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SICB Awarded Funding for Major Cultural Change Initiative

March 6, 2024

The National Science Foundation recently awarded nearly $500,000 to the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) to help develop an internal culture that fosters inclusion, diversity and equity.

The grant comes from the BIO-LEAPS (Leading Culture Change through Professional Societies of Biology) program for the proposal titled “Strengthening Inclusion by Change in Building Equity, Diversity and Understanding (SICBEDU).” With it, SICB plans to address how it can better serve its members and the next generation of organismal biologists.

UC Merced Professor Michele Nishiguchi is the president-elect of SICB and one of the principal investigators on the grant, along with Brian Tsukimura of Fresno State, who is SICB’s treasurer-elect; SICB President Patricia Hernandez of George Washington University; and Susan Williams of Ohio University, who chairs SICB’s long-running initiative to broaden participation.

“While scientific societies have tried to increase diversity through several outreach mechanisms, it has become abundantly clear that systemic changes that impact culture are required to effect true change within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields,” the SICB leaders wrote in their grant proposal. “This project will develop how SICB, a professional scientific society that is inherently integrative and focused on early career scientists, can lead the way in such transformative cultural changes.”

To be effective in advancing the pursuit and dissemination of relevant and timely biological knowledge to the public, membership demographics in SICB should reflect that of society, they said. The goal is to create a more welcoming and inclusive scientific society that will more organically grow the number of students from underrepresented groups to join SICB.

To do this, this society will develop, pilot and assess a two-tiered program. The first tier will provide inclusivity, diversity, equity and acceptance (IDEA) training to the executive committee, which includes division chairs, creating a leadership team whose members function as role models. The group will also provide development activities centered around IDEA to enable future participation in leadership roles and build community within the society.

The second tier includes workshops, community-building activities and integrative activities designed to promote dialogue and increase the IDEA knowledge base and support in the society by 10% a year, which will help create a welcoming and inclusive space that allows for creativity and the exchange of ideas.

SICB fosters research, education, public awareness and understanding of living organisms from molecules and cells to ecology and evolution. SICB encourages interdisciplinary cooperative research that integrates across scales, and new models and methodologies to enhance research and education.

The group is one of the largest and professional associations of its kind. Formed in 1902 as the American Society of Zoologists, it changed to its current name in 1996 to reflect the breadth, integrative approaches and interests of its membership across all disciplines of biology.

“We are proud of SICB’s long-standing commitment to promoting and maintaining an inclusive and diverse community. Through this work, we hope to inspire recognition and dialogue among SICB members of the challenge and benefits of having a diverse and inclusive society and promote collaborative solutions-focused efforts toward change,” the initiative’s leaders said. “We view this program as crucial to keep SICB on the cutting edge of scientific innovation.”