February 2021 – September 2021

In February 2021, the NSF released a Dear Colleague Letter ( “LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies (LEAPS) of Biology” with a request for proposals with a focus on leveraging the influence of professional societies to effect cultural change.

A group of representatives from several plant science societies started a series of discussions about the feasibility of submitting a proposal, and the objectives such a proposal would include. The group met several times via zoom and collectively drafted a set of priorities and objectives. After considerable discussion, Mary Williams was asked to take the lead on writing and submitting the proposal as PI, with Crispin Taylor the co-PI, and ASPB serving as grant administrator. Representatives from each of the seven societies represented in the proposal agreed to serve as senior personnel in the role of a Steering Committee, with the expectation that they would serve in one- or two-year appointments.

The RCN’s organizational structure includes the Steering Committee (a rotating group composed of one or two non-compensated representatives of each of the seven plant science organizations), the Experts Committee (a rotating group of up to seven compensated experts to guide and inform this work), trainers and consultants (compensated), non-compensated representatives of partnering organizations that are committed to broadening the RCN impact and reach, and Working Groups (compensated) drawn from across these structures, each with a specific task and set of objectives.

The group was notified of funding in late summer 2021, and the grant period started October 1, 2021.

October 2021 – March 2022

The Steering Committee (SC) agreed that its first tasks were to a) identify a full-time program facilitator, and b) identify the initial consultants and experts to provide expertise and support the work, c) set up a website and social media account through which to share updates and opportunities. In March 2022, Marcia Puig-Lluch was hired as program facilitator, and a contract was signed with Movement Consulting to provide a one-year-long training program for the leaders of the participating organizations and also work with the SC to develop an equity assessment. In parallel, the ROOT & SHOOT website and Twitter accounts were established.

Our initial panel of experts was also appointed: Liliana Campos (Immigrants Rising); Adán Colón-Carmona (U. Mass. Boston); Michelle M. Jacob (Anahuy Mentoring); Laura Minero (UCLA); Della V. Mosley (Academics for Black Lives and Wellness); Bathabile K.S. Mthombeni (Untangled Resolutions).

April 2022

The group planned an in-person retreat for April 2022, but it was postponed until September 2022 due to covid. However, a set of online-meetings and discussions were held during the days set aside for the training. Specifically, the RCN hosted:

  • 2 x 1 hour public event (breakout room discussion)
  • 2 x 1 hour leadership event (breakout room discussion)
  • 1 x 2 hour team training for Steering Committee, provided by Movement Consulting
  • 1 x 2 hour strategy discussion with Steering Committee and Experts Committee

More than 100 people attended one of two public discussion sessions, in which we asked the community to discuss their experiences navigating professional society spaces. Key takeaways can be found here. Of those attending, 85 submitted an expression of interest in participating in a future Working Group. This list has been the basis for the recruitment of our first Working Group, “Inclusive Conferences” which is being finalized now, in July 2022. (Interested in learning about future Working Group opportunities? Email Marcia

May 2022 – September 2022. Current and ongoing work.

Training for leaders of societies. We secured the services of Movement Consultants to provide a year-long equity training to the leaders of the seven plant science-serving organizations. This work began in June 2022 and will continue until May 2023. Each month includes a two-hour training event on a specific topic (e,g., Power Dynamics + Empathic Communication, Collective Principles + Community Building, Anti-Blackness + White Supremacy Culture, Collective Tools for Empowered Mentoring, and others), preceded by individual homework and followed by a group assignment carried out by small (3-4 person learning communities). Seventy people representing various leadership positions within the partnering organizations are participating in this training.

Secure the services of an assessment consultant. (in progress)

Partnership with organizations that support marginalized scientists and students (SACNAS, oSTEM, MANRRS). We started this work by focusing on SACNAS because we are sponsoring an exhibit booth at their NDiSTEM (National Diversity in STEM) conference in October 2022. We are jointly working on an agreement to sponsor travel awards for SACNAS members to attend plant-biology oriented meetings, and bidirectional dual-membership awards. Once this initial task is completed we will set up similar schemes with MANRRS, and launch our joint project with oSTEM.

Partnerships with industry. Two companies that employ large numbers of highly trained plant scientists, Bayer Crop Science and Corteva Agriscience, are formal partners in this award. These very large businesses have extensive resources and expertise in equity-based practices and supporting the needs of scientists with marginalized identities. We are starting to plan for joint programs with these partners to include setting up a series of symposia to be organized by students, prioritizing those with marginalized identities. The students will be compensated for their work.

Presentations, workshops, exhibitions. PI Williams was asked to give a short presentation about the ROOT&SHOOT RCN in the “Community Resources” session at the International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR) in June 2022.

Program Facilitator Marcia Puig-Lluch is hosting an exhibit booth at the 2022 Botany conference coordinated by two of the participating organizations, the Botanical Society of America and the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. The goal of this conference presence is to raise awareness of the opportunities that will be made available to plant scientists through the RCN, including opportunities through to participate in learning communities and working groups, dual membership awards, and student-led symposia (see below). She will similarly host an exhibition at the October 2022 SACNAS DiSTEM conference.

Working Group – Inclusive conferences. Applications are being evaluated for our first working group that will develop an equity guide focused on Inclusive Conferences. This Working Group will have as its charge to generate recommendations, codes, and guidelines relevant to this goal for all seven societies. This will include, but is not limited to, development of:

  1. An RCN-wide Community Agreement for conferences and participants, outlining principles and standards that support equity and inclusiveness
  2. A reporting structure that ensures accountability and compliance with the Community Agreement
  3. Recommendations for a transparent site selection process that incorporates considerations regarding safety and inclusion of all potential attendees
  4. Guidelines for practices that improve conference accessibility, including for those with disabilities and young families
  5. Guidelines for inclusive selection of speakers and equitable programming

September 2022 Retreat

Members of the Steering Committee, Experts Committee, partners, and consultants will meet (in-person and virtually) at HHMI conference center in late September 2022. The purpose of this retreat is to evaluate the progress to date, and particularly to identify and prioritize the work of the second year of the grant. A key area of focus is on how to best empower and prioritize the voices of marginalized scientists in these efforts.

October 2022 – March 2023

Learning communities – “Seeing White”. Equity training with paid consultants is expensive, which is why we are offering this opportunity initially to the members of the elected and appointed leaderships of the societies. However, we want to provide an opportunity for all members of the plant science community to begin or continue their journey to understand the origins and impacts of systemic racism. Therefore, members of the ROOT & SHOOT team will be hosting Learning Communities guided by the work of journalist John Biewen and Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika in the14-part podcast series “Seeing White”.  Participants will listen to each 30-minute episode at their convenience, write responses to questions assigned by the leaders (including those developed by the podcast hosts), and meet to reflect on what they’ve learned. The learning groups will meet approximately every other week, starting in mid-September.

Equity assessment. A key objective for the coming year is to complete the equity assessments of each of the plant science organizations. We are carrying this out in partnership with Movement Consulting and other organizations that have expertise in this. We are exploring the option to use an equity environmental scanning tool (EEST) that has been developed specifically for use by scientific societies by members of ACCESS+ (see Campbell-Montalvo and Putwen et al., 2022).

Where does the money go?

The budget covers five years of work and spans roughly three categories.

A bit more than 1/3 goes to support the full-time program facilitator, including her salary and benefits, as well as indirect costs and some additional ASPB staff time for grant administration. Neither the PI nor the co-PI get any supplemental salary (on top of our standard salary) through this award, although part of our time is bought out to administer the award.

About 1/3 goes to bring in the expertise needed to do the proposed work. The bulk of this goes to the equity and assessment consultants who work side-by-side with us as we evaluate our practices and guide us as we develop interventions. Most of the rest provides stipends to the members of the Experts Committee who advise the work. Note that members of the Steering Committee are not compensated for their time, but instead serve as volunteers.

Much of the remainder of the budget is earmarked to support marginalized scientists, both those already within the plant science community, and those exploring this discipline. The latter includes student members of SACNAS and MANRRS, to whom the award will provide travel awards to plant science conferences and dual-membership awards.

Finally, some funds are set aside to cover publication costs and for web and IT support for the project and program facilitator.

If you would like to stay informed about the progress of this work, please complete this form and follow us on Twitter @RootAndShootRCN.

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