Sign up to participate in the SJS Collective during the Spring 2021 semester here.
Socially-Just Science (SJS) is a trainee-led collective of scientists who envision and work towards social justice. We are building a community of folks who can safely and authentically engage in discussion about the ways oppression and liberation appear in and influence scientific practice in their own research and fields of study. Our collective enables and empowers members to intentionally disrupt oppressive ideologies embedded in their science and work toward reclaiming their theoretical assumptions, questions, hypotheses and methods. We provide opportunities for scientists to be exposed to and practice participating in social justice conversations and deeply interrogate their own socialization into systems of oppression by using a combination of approaches grounded in a social justice framework. This includes facilitated discussions, book clubs, modular workshops, and engaging with guest speakers. This community is for all to benefit from whether they choose to be a core member or an occasional participant, we welcome you to come be a part of change in the greater community. By centering on the intersection of science and social justice, where all content and action planning is tied back to the science, science education, and scientific community of the members, we are refocusing on what it means to be a socially just scientist. This community brings the importance of inclusion, representation, and respect to the forefront for the benefit of the larger STEM community.
- To form a community of scientists who are committed to learning about social justice, integrating social justice into their scientific practice, and holding one another accountable to the vision of socially-just science
- To identify ways we can make our science and scientific community more socially just
- To educate ourselves and our broader scientific communities about social justice issues within a community where it is safe to make mistakes and grow
- To empower members of our community to start conversations and take action
- To engage in collective action to address injustices in our communities and science
SJS started as a personal passion project of NSB graduate student Kate Otter. In Fall of 2019, she started in the Social Justice Education Graduate Certificate program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and wanted to talk to others in her Neuroscience and Behavior graduate program about these topics. She created SJS through soliciting a core group of interested folks in the department, including lab technicians, post-bacs, graduate students, post-docs and faculty. The group met monthly in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 to discuss Social Justice topics broadly and gradually moved to more distributed facilitation, and a growing focus of the intersection between science and social justice.
Then, in the Summer of 2020, as the civil rights movement and global pandemic disproportionately killing Black people came to a head, Kate decided to offer a book group that would focus on white supremacy. Following input from community members, the book group started with White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and was open to all trainees in NSB. At the end of the summer, Kate reflected on the trajectory of SJS to clarify its goals and approaches.
In the Fall, SJS is returning to its original goals and methods centering socially-just science. Several of the core members designed and piloted the first modular 4-week Workshop of SJS: “Making our Science Racially-Just” and we plan to continue designing modular workshops and running future iterations. Kate is excited to continue to grow SJS, with the help and guidance of core members so that it can create cultural change and continue to provide a space for scientists to engage with Social Justice.
The future of SJS is the creation of a collective that spans beyond the Neuroscience and Behavior program at UMass Amherst. We envision SJS growing with a distributed leadership model where everyone takes a piece of ownership in the knowledge produced from our SJS-related activities. SJS as a collective, will eventually span universities around the country where scientists engage in collective action to work together for a socially-just science and world. We envision SJS including a bank of resources that can be shared among chapters to aid in facilitating discussions or running workshops.
Interested in starting an SJS chapter in your department or university? Check back soon for more information.