2011 Conference on Understanding Interventions

Join us at the 4th annual Conference on Understanding Interventions occurring May 26 to 28 at Vanderbilt University. Our abstract below was selected for a Symposium Presentation for the session “What Program Directors Need to Know”. This is our second time participating in this conference since we previously presented a poster in 2009.

The Conference on Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Research Careers was established to facilitate dissemination and exchange of hypothesis-based research on interventions and initiatives that broaden participation in science and engineering research careers. The conference is designed to create a dialogue among behavioral/social science and education researchers, evaluators, and faculty in STEM fields who participate in interventions programs.


Preliminary Survey Results of a National Database
of Diversity Postdocs

Alberto Roca, Founder, MinorityPostdoc.org

Diversity studies and intervention efforts have often overlooked underrepresented minority (URM) postdocs in the academic pipeline probably because this group is difficult to track. This presentation will describe progress toward establishing a national database of URM postdocs. Since 2003, we have collected contact information of postdocs involved in various diversity interventions such as fellowships, conferences, workshops, and affinity groups. In addition, the author has an extensive personal network from participation in diversity postdoctoral communities including invitation-only conferences. This network is magnified by virtual connections using social media tools. Finally, brute force searches of majority funding mechanisms, conferences, and institutions have been used to find URM postdocs who are not currently involved in diversity interventions. Complementing the contact list is the author’s MinorityPostdoc.org website that features information about career advice, jobs, funding, mentoring, and diversity issues. The Resources page lists over 90 different diversity funding opportunities and is the reason why the website remains a top web search result when using keywords such as “minority”, “diversity”, and “postdoc”. This visibility attracts current and future postdocs who are also added to the email list. The resulting email contact list has been used to publicize professional development panels organized by the author. The list has approximately 950 postdocs that is kept current upon each mass emailing.

How does the MinorityPostdoc.org contact database compare with the national pool of URM postdocs? Demographic data were analyzed from national and institutional surveys resulting in these average percentages of URM postdocs in the domestic population: 3% African American, 4% Hispanic, and 0.5% Native American. Using estimates of the total U.S. postdoc population and assuming that at least half of postdocs in the U.S. are foreign, we estimate that the total number of URM postdocs is 1600 ± 500. There are caveats to these figures such as the competing factors of (a) self-reported ethnicity data from surveys versus (b) the assumption that underrepresented postdocs are evenly distributed across the nation.

We will present results of our first survey of the MinorityPostdoc.org contact database. We collected demographic information as well as career choice plans. An important question was what fraction of the email contact database were URM postdocs since participation in a diversity intervention is not diagnostic for an ethnic group. For example, individuals in the IRACDA postdoc program teach at a minority serving institution but the postdoc themselves may not self-identify as an URM. We will present aggregate data about survey respondent’s ethnicity, age, gender, citizenship status, geographic distribution, length of time as a postdoc, research discipline, and future career plans.

In summary, our efforts are directed toward uncovering the invisible minority postdoc population. Stakeholders and recruiters could utilize our database for engaging URM postdocs especially for faculty diversity interventions. In particular, we are actively seeking collaborators from the higher education community for future, rigorous quantitative and qualitative studies of our unique national database of diversity postdocs.

last updated 20-Jul-2011