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Executive Summary

Occurring in tandem with growing social activism around anti-Black racism and police brutality, the COVID-19 pandemic and the institution, state, and federal responses to it upended numerous systems, disrupted careers, and cost lives in a way that exacerbated existing social inequities, including for STEM faculty. While the Biden Administration has recently declared the pandemic over amid calls to “return to normal,” COVID-19 continues to take lives and livelihoods differentially. A “return to normal” is not only undesirable, but it upholds oppressive systems and institutions that need to change. How, then, can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to push for new, more equitable norms in our institutions of higher education and beyond?

The ADVANCE Resource and Coordination (ARC) Network convened scholars from multiple disciplines for a 2-day workshop to prioritize under-studied research questions and policy issues within the general theme of Towards Greater Equity for STEM Faculty: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Research Advisory Board of the ARC Network, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative at the Women in Engineering Proactive Network (WEPAN), identified this theme as a primary area in need of further exploration in academic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workplaces.

Members of the workshop planning committee nominated scholars working in this area who represent a diverse array of disciplines, research specialties, institution types, career stages, and social demographic backgrounds. We convened more than two dozen scholars and administrators in December 2022 to participate in a series of facilitator-led discussions. Our aim was to develop a research, intervention, and policy agenda to advance our understanding of how institutional responses to the pandemic affected equity goals and how best to meet equity challenges in the coming years.

By the end of our time together, the group identified these research and policy priorities:

  • Understanding the longitudinal impacts of institutional COVID-19 responses on STEM faculty experiences
  • Redefining faculty excellence through equitable metrics for change
  • Exploring the multi-layered impacts of COVID-19 decision making on disabled faculty
  • Challenging the ideal worker model of faculty labor
  • Examining the role of professional societies during and after the pandemic for catalyzing
    faculty equity

These priority topics emerged from extensive discussion among workshop participants and are elaborated in the full report. We encourage researchers, policymakers, and change agents to pursue these topics and explore the questions described within this report, which will be aided by collaboration across disciplines, including social sciences, humanities, and practitioners of STEM disciplines.

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