Structural racism. Institutional bias. Benevolent (and not-so-benevolent) sexism. Ageism. Ableism. Classism. Selection bias. As scientific researchers, we are now asking, and demanding, that we, our colleagues, our institutions, and our governments are held to account for these behaviours and practices, which, for far too long, have been waved away as “just how the world is”. If 2020 has taught us anything (besides, of course, how to properly wash our hands and socially distance), it is that if we are not ACTIVELY part of the solution to seek out, call out and stamp out these deeply damaging behaviours, we are part of the problem.
The Social Brain in Action Lab has welcomed students, interns, trainees and visitors of all stripes to engage in all aspects of our scientific research and outreach activities with us, ever since our inception in 2010. However, we want to do more, we want to do right, and we want to do better. The Social Brain in Action Lab is taking action.
As part of conversations we began in earnest as a lab around the time of the #ShutDownSTEM initiative, we have begun to articulate actions that we, as lab directors and lab members, are committed to taking, discussing, and updating, in an attempt to build a laboratory research environment where all feel welcome, encouraged, and supported to actively partake in the triumphs and tribulations of human neuroscience research.
Our conversations as a laboratory made it clear that the most important next step was a need to educate ourselves. We recognised a clear need to respect the broad and complex nature of the issues at hand, and our lack of understanding. We also recognised that there is a wealth of formal literature and research that studies these issues, which we should not ignore. We decided that the scale of these issues demanded continual engagement, rather than a one-off survey of the literature. As such, we decided to host an up-to-date set of resources, ideas and actions for how the SoBA Lab is trying to educate ourselves and consequently build a more inclusive environment.
A range of thoughts and commitments that address these topics can be found on the panels below, which include links to additional resource material and writing on these issues by people who are far more brilliant, informed, and articulate than we are. We want this page to be a living, breathing, work in progress, and changes, edits, and other suggestions for improvement are always welcome. Please feel free to email Rich or Emily with any ideas or suggestions. We welcome constructive feedback.
OPEN to EXPRESSION
The SoBA Lab is a safe space for raising concerns, expressing ideas, and sharing resources. We don't all have to agree, but we can all respect our fellow lab members by listening.
We will hold ourselves, students, colleagues and organisations to account when we spot bias and discrimination in action. This means speaking up to engage others in this conversation.
In the SoBA Lab, we are big fans of scientific outreach and public engagement. However, many of our contributions are to science festivals and other events that do not always reach the broadest audiences, despite sterling efforts to do just that. As such, we are committed to examining new and more creative ways to share our science and engage the public, such as writing pieces in The Conversation and organising events that are free and open to the public, like our Robotic Petting Zoo project.
We will include links here as we make more progress in this endeavor
RESPECTING INDIGENOUS land, customs & people
As researchers, we acknowledge the traditional custodians of Macquarie University land, the Wattamattagal clan of the Darug nation, whose cultures and customs and nurtured and continued to nurture this land since the dreamtime. We pay our respects to Elders, past, present and future.
More inclusive sampling & perspective gathering
We seek to actively try to include BIPOC individuals in study samples. WEIRD populations present massive roadblocks to generalisability for psychology and neuroscience research. While we have acknowledged and written about this (e.g., Lim et al., preprint, Henschel et al., 2020), we must do better with our own research practice, and go beyond convenience sampling (e.g. mostly white undergraduate students from US/Europe/Aus). Representation matters, for researchers and for research.
every day is a school day
These issues are well-studied, complex, and require sustained reading to better understand. We will continue to educate ourselves by gathering, sharing and reading relevant books, including:
Killing the Black Body or Fatal Invention by @DorothyERoberts
Racecraft by Barbara and Karen Fields
Medical Apartheid by @haw95
The Warmth of Other Suns by @Isabelwilkerson
Sister Citizen by @MHarrisPerry
The Pushout by @MoniqueWMorris
Checking in & taking stock
These policies, aims, and ideas are subject to continual refinement, improvement, and updating. However, this is not a task simply for lab directors or lab members who feel passionately about these matters- this is for the entire SoBA Lab community. Every year, in June, we will hold a lab retreat where we reflect and take stock on our experiences and what we've learned as individuals and as a group wrt social equality. Minutes of these meetings will be made available here.