Striving for Equity and Inclusion: The RAY Fellowship

Greetings from Portland, Oregon, where I am attending the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting (OSM), a gathering for scientific exchange on ocean issues across a range of disciplines. Sarah Cooley, Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Ocean Acidification shared an overview of the conference with us on Monday. As she noted, the range of disciplines and subject matter represented at the conference is vast, from “Changing ocean biogeochemistry in a high CO2 world” to “Scicomm beyond writing. An incomplete guide to using memes, animated gifs and infographics to tell your science story.”

As a social scientist working in interlinked science and policy arenas, I’m excited by the increasing interdisciplinary focus I see at academic conferences like this. My own participation in the conference centers around two themes—how to support networks interlinking science, society, policy and governance, and how to ensure that our work becomes more equitable and inclusive at all stages, from the scientific questions and research we decide to pursue to the policies we implement. Both science and policy practice have often been used to exclude people or negate the value of their contributions, and it is incumbent on all of us to reverse that.

I’ll be presenting on one effort to do so in the marine conservation non-governmental organization (NGO) sphere. The Roger Arliner Young (RAY) Marine Conservation Diversity Fellowship is a multi-NGO partnership to create year-long, paid fellowships for recent college undergraduates, focusing on increasing opportunities for engagement from and with historically underrepresented communities. The RAY fellowship, which is now recruiting for its third cohort of fellows, describes the goal of the fellowship as being “to equip recent college graduates with an undergraduate degree with the tools and support they need to become leaders in the ocean conservation field; one that fully represents the rich and diverse communities within the United States.”

To this end, applicants can apply for year-long, paid positions at a program partner’s organization (open positions for the coming year are listed here; the application deadline is March 16). Fellows also receive $1,000 for professional development (for example, attending scientific conferences and events) and work with both external and internal mentors to expand their networks, gain additional experience and help navigate career decisions. Current fellows are working on issues ranging from protecting NOAA’s budget in Congress to combatting ocean acidification through science and policy engagement to increasing corporate support of marine conservation.

While one fellowship program cannot, by itself, address years of inequity, Ocean Conservancy is committed to continuing to work on solutions. The RAY fellowship is part of our effort to support young scientists and practitioners in a field that has often been closed to them, and now more than ever, to increase awareness of the importance of ensuring that our science and policy represent all our society, not just a privileged few.

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