Building Inclusive Environments Humanizes Science

Dr. Holmes Writes: Science is a field of exploration: a philosophical exploration of how the world works.

For some, science is a field of what exists, a process by which rules that apply to all can be deciphered. For others, it is a method for discovering what might be. As a developmental biologist and developmentalist (someone who organizes conditions for people to grow), I am interested in how things become whatever they become. How does a single cell (an oocyte) become (develop) into a full human being.

We create scientific cultures. Do we create ones in which we can grow and develop? Creating work environments that include who we are—passionate, curious, playful human beings—is my passion. I have, and we can, create communities where inclusion fuels excellence, where win-win scenarios are the norm and one’s expertise and offerings do not require the exclusion of others. This is what the Early Career Leadership Academy of the American Meteorological Society is working on.

In science, we create lab groups, departments, interest and affinity groups in an attempt to seed caring, appreciative relationships that we associate with our ability to foster fledgling, zany or even heretical ideas. We (individually and institutionally) have come to believe that commonality breeds synergy. With this myth, we assemble large labs based on common interests. Yet, too often, no one feels that they belong or that their voice informs the direction of the lab/research.

We can fuel the experience and power of inclusive, collaborative research within and across lab groups. We can inspire cultures of playful experimentation. Here are some efforts that I believe are on the right track:

These efforts and understandings are ones that humanize our STEM work environments. This is the work I love to do: creating the conditions for phenomenal growth in science and of scientists and engineers.

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