Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion with NGEE Arctic

Commitment to Safety, Inclusion, and Trust

NGEE Arctic has made a commitment to intentionally create a project-wide culture of safety, inclusion, and trust. Our philosophy regarding this commitment is:

  • Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure
  • Everyone is valued and has opinions that matter
  • Everyone deserves to be heard
  • Everyone is responsible for ensuring a respectful workplace

This commitment began many years ago at a Code of Conduct breakout session at the NGEE Arctic All-Hands meeting in 2015. This was the first of many (sometimes uncomfortable) discussions over the following years, and the first of many concrete activities the project has undertaken with a goal of creating a diverse, inclusive, safe, and secure project that facilitates strong cross-disciplinary collaboration and exciting scientific discoveries.

Building a Culture of Safety and Trust in Team Science

NGEE Arctic has shared some of these lessons with the broader community of earth and environmental scientists. The leadership team led a paper in Eos (Iversen et al., 2020) that highlighted our shared values: safe and harassment-free work environments, respect for local culture and knowledge of the environment in areas and communities where we are guests, and collaboration and open science. This paper was well received by the broader community and was the foundation for an AGU Session, co-convened by Bob Bolton, on "Developing a Culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in All Our Work, in All Our Places" (AGU Fall Meeting, 2020). The paper notes: 

"As scientists become part of larger teams and join broader and more diverse scientific endeavors, they must all become leaders in creating cultures of safety, inclusion, and trust. Ideally, all participants on such teams, as well as local communities and other stakeholders, feel that their views, concerns, and efforts are acknowledged and respected. Such a culture facilitates the physical and emotional well-being of individuals in scientific teams and in the local communities where scientists work....Here, we share lessons learned from an “experiment within an experiment” that began as part of a large-scale, decade-long research project in Alaska. The experiment was focused on answering the question, How can we intentionally create a project-wide culture of safety, inclusion, and trust that facilitates strong cross-disciplinary collaboration and exciting scientific discoveries?"

Iversen, C. M., W. R. Bolton, A. Rogers, C. J. Wilson, and S. D. Wullschleger (2020), Building a culture of safety and trust in team science, Eos, 101, https://doi.org/10.1029/2020EO143064

Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) in Arctic Science

Over a decade, the NGEE Arctic team has intentionally and continually developed a culture of safety and inclusion as a foundation for excellent science. Project Leadership reflects a diversity of backgrounds, genders, and scientific expertise. Together with Leadership, the NGEE Arctic team has developed extensive physical safety documentation and training, with an increasing emphasis on psychological safety—the shared expectation of an inclusive environment where it is safe to learn, safe to contribute, and safe to challenge ideas. Summarized, NGEE Arctic values promote secure and harassment-free work environments, respect for local culture and knowledge of the environment, and collaboration and open science. We share our lessons learned with the broader community in papers (Iversen et al., 2020), society and community workshops (American Geophysical Union - Biogeosciences, United States Permafrost Association, Interagency Research Policy Committee), and annual meetings. 

NGEE Arctic will continue to emphasize inclusion and equity across several themes, including: (1) Safety and Inclusion; (2) Communication and Engagement; and (3) Leadership Development. 

Safety and Inclusion

Project safety documents are annually read and reaffirmed by our team and include expectations for physical safety from extreme environmental conditions, as well as leadership and safety planning and expected conduct in Alaskan communities in which we are guests. We encourage collaboration across the project through our data-sharing policy and project data portal. We facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration by bringing modelers on week-long field campaigns to Alaska, and modelers returned the favor in Mod-Ex workshops that allowed empiricists to better understand the virtual world of Earth System Models. The NGEE Arctic team continues to innovate project-wide opportunities to redefine safety to also include emotional and psychological safety. For example, ‘Tabletop Exercises’, a project-wide safety survey, and Bystander Training improve team preparedness, accountability, and awareness of the need for intervention in scenarios that threaten team member safety. We reward safety, logistical planning, and collaboration at our annual all hands meetings. 

Communication and Engagement with Local and Native Communities

We engage with local and Native Communities via interactions with classrooms and class field trips, Strait Science presentations in person and over the radio, and the Alaska Voices podcast. We also participate in a local science festival in Utqiaġvik, AK (the BARC Science and Culture Fair). We develop working relationships with five Native Corporations in Utqiaġvik and Nome, AK, to request permission to access their lands and ask for their guidance on how to conduct ourselves and our science. We provide regular progress updates for the Native Corporation Boards and annual reports that summarize our scientific findings. During the COVID-19 pandemic and onward, we subcontracted members of the local community to assist with equipment maintenance, shipment, and storage. 

Developing Leaders

We emphasize the recruitment and retention of a diverse pool of excellent scientists by working with NGEE Arctic project leadership to determine scientific needs, and within partner institutions and our scientific networks to recruit scientists from a diversity of lived experiences and backgrounds. Within the project, we focus on intentional leadership development, including opportunities to highlight the science of our Rising Leaders at annual all hands meetings, with our DOE BER sponsors, and in our project reviews. In turn, several former early-career team members now have leadership roles in Science and Modeling Tasks, have assumed responsibility as Institutional Leaders, and have even taken over Direction of the project. In turn, the project has inspired team members to develop a culture of safety and inclusion at their home institutions, within other projects, and throughout the scientific community