Ensure balanced committee representation to minimize biased gatekeeping
We are all biased. What can we do? The ALBA Declaration on Equity & Inclusion advises to implement unbiased selection, hiring, and assessment, by ensuring balanced committee representation to minimize biased gatekeeping. This article provides useful tips & resources on best practices about soliciting diverse applications.
Gatekeepers for academic progress effectively make the key decisions and determine who is successful, whether for grants, appointments, promotions or publications. For example, the primary “currency” of academia is publication of research results in peer-reviewed journals whose gatekeepers are the editors. Editors tend to be primarily dominant elites, who demonstrate substantial same-gender or same-skin color preferences in peer-review. Women (and minorities) are underrepresented in numbers of submissions to journals, serving as peer-reviewers, and appointments as editors. Similar issues exist for other academic gatekeepers.
- Review your institution’s records for women and other underrepresented groups in gatekeeper roles and passing through the various “academic gates” (see Fig.1).
- Include women and minorities on all positions involving decision-making.
- Engage with gatekeepers up and down the hierarchy to discuss assumptions about the degree that meritocracy can exist in biased organizations.
Data on bias in gatekeepers:
- Gender bias in peer review; Helmer et al., 2017, e-Life, Max Planck (DE)
- Biased Evaluation Committees Promote Fewer Women, The Scientist
- Expertise vs. Bias in Evaluation: Evidence from the NIH, Danielle Li (Harward Business School)
Examples of best practices:
- Engaging Gatekeepers, Optimizing Decision Making, and Mitigating Bias (see Fig.1); Vinkenburg 2017, J Appl Beh Sci, VU University (NL)
- What to do When Facing Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting (YAMMM); STEM women (US)
- How to banish manels and manferences from scientific meetings, Nature