Modern academic institutions, and especially those in STEM fields, have a long history of excluding women, individuals from low-income groups, and people of color. As a result, these communities are underrepresented and marginalized within academia. The pursuit of knowledge is a human right; therefore, it is critical to transform academia to include and respect individuals from these under-represented and marginalized communities. Broadening participation in academia requires changes at the institutional, cultural, and individual levels. I am committed to increasing the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) of academia; below are some of the ways that I am pushing for this positive change.
SySTEM: A working group pushing for systemic change in STEM
In 2020, I founded an interdisciplinary working group to address institutional barriers to DEI in STEM fields. Other members of this working group include:
Demographic data collection in STEM organizations: In STEM organizations, demographic data can be used to provide targeted resources (e.g., professional development) to certain communities and to evaluate the outcomes of recruitment & retention efforts. We quantified the kinds of demographic data that were collected by STEM organizations in the U.S., building a dataset covering 73 professional societies with a cumulative membership of 712,000 people. We found large disparities in the kinds of demographic categories that were surveyed, along with the response options that were available. These results indicate that many demographic surveys in STEM organizations are not accurately describing the STEM community, especially individuals from underrepresented and marginalized groups. Inclusive data collection can enable STEM organizations to better serve these overlooked groups, and to enhance the effectiveness of recruitment and retention efforts.
Burnett, N.P., A.M. Hernandez, E.E. King, R.L Tanner, K. Wilsterman (2022) A push for inclusive data collection in STEM organizations. Science 376(6588):37-39 (Link)
DEI programming at biology conferences: We analyzed the programming of DEI events at biology conferences and found that the common model for scheduling these events imposed logistical and emotional burdens on the targeted audiences (usually scientists from underrepresented and marginalized communities). We proposed new strategies for DEI programming that will avoid these burdens and enhance the impact of conferences' DEI initiatives.
Biases in postdoctoral interviews: Using survey responses from >300 postdoctoral researchers in the life sciences, I led a study that addressed disparities in the structures of interviews for postdoctoral research positions. Some interview disparities, likely driven by poor institutional regulation and the supervisors' biases, were associated with the racial, ethnic, and gender identity of the candidates in ways that can negatively impact candidates from underrepresented and marginalized communities in STEM. The study includes recommendations for resolving interview disparities that can serve as barriers to DEI in STEM.
Burnett, N.P., S.A. Combes (2019) Post-doc interviews in the life sciences: An often-overlooked process that is susceptible to bias. Integrative Organismal Biology 1: 1-7. (PDF)
Asking Different Questions Program, UC Davis Feminist Research Institute (Fall 2020): To enhance the quality of my DEI research, I enrolled in the Asking Different Questions Program hosted by the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute. This program focuses on "integrating your values more deeply into your scientific practices and gaining the intellectual foundation to create and implement more equitable research agendas."
Outreach & Service
University of California, Davis Division of Graduate Studies Anti-Racist Working Group (2020-2021): I serve as a postdoctoral representative on a committee to create goals, guidelines, and actions that remove institutional barriers to DEI and promote DEI at UC Davis through recruitment and retention.
DEI Evaluation Advisory Committee, Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology (2020-Present): I serve on a committee to facilitate an NSF-funded evaluation of SICB's move to a virtual platform for its annual meeting. The goal of this evaluation is to know how the virtual platform affects DEI of the meeting.
Broadening Participation Committee, Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology (2017-Present): I serve a postdoctoral representative on a committee that aims to enhance DEI within SICB and its annual meetings.
Bay Area Scientists in Schools (2012-2017): I taught science and engineering lessons to children in under-served schools around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Women in Science Group (2012-2015): I co-organized a departmental Women in Science Group at UC Berkeley to provide helpful resources and a supportive environment for scientists from underrepresented and marginalized groups in biology.
May 5, 2023 - New publication: Burnett and Combes (2023) Close encounters of three kinds: impacts of leg, wing, and body collisions on flight performance in carpenter bees. Journal of Experimental Biology 226: jeb245334 (Open access link)
March 17, 2023 - Award: Received the 2023 UC Davis Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research
August 25, 2022 - New publication: Burnett and Koehl (2022) Ecological biomechanics of damage to macroalgae. Frontiers in Plant Science 13:981904 (Open access link)
July 22, 2022 - New publication: Burnett et al. (2022) An evaluation of common methods for comparing the scaling of vertical force production in flying insects. Current Research in Insect Science 2: 100042. (Open access link)
March 31, 2022 - New publication: Burnett et al. (2022) A push for inclusive data collection in STEM organizations. Science 376(6588):37-39 (Link)
March 24, 2022 - New publication: Burnett et al. (2022) Wind and route choice affect performance of bees flying above versus within a cluttered obstacle field. PLoS ONE 17(3): e0265911. (Link)