Increasing the involvement of people from underrepresented demographics in STEM areas has long been a goal of many disciplines. As the STEM culture becomes more inclusive, it has become a key priority to provide equal access to talented people of all backgrounds. Diversity not only in academic expertise but also in demographics is increasingly recognized as a source of collective strength that correlates with success and innovation.
Academic societies have historically sought to promote diverse membership through an educational model that encourages academic participation in activities that prepare them for upcoming career transitions. While this methodology is widely used in many different disciplines, societies are now coordinating their efforts and using data to evaluate outcomes and identify ways to improve impact.
Scientific societies have proven to be well suited to offering subject-specific career development opportunities that complement traditional training at scientific institutions. Apprentices who develop into independent scientists need to develop a combination of disciplinary knowledge and complementary soft skills to cope with requirements such as scholarship writing, collaboration, mentoring and publishing – skills that are fundamental to success in the professorship.
Scientists with underrepresented backgrounds in STEM are less likely to have access to mentoring, making it more difficult to develop the soft skills needed to be successful as tenure-track teachers. The continuing education programs of the scientific society that are geared towards these scientists can have a compensatory effect and enable them to successfully develop their academic niche and professorial career in areas of interest to BioMed Central (BMC) such as science, technology, engineering and medicine. The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC) has a long track record of developing professional development programs to address these inequalities in access to mentoring.
An example of ASCB-MAC programming is the Accomplishing Career Transitions (ACT) program. ACT engages cell biologists embarking on their independent careers to individualize their professional development and education through a longitudinal mentoring framework. The aim of the ASCB is to prepare ACT Fellows for a successful transition into the academic MINT workforce.
Our new BMC Proceedings Supplement highlights topics such as effective mentoring, maintaining a faculty position, setting up a laboratory, preparing for employment and promotion, and professional development through experiential learning.
The content of this BMC Proceedings Supplement is more important today than ever as emerging faculties adapt their career paths to global challenges. Our short term goal with this BMC Proceedings Supplement is to make the ACT program available to a wider range of scientists to help them prepare for success in science. Your success will contribute to a diverse professorship that will include and welcome young academics.