Action Items on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Carnegie Mellon Computational Biology Department*
*This plan was developed and discussed by the CBD faculty. Any issue affecting CPCB would need to be agreed to by faculty at the Computational & Systems Biology department at Pitt
The Carnegie Mellon University Computational Biology Department (CBD) is undertaking a series of initiatives to improve our climate on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This document presents a series of action items following from a meeting between program leadership and students of the Carnegie Mellon/University of Pittsburgh PhD Program in Computational Biology (CPCB), followed by a meeting of the faculty of the CBD. These in turn are part of a broader discussion prompted by the Black Lives Matter effort, the #ShutDownSTEM initiative, and international and local efforts to improve DEI and address ongoing inequities for black members of our society and members of other underrepresented groups. The initiatives below are first steps in what we expect to be an ongoing effort at reform and are intended to complement synergistic work in progress at the University and School of Computer Science levels, as well as with our colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh.
We will undergo a review of compliance and effectiveness of these action items in Summer 2021, in addition to ongoing tracking of more specific benchmarks and deadlines identified in the document.
For clarity, items are organized into a broad categories and subcategories. We present action items as separate items below followed by timelines in italics:
A. Ongoing support for diversity, equity, and inclusion in CPCB and CBD
1. Establishing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee
a. We will establish committee for CPCB and CBD including faculty and students with diverse membership and a regular schedule for meetings and reporting back to leadership. We anticipate shared membership of faculty and CPCB students on CPCB and CBD committees, with additional Pitt members on the CPCB community and additional non-CPCB student members on the CBD committee.
We will name faculty members to the committee by July 31, 2020, request CPCB students to appoint volunteer members by August 31, 2020, and ask other cohorts (undergraduate and MS) to name members in September 2020
b. Allocate staff support for committees
we will assign part time of an administrative assistant to assist the committees in their work by August 31, 2020
2. Support and Retention
a. We will work with DEI committee to develop an action plan to create a welcoming culture
we will request that the committee take this as a major item of its agenda for the 2020-21 academic year and report back to the CPCB directors and CBD head and Pitt Department of Computational and Systems Biology (DCSB) chair with findings and recommendations by May 2021
b. Establish or revive support resources to improve retention (peer mentoring, boot camps)
we will reactivate a dormant peer mentoring program in Fall 2020, we will ask the DEI committee to include other recommended resources and deadlines for their enactment in its recommendations to the program leadership
c. Expand CPCB career development activities to address issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.
the CPCB Course instructors will be asked to identify topics for coverage before the start of the Fall 2020 term and to incorporate these into course activities in the 2020-21 academic year
3. Student-chair-director meetings
a. We will implement bi-annual CPCB meetings to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion. The program directors and department chairs will attend as well as the CPCB DEI Committee (see above). All students will be invited to attend.
biannual meetings will begin with the Fall 2020 term and will be scheduled once per term or the preceding/following summer thereafter
B. CPCB Recruitment, admission and program
1. Increase focus on diversity in recruiting
a. We will work with our colleagues at Pitt to ensure materials on DEI and resources are highlighted on the CPCB website and other CPCB promotional materials and add a statement on our commitment to DEI on the website and handbook.
handbook to be updated by Fall 2020 orientation, web site updated before Fall 2020 application site is open
b. We will work with our Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion to solicit their help and feedback on improving our recruiting process.
will seek their advice by August 1, further action items pending outcomes of those discussions
c. We will seek to develop better connections with minority-serving undergraduate institutions and feeder programs.
DEI Committee (see above) will be charged with identifying programs and potential contacts during Fall 2020 term, directors will initiate contacts by December 2020
d. We will revise our applicant evaluation criteria to include contributions to DEI that students highlight in their applications
we are pursuing ongoing discussion on changes SCS-wide to graduate degree applications and will advocate for this reform as part of that process; we will provide guidance in our own admissions FAQs starting in Fall 2020 to let students know that our admissions process will consider evidence of contributions to diversity and that they are encouraged to speak to this in their applications
e. We will update the guidance on fee waivers on the application web site to encourage more clearly students from diverse groups to request waivers.
we will update guidance on the web site by the time the site opens for Fall 2020 applications, we will work with SCS on possibilities for additional improvements
f. We will send representatives of our program (students and/or faculty) to major conferences dedicated to underrepresented groups (e.g., ABRCMS, SACNAS).
we will work with Pitt partners to ensure an annual representative of our community is present between our programs for at least one such meeting per year, starting with the next iterations of these meetings
2. Increase diversity in the curriculum
a. Improve seminar diversity – We will revise our process for new seminar speaker invitations, asking students and faculty to submit candidate speaker lists and charging an expanded seminar committee to vet candidate and choose a diverse slate of candidates to invite. We will commit to a target of at least 25% of speaker invitations to be made to members of underrepresented groups.
we will expand the seminar committee by August 1, 2020 with two additional student members in addition to the two faculty members, we will adapt the new process for future invitations by August 31, 2020
b. Journal club organizers will establish an expectation of representation of authors from diverse groups in presented papers. The organizers will communicate this expectation to students and enforce it course-wide and will identify potential candidate papers as needed to assist students with finding suitable papers by scientists from underrepresented groups.
this will be in practice starting the Fall 2020 term
c. Course instructors of upcoming courses will be asked to submit a statement to the department head and CPCB director saying how they intend to better represent diverse scientists and relevant topics in their curricula.
every course will be expected to provide such a statement starting with Fall 2020
d. We will reach out to Scientific Ethics instructors with our Pitt colleagues to ensure relevant issues of ethics (e.g., equitable treatment of human subjects, relevant variables in human subjects research) are covered or, if they are cannot be accommodated, cover them ourselves in CPCB Course
we will reach out by August 1, 2020 and either get confirmation this will be addressed in the next iteration of Scientific Ethics or include it in our curriculum in the Spring 2021 term
3. Strengthen outreach
a. We will add a statement on CMU and CPCB-affiliated outreach activities to the
CPCB handbook to assist students with finding opportunities to participate
the DEI committee will be charged with identifying activities, we will provide a list to students by January 2021 and continue to expand it thereafter
b. Add student outreach award to CPCB awards
we will add this to awards starting with the next CPCB retreat
c. Work with partners at Pitt to advocate to NIH to move towards NSF-style broader impact criteria
directors and department heads will initiate discussions in July 2020, further action items will be pending negotiations with other potential allies
d. We will allow student to select from a pre-determined set of outreach activities that will be accepted in lieu of the TA’ing requirements in CBD for interested students provided program teaching needs can be otherwise met. These outreach activities will need be related to teaching and comparable in scope to a TA assignment (for example, teaching in the high school summer school organized by CBD). This will be by student request only and at the discretion of the CPCB directors.
the directors will begin considering activities by student petition immediately, the CPCB directors in consultation with the DEI Committee will be charged with identifying a list of pre-approved activities by January 2021
C. Additional CBD specific efforts
1. Increase patronage of minority-owned businesses
a. We will ensure minority-owned businesses are included in our list of caterers and other contractors used for department purchasing (e.g., https://www.visitpittsburgh.com/blog/black-owned-pittsburgh/)
we will compile a list of vendors and provide it to all CBD staff and faculty members with responsibility for purchasing by August 31, 2020
b. We will set a target of at least 25% of all CBD departmental purchases of local goods and services to be from minority-owned businesses, where minorityowned businesses are available for the purchase in question.
we will provide guidance to staff beginning Fall 2020 and review compliance at the close of the 2020-21 fiscal year to determine if the policy is meeting its targets
2. Increase Faculty Diversity
a. we request a “Diversity Statement” for all faculty applications and make contributions to diversity a review criterion for all hires, advocate for this at the SCS level
we already request such a statement and will continue this practice going forward for future searches, we will advocate for this position at the SCS level
b. Require faculty hiring committees to prepare a statement on diversity for review by the department head and DEI committee when submitting a slate of candidates. This statement will evaluate the diversity of the slate, offer an explanation if the interview pool is unrepresentative, and explain why it could not be improved.
a similar statement has already been required at the school level for faculty hires and will become a standard at the department level for all faculty hiring committees going forward
c. Ensure advertisements for faculty positions are sent to appropriate associations dedicated to underrepresented groups and to HBCUs and other predominantly minority-serving institutions
we will make this a part of the advertising plan for all searches going forward