Many researchers understand the equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) basics of using fair hiring practices and inclusive language when seeking collaborators. These practices are foundational, but building and sustaining a diverse, well-functioning group, or team of research collaborators, whether in a lab or through more informal networks, requires a conscious effort far beyond the initial outreach. EDI-informed leaders act to foster an inclusive working environment where everyone is treated equitably and feels that they are valued members of the team. New team members with diverse identities and disciplinary perspectives are more likely to remain engaged over time and contribute fully to the research.
Inclusion practices involve proactive measures to create an environment where people feel welcomed, respected, and valued and foster a sense of belonging and engagement. A conscious effort to practice inclusion is needed to help address unconscious bias and systemic barriers. Researchers can counter obstacles to EDI through conscious reflection and intentional inclusion practices. These approaches can transform research methods to attract and engage more diverse researchers. Diversity, in turn, contributes to new lines of research and greater innovation.
Conscious reflection begins with learning about and coming to terms with one’s relationship with historical processes of colonization and marginalization, i.e., your social positionality. It is also suggested that this process happens at both the individual and the research lab or team levels. For example, food and agriculture researchers might consider reading Lost Harvests, about the history of government policies making farming difficult for Indigenous peoples across the Plains, or this article on the triumphs and barriers experienced by Black farmers in Ontario today. Challenges faced by women farm owners and leaders are described in this CBC article.
Intentional inclusion practices include making your meetings a safe space for honest conversation and ensuring that new team members and employees have appropriate mentoring support. Additional detailed suggestions for practicing inclusion are discussed in this helpful article, Reflections and Actions for Creating an Inclusive Research Environment.
Natural science researchers are also encouraged to consult the NSERC guide on integrating equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in research released in summer 2022.
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