2021 Seed Grants: Society, Neuroscience, and Equity
For 2021, priority was given to projects that additionally involve empirical research, the collection of data, or the study of evidence or policy related to diversity, equity, and inclusion."
- Valerie Purdie-Greenaway, Associate Professor of Psychology, Columbia University
- Jennifer J. Manly, Professor of Neuropsychology, Columbia University
- Peter Bearman, Jonathan R. Cole Professor of Sociology, Columbia University
- Alfredo Spagna, Lecturer in the Discipline of Psychology, Columbia University
From faculty hiring in colleges and universities, to scientists mentoring the next generation of researchers, to top management teams deciding on their succession plans, creating and sustaining diverse and inclusive policies and programs is critical to addressing societal inequality. Yet, after decades of research, decision-makers lack clarity on what works and how to convince skeptics that “what works” works. Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives routinely situate some of their central briefings, materials, and arguments in what practitioners imagine are central findings in neuroscience. Each year hundreds and hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals are “treated” with DEI-inflected neuroscience. To date there has been no systematic investigation of what this neuroscientific evidence is, where it comes from, and how it relates to the field of neuroscience. Moreover, there has been no systematic investigation as to why, when, and how DEI practitioners access neuroscience knowledge to advance DEI-related initiatives. Of special interest is understanding how practitioners come to know about the neuroscience that they then think is relevant. It is this body of work that is the primary focus of our investigation.
This project has four major aims: (1) We will collect, compile, and organize neuroscientific research commonly found in DEI design content and the popular press; (2) We will analyze the structure of scientific knowledge related to DEI neuroscience, comparing neuroscientific evidence that finds its way into DEI content to the structure of the field of neuroscience; (3) We will use interviews to explore why DEI practitioners use neuroscience to advance DEI initiatives. We will also explore stakeholders’ beliefs and assumptions about the utility of neuroscience to generate DEI-related solutions. These stakeholders include neuroscientists who conduct research and science journalists and science writers who translate and popularize research; and, (4) We will begin to build a blueprint of more effective DEI-relevant neuroscience, more rigorous, critical, and informed DEI practitioners and science journalists who are more adept at translating DEI neuroscientific insights by organizing a workshop that brings together each of these stakeholders.
- Katherine Keyes, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University
- Amy Margolis, Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology, Columbia University
- David Pagliaccio, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobiology, Columbia University
- Tomas Paus, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Toronto
- Michael Milham, Vice President of Research and Founding Director, Center for the Developing Brain, Child Mind Institute
Research and breakthrough findings in pediatric neuroimaging are abundant and promise to change our understanding of psychopathological etiology and treatment. The past decade of pediatric neuroscience research has yielded critical insights about the structure of the developing brain and the links between our brains and our behavior. These insights have shed light on how social, emotional, linguistic, and cognitive processes interact and unfold through development. Among these landmark findings is the central role of the social environment in shaping brain development, including the impact of adverse childhood experiences, material and emotional deprivation, nutrition, access to resources, and income inequality. These findings underscore the meaningful role that public health can play in child development, yet there remains much to be learned about when, how, and why these exposures influence child health.
This project aims to bring methodological rigor to the study of social-environmental processes that include child neural, cognitive, and emotional development by incorporating epidemiological techniques, e.g., sampling weights, to harmonize pediatric neuroimaging data. The need for integration between epidemiology and neuroscience is reflected in the emerging field of population neuroscience, which asks us to consider how brain development intersects with macro-, meso-, and individual-level risk factors to use brain science to shape a healthier society. Such a mandate requires a careful assessment of sampling frames and bias that can stain our research findings and waste resources.