that serves all ethnically and culturally diverse U.S. communities. Service to a community depends on knowing the needs of the community, and we are more likely to know these needs when our workforce includes members of the community. Likewise, communities are more likely to use and benefit from research when they have had the opportunity to participate in setting the research agenda. Finally, because our democracy provides the opportunity for every community to weigh in on the value of an institution, NCAR needs to engage every community as a partner in the scientific process to ensure continued relevance and fiscal health.


The NCAR Diversity Committee, which served as the Diversity Subcommittee for this report, has recently adopted the following statement on diversity within the institution:

UCAR values and is committed to diversity in its broadest and most inclusive sense, recognizing that scientific excellence is enhanced by contributions from multiple perspectives. This means working to produce a productive, equitable, and gratifying workplace for all employees, visitors, and collaborators. To that end, we affirm our responsibility to attract, retain, and advance individuals from groups that have been historically underrepresented in the atmospheric and related sciences.


Conclusion: NCAR must cultivate a world-class, broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce and expand scientific literacy. To address our ongoing responsibilities as a national center, NCAR will extend its research, education, and service to new communities and work internally to maximize opportunities for diversity.


The committee identified several external and internal efforts that would support attempts to increase diversity at NCAR.

Diversity (continued)

External Efforts

1. Build sustained partnerships with colleges and universities that educate a significant number of minority students.
Contact and first-hand experience with individuals increases their likelihood of being hired by NCAR. Therefore, NCAR should expand our partnerships with minority institutions engaged in research and education in atmospheric and related sciences through the following mechanisms:

  • NCAR should expand on existing MOUs or create new ones to establish a robust and sustained program with approximately five minority serving institutions (MSIs).
  • UCAR should recruit additional MSIs to become members or affiliates and contribute to NCAR governance.
  • As part of the program with each MSI, NCAR should fund sabbaticals for faculty and opportunities for students as a high priority. NCAR should also promote opportunities for NCAR scientists to visit these universities. Providing job opportunities for individuals who are known to NCAR and have demonstrated excellence has served NCAR well, and these efforts will expand our network of participants and opportunities to engage in socially relevant science.
  • NCAR should work with MSIs in order to take advantage of funds dedicated to educational deployments of NSF’s lower atmosphere observational facilities (e.g., aircraft, radars, sounding systems, and profilers). These deployments are designed to excite and motivate the next generation of users.

2. Expand the NCAR graduate fellowship (GRA) program and reach out to diverse graduate students.
NCAR should fund approximately ten new GRA positions a year, at least two positions for each of the five MSI partners. The graduate fellowship experience is particularly important in competing for postdoctoral positions, which are a gateway to a scientific appointment.

3. Continue to expand summer undergraduate intern programs.
Each NCAR laboratory should maintain a summer undergraduate internship program. NCAR programs should work collaboratively with Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS), which has 14 years of success in supporting and encouraging students from under-represented groups to seek careers in the atmospheric sciences. NCAR’s Earth Observing Laboratory and Computational and Information Systems Laboratory currently target their programs to engineers and computer scientists, respectively. The response, as measured by the number and diversity of the applications, has been highly positive (e.g., EOL’s undergraduate engineering program in 2009 received 252 applications—53 female, 24 Black, 19 Hispanic, and 1 American Indian).

4. Articulate a set of guidelines for promoting recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.
To the extent possible, all search and selection committees should be composed of both males and females and include ethnic diversity and staff with disabilities.

 

Diversity (continued)

Internal Efforts

1. Continue to provide resources and incentives to those who promote and enhance diversity.
Each laboratory should continue to set aside funding at the beginning of the fiscal year to engage in activities to support and increase diversity. Additionally, the NCAR Director’s Office and UCAR President’s Office should provide funds for such purposes. These funds will be awarded competitively and may be part of, or in addition to, programs conducted to build and sustain partnerships with MSIs.

UCAR’s performance evaluation process should recognize and acknowledge employees who demonstrate a commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce. A section in UCAR’s Annual Performance Appraisal currently documents diversity-enhancing activities, and diversity efforts should be added to UCAR’s Outstanding Accomplishment awards. Contributions to increasing diversity should also be explicitly included in the criteria for scientist/research engineer promotion.

2. Monitor progress toward diversity goals.
Hiring supervisors need to be educated on market availability for jobs where there has been persistent underutilization, and the qualified applicant pool should routinely be evaluated to assess recruitment and selection effectiveness. This is especially important in job categories that enhance our opportunities to diversify the workforce (e.g., engineering, computer science, administration).

Management should address institutional practices that reflect bias and conduct regular assessments to ensure that all practices are equitable. External and internal audits can help identify unfair practices.

We must continue to measure progress and fully communicate metrics to managers and staff with the goal of correcting underutilization or inequitable practices.

3. Develop strategies to leverage diversity.
NCAR should create continued opportunities for dialog with diverse staff. Such dialog should focus on both the unique needs of NCAR’s minority staff and the unique skills and attributes that they bring to the workplace. The Asian Listening Circle is a model of this process and should be repeated for other affinity groups.5

 


 

5 The Asian Listening Group made specific suggestions that can be implemented including a) building awareness of cultural differences regarding assertiveness, b) providing technical writing resources for those whose first language is not English, c) providing mentors to those who request guidance, and d) helping NCAR identify and adopt practices and ideas from Asian cultures that could improve NCAR’s operation. The success of this program has led to the initiation of a listening group for staff with disabilities.