Promoting equity in the C. elegans community

From the WormBoard:

Some of you have received this message already via the “LabHeads” or other mailing lists. We are now aware of many lab heads who are not on the list. If you are a PI and did not receive this message from the LabHeads list on July 9, please request to join the LabHeads Google Group.

This message is meant to be shared with the entire community. Please read and forward this message to everyone in your lab. If you have comments about the content of the message or the survey, please email Jane Hubbard.

The last month has highlighted the undeniable history of violence and inequity toward the Black community. We acknowledge that there is structural racism throughout society, including in science. The C. elegans International Advisory Board (aka WormBoard – you can find a list of the current WormBoard representatives here) and the international C. elegans community is committed to fighting all forms of racism and discrimination, and to promoting equity and a more inclusive scientific community.

To this end, WormBoard recently met and discussed immediate, near-term, and longer-term actions to combat racism in our community, as outlined below. Real change will require a sustained and continuous effort from the whole community. We need your help to achieve a diverse, fair, and inclusive C. elegans community that will serve as a model for science at large. 

Immediate: Now – End of August

Initiative #1: C. elegans community-wide climate survey
In an anonymous survey, we ask about your experience and opinions, and we invite you to comment on several initiatives. You and all your lab members (undergraduates, graduates, postdocs, technicians, senior scientists, staff, etc.) are encouraged to respond. 

Please complete the 2020 Worm Community Survey (one response per person).
Survey Response closing extended to August 10, 2020

Analysis and report will be transmitted to the community: by August 31, 2020
Current survey committee: Ahna Skop, Dana Miller, Judy Yanowitz, Brent Derry, Te-Wen Lo, Swathi Arur

Initiative #2: Worm Mentoring Match
WormBoard will develop a system to facilitate career mentoring by matching senior mentors with postdocs and junior faculty, prioritizing mentees in underrepresented groups. Those interested in participating as mentors or mentees can indicate their interest on the Worm Community Sign-Up Sheet, or by contacting Jane Hubbard, Brent Derry, or Sander van den Heuvel (current WormBoard PI/Faculty mentoring committee).

Initiative #3. Communicate resources that facilitate undergraduate (UG) research experiences
In collaboration with WormBase, we will develop a website that highlights resources provided by different societies (GSA, SDB, ASCB, SACNAS, ABRCMS), institutions, and local institutions to underrepresented UGs and host PI labs. 
Please contribute to this resource, by adding information to the Resource for Undergraduate Research Experiences document or by contacting anyone on WormBoard.

Near-term: September to December 2020

Initiative #4. WormBoard membership will be diversified and expanded
We will change the board to ensure ongoing representation of our community.  We will aim to include underrepresented groups, a range of institution types, and various training levels. 

Longer-term: now through December 2021  

Initiative #5: Make regional, topic, and international worm meeting (IWM) participation more inclusive, including new travel award initiative
We will work on making talks, sessions, and workshops more diversified, and will explore new sessions on teaching and outreach. Initiatives will be developed to showcase undergraduate research and to facilitate undergraduate, graduate, and postdoc interactions. Travel awards will be made to underrepresented students to attend meetings. Additional details will follow to the community, but we envisage collaborating with programs such as summer REU/SROP/SURP and meetings such as SACNAS and ABRCMS to identify potential awardees. 

Initiative #6: Create a comprehensive and user-friendly C. elegans Community WormBase Website Portal to facilitate these and future initiatives 
Portal to include jobs postings, mentor match (#2), new opportunities, speaker info, the undergraduate resources page (#3), and more.


  1. says


    I really want to the thank you guys for this effort.

    My only request would be to undertake initiatives for under-represented minorities in science that extend all the way to the PI / scientist level. Often, the only actions taken are to support and recruit undergraduate students, and in some cases support early-stage graduate students. However, this leads to a very uncomfortable segregation, where URM events are hosted in ‘separate but equal’ locations (see ASCB, where many people have complained of this). The rationale behind this for ASCB seems to be that URM events are for education and diversity, not scientific achievement. In my opinion, it is of the utmost importance that any events for diversity are not relegated to education and recruitment of graduate students.

    In my opinion, the scientific community as a whole is missing diversity initiatives that are focused on helping advanced graduate students, postdocs AND PIs (or industry scientists) present their science, thrive in their scientific communities and access the resources available to their non-URM counterparts. If the worm community can meet this need, it will benefit enormously from greatly improved representation.

    Regardless, I am sure that this initiative will prove of enormous value to the C. elegans community. Thank you again for doing this!

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