Broadening participation of marginalized scholars in STEM: The longitudinal influence of early-career climate experiences on professional pathways
Effective Years: 2023-2028
Higher education has struggled to make meaningful progress in broadening the participation in STEM at all levels. Person-Environment Fit (PE Fit) research reveals that education and career outcomes are improved by having an organizational environment that is congruent with one’s needs, skills, and values. Because PE Fit is theorized at multiple organizational levels, this study will examine inclusive climate at the levels of the STEM research group, department, and academic discipline. This study will build upon the PE Fit theory by addressing two novel aspects of environment: 1) authorship climate, in which intellectual contributions are fully welcomed and valued throughout the STEM research process, and 2) the COVID-19 pandemic, which created unprecedented disruptions in the personal and professional lives of early-career STEM scholars. The overarching goal is to increase understanding about the longitudinal effects of early-career climates and the COVID-19 pandemic on STEM career outcomes (productivity and attitudes) and professional pathways, especially for scholars from marginalized groups.
This proposed research is a mixed-methods study building on prior work that resulted in a survey of over 3500 graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and assistant professors in biology, economics, physics, and psychology in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (time 1). This project will support a longitudinal follow-up survey (time 2) of the scholars to examine the effect of academic climates and COVID-19 on career outcomes and pathways over time. The survey will be complemented with in-depth interviews (at time 3) with a diverse subsample (n = 80) of the participants. These interviews will provide insight into how scholars make sense of, navigate, and shape academic climates, and how multiple levels of climate interact with each other and with COVID-19 disruptions, to affect professional pathways. Importantly, this study includes a large number of individuals with multiple intersecting social identities which will allow for disaggregation along many factors which will increase understanding from the research. The focus on academic climates is based on the literature that directly links to faculty, postdoctoral scholar, and graduate student career outcomes including their productivity, commitment, turnover intentions, and satisfaction. This study will help increase understanding of the impact of climate factors in STEM education, research, and workplace environments will contribute to improving the climate of these settings for all.
This project is supported by NSF's EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field. Investments are made in critical areas that are essential, broad and enduring: STEM learning and STEM learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development. The program supports the accumulation of robust evidence to inform efforts to understand, build theory to explain, and suggest intervention and innovations to address persistent challenges in education.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.