Ernest Orlando Lawrence, who founded Berkeley Lab, believed that scientific research is best done through teams of individuals from different fields of expertise, working together. This concept of “team science” is a legacy that continues today where a collaborative, inclusive culture is key to all of our successes.
Continuing this proud tradition, the Lab’s Molecular Foundry is a user facility specializing in nanoscale science that serves nearly 1000 academic, industrial and government scientists each year from across the US and around the world through a collaborative user model.
“Fostering a diverse workforce—in experience, perspective and background—and culture of inclusion are key to attracting and engaging the brightest minds and furthering the Lab’s mission,” said Jeff Neaton, Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Sciences and Director of the Molecular Foundry.
The Foundry’s collaborative mission is intertwined with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Visiting researchers work at the Foundry for an average of 3 months at a time, creating a unique scientific setting – In such a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment, diversity of ideas is paramount.
“In addition to doing great research, the Foundry seeks to show visiting scientists a culture that they will want to share with their home institution,” says Alison Hatt, the Foundry’s User Program Director.
“We are constantly working to optimize the facility’s DEI culture through activities supported by the division and Lab,” added Rita Garcia, the founding chair of the Foundry’s DEI Committee. “Our initiatives include workshops on microaggressions and emotional intelligence, and division-wide events like a multi-cultural potluck and a family science day.”
Under an operating model that hinges on attracting and evaluating users, as well as providing personal collaborative expertise, removing bias as much as possible is particularly important. While collaboration and interaction are a main value proposition to a user facility, they are also areas prone to bias.
Recently, the Foundry engaged with AcuityWorks, a consulting company that specializes in identifying implicit bias in scientific and technical organizations, and obtained a comprehensive assessment on how to increase D&I and address potential sources of bias at the Foundry across every aspect of the organization (including user outreach and training, onboarding programs, evaluating user proposals, collaborative interactions, transparency, job descriptions, recruiting, performance reviews, promotions, and attrition rates).
As a part of the assessment, AcuityWorks developed and led a customized workshop on unconscious bias for the Molecular Foundry’s staff retreat – involving hands on exercises to talk about potential biases at the Foundry and what we can do to counteract them. Staff have also begun the process of implementing a number of new policies and activities based on AcuityWorks recommendations.
“AcuityWorks took the time to understand our unique business model – the stakeholders, our mission and how we define success,” said Branden Brough, the Foundry’s Deputy Director. “Within this context, they were able to provide suggestions that were both impactful and practically implemented, all based on industry best practices and peer-reviewed research studies on bias in the workplace. I think we now have the tools we need to go from good to great in this space.”