The Leading Culture Change through Professional Societies of Biology (BIO-LEAPS) program aims to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biological sciences broadly by leveraging the leadership, broad reach, and unique ability of professional societies to create culture change in the life sciences. The Directorate for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF BIO) recognizes that culture change in the biological sciences is an urgent priority because it is foundational to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the discipline. The culture of a scientific discipline — defined here as the shared values, norms, traditions, and practices — can be thought of as an emergent property that results from years of experiences and interactions among scientists, their institutions, their professional societies, and their networks. It is increasingly recognized that the perceptions and attitudes of that culture can be quite variable for different individuals and are often negative for individuals historically excluded from the sciences (e.g., based on gender, gender identity, disability status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, the intersections of these, and others). Therefore, this program is designed to foster the necessary culture change within biology to move towards an equitable and inclusive culture that supports a diverse community of biologists that more fully reflects the demographic composition of the US population.
Professional societies are uniquely positioned to help facilitate culture change in their disciplines through: publishing journals, fostering scientific discussion and debate, broad membership (including membership from academia, government agencies, and private businesses), hosting large scientific meetings that can serve as networking and professional development opportunities for people at many professional levels, and electing leaders that greatly influence views and norms within a discipline. Recognizing that culture change in biology will require broad, sustained, and innovative approaches for meaningful and lasting changes to occur, society leaders will need to enable and support the establishment and definition of new norms and practices in biology and to encourage engagement with experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion-related organizational change.
NSF BIO will support awards that leverage the work of professional societies towards facilitating necessary culture change in the biological sciences to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at scale — In other words, at the broad and deep scales that are required to address this systemic issue. Examples of evidence-based work that will be supported through this program include (but are not limited to): (1) creating transparent norms and practices that engender and support a sense of belonging and identity for diverse scientists from all backgrounds and demographics; (2) mitigating the systemic factors that result in inequities in the biological sciences, such as the perception of who a "scientist" is, and any factors that discourage diverse participation in biology; (3) assessing the state of norms and practices in professional societies and/or the other components and institutions within their disciplines; and, (4) planning, implementing, and assessing society-sponsored activities to change culture — such as safe conference best practices, strategies to mitigate implicit bias in hiring/promotion for society leadership positions, diversification of editorial boards, etc.
BIO-LEAPS Working Group