The "Action Potentials" Series

Actions researchers can take to support equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in STEM

Gender inequity and insufficient diversity in STEM are stubborn problems with multiple causes spanning the entire career. While institutional solutions are crucial, there is also potential for individuals to take action within their own sphere of influence.

The “Action Potentials” series aims to empower neuroscientists with easy-to-implement tools to take action in areas where EDI-relevant problems are known to occur. This evolving list of recommendations addresses areas that researchers themselves can impact directly, namely, interactions with team members and the research itself.

Action Potential #1 - Gender bias in letters of recommendation

Research has shown that letters of recommendation for women are on average shorter, contain fainter praise, more doubt-raisers, and more “grindstone” adjectives (e.g. hard-working). Doubt-raisers, in turn, have been found to influence how applicants are evaluated. The resources below can help you ensure the letters you write reflect your intentions and reduce unintentional gender bias.

Action Potential #1

Action Potential #2 - Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is a preference for or prejudice against a thing, person, or group, often based on stereotypes shaped by our background, culture, and personal experiences. Unconscious bias can negatively impact the workplace experience and career advancement of women and other underrepresented groups as well as the diversity of organizations. Below are some tools to help individuals recognize and address unconscious bias.

Action Potential #2

Action Potential #3 - Sex and Gender in Research

Integrating sex and gender analysis into basic and clinical research strengthens not only individual projects, but also the translational pipeline, and ultimately the value of science to the public. Taking this dimension into account is also increasingly required by funding agencies and publishers. View the resources below on ways to integrate this dimension into your research. 

Action Potential #3

Action Potential #4 - Inclusive Language

The way we use language can reinforce or counteract stereotypes about which groups of people are best suited to a given field. The resources below can support a more inclusive use of language for science and academia. 

Action Potential #4

Action Potential #5 - Databases of Underrepresented Scientists

Women are inadequately represented not only in higher academic positions in STEM, but also as expert voices in the media and as speakers on scientific panels and in colloquia. To address this imbalance, initiatives have created databases of women scientists. Similarly, Black neuroscientists and LGBTQ+ researchers have created databases to raise visibility and diversify science.

Action Potential #5