AAAS will bring together a diverse group of professionals in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) to tackle the barriers to individuals entering and staying in careers in those fields.
The first Multidisciplinary Working Group (MWG), called Empowering Career Pathways in STEMM (ECP), will focus on developing recommendations that acknowledge and value the variety of professional journeys that contribute equally to the scientific enterprise.
“We need to abandon the idea of a so-called gold standard for what a STEMM career looks like and outdated notions of success that have resulted in excluding and losing talent and, more importantly, potential,” said Julie Rosen, AAAS’ director of strategic initiatives, who was brought on board to launch and oversee the MWGs.
Some of the major barriers to individuals entering STEMM careers and challenges to retaining talent include exclusionary practices that limit access to career opportunities, disincentives for those wanting to make career changes, unrealistic goals for success, and disconnects between formal training and on-the-job competencies.
“The landscape that early-career scientists are facing is nebulous and, for those coming from communities or backgrounds that are underrepresented in STEMM, it can seem insurmountable,” said Gilda Barabino, chair of the AAAS Board of Directors and president of Olin College of Engineering. “By identifying ways to reimagine how a career in science or engineering may play out, the first AAAS working group will empower multiple paths that can help strengthen the STEMM enterprise.”
The ECP MWG will capture the perspectives of many groups of science and engineering professionals, including those applying their training in non-STEMM sectors. Their charge is to develop scalable actions aimed at creating new and flexible entry and pivot points for STEMM careers. Working group members will also identify meaningful incentives and benchmarks for success within the STEMM ecosystem.
The ECP MWG recommendations will include both small steps that can be taken at the individual, office or department level, as well as broader actions enacted at the leadership levels to achieve change in how STEMM career pathways are perceived and promoted. The group will also incorporate a plan for wider implementation.
Critical to the success of this first MWG, as well as future working groups, is the inclusion of a broad range of working group members, including those with lived experience or scholarly expertise on the selected topic, from academic and non-academic sectors, and at various stages of their careers. MWG members will also seek input from outside the group to ensure additional perspectives are seen and heard.
Importantly, the ECP MWG represents one of multiple approaches AAAS and its partners are using to address the pressing issue of STEMM workforce development, including the crucial work of one of AAAS’ flagship programs, Inclusive STEMM Ecosystems for Equity & Diversity (ISEED), and the STEMM Opportunity Alliance initiative, on which AAAS is a leading partner.
AAAS MWGs were proposed as part of the association’s governance modernization process with oversight by the AAAS Council, its member-elected governing body. The Council will convene future working groups to address high-priority issues in STEMM that cut across the association’s 24 disciplinary sections and deeply affect its current and future members and other champions of STEMM.
The ECP MWG will kick off in late April, with most of its work occurring over the subsequent 8-10 months, an aggressive but intentional timeline underscoring the urgency of the topic the working group will address.
“Throughout its history, AAAS has been known for doing transformational work—from policy, to publishing, to advocacy, to training,” said Rosen. “The MWGs are an evolution of this work by bringing together people with diverse experiences to hyper-focus on a timely topic with an emphasis on action.”
AAAS is currently accepting nominations, including self-nominations, for those interested in participating in the ECP MWG, as well as proposals for future MWGs. Learn more by visiting the AAAS Multidisciplinary Working Groups page.