Feds dole out $3M+ to fight 'microaggressions' in STEM fields

The National Science Foundation (NSF) gave out more than three million dollars to fight “implicit bias,” “microaggressions,” and “lack of diversity” in STEM fields this July.

Founded by Congress in 1950, the NSF is a federal agency that seeks to “promote the progress of science” by funding research and collaborating with scientists, according to its website. This month alone, the NSF has funded at least three social-justice themed projects, which together cost taxpayers $3,173,684.

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On July 5, the NSF granted $174,932 to fund an “Implicit Bias Conference,” which will be organized by Stanford University professor Jon Krosnick and held at the end of August. Researchers and professors at the conference will review the scientific literature on the concept of implicit bias and “identify fruitful directions for future work.”

Upon the conclusion of the conference, researchers will also create a report of their findings about implicit bias, which will be disseminated wildly to “help business and government agencies to work more efficiently and effectively to understand and address bias,” according to the grant description.

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The NSF also gave out another social-justice themed grant on July 5, this time awarding the University of New Hampshire $999,752 to explore strategies for preventing “bias incidents” perpetrated against minorities in science, building upon prior research funded by the NSF, which found that “bias incidents in the academic workplace create a negative climate for STEM women faculty and for other faculty with minority status.”

Over the next five years, with the support of the NSF grant, UNH will collaborate with researchers from Ohio State University, the University of Virginia, and the University of New Hampshire to create a comprehensive “bias awareness guide and intervention tool.”

Once created, the “bias awareness guide and intervention tool” will be distributed to professional academic organizations to raise awareness of bias issues, and will hopefully “maximize positive workplace climate,” according to Christine Shea, the lead investigator for the project.

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Just five days later, on July 10, the NSF granted $1,999,000 for the “REvolutionizing Diversity Of Engineering” project, which promises to “dramatically improve the diversity, inclusion, and quality” of students and faculty in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University.

In addition to creating online modules for students with “non-traditional demographic characteristics” and training faculty “to address and remediate microaggressions and implicit biases and incorporate active learning pedagogical techniques in their classrooms,” the project will also seek to increase the aerospace engineering department’s visibility by shifting its focus away from “airplanes and spacecraft” in favor of “energy systems, the environment, healthcare, and quality of life.”

While the project focuses almost exclusively at promoting diversity at TAMU, the NSF grant will also fund a yearly conference between aerospace engineering department heads across the United States, according to the grant abstract.

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Bobby Mixon, a public affairs official from the NSF, told Campus Reform in a statement that projects receive funding after what is called a “merit review process” designed to root out frivolous ideas.

“Grant proposals submitted to NSF are generated by the proposing institution and principal investigators involved in the proposal,” Mixon explained. “Proposals are reviewed by NSF using our merit review process and awards are recommended based on that process.”

The lead investigators for each of the three projects did not respond to requests for comment from Campus Reform.

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