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COVID-19 threatens faculty diversity: postdoctoral scholars call for action


Despite substantial investment and effort by federal agencies and institutions to improve the diversity of the professoriate, progress is excruciatingly slow. One program that aims to enhance faculty diversity is the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences. IRACDA supports the training of a diverse cohort of postdoctoral scholars who will seek academic research and teaching careers. The San Diego IRACDA program has trained 109 postdoctoral scholars since its inception in 2003; 59% are women and 63% are underrepresented (UR) Black/African-American, Latinx/Mexican-American, and Indigenous scientists. Sixty-four percent obtained tenure-track faculty positions, including a substantial 32% at research-intensive institutions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic crisis threatens to upend IRACDA efforts to improve faculty diversity, and academia is at risk of losing a generation of diverse, talented scholars. Here, a group of San Diego IRACDA postdoctoral scholars reflects on these issues and discusses recommendations to enhance the retention of UR scientists to avoid a "lost generation" of promising UR faculty scholars.

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