Strategies to Support International Collaborations for Women at Minority Institutions

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Katie Seely-Gant, Energetics Technology Center, St. Charles, MD
This poster will explore concrete strategies to establish and maintain successful international collaborations. Broader implications of international collaborations, particularly for underrepresented groups, will also be discussed. Background: This poster presents evaluation findings from AAAS’ Mentoring Women in International Research Collaborations (MWIRC) program. This program offered 15 U.S.-based, female scientists funding to secure and support an international research collaboration. PIs were required to be fem Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and to include and graduate student or postdoc mentee. In this project, the authors looked at the complex relationship between institutional types, gender, and ethnicity, which formed the basis for the approach taken by the MWIRC program. The key research question is: What are the benefits and pitfalls for faculty women from MSIs associated with international collaborations?  What are the larger implications of faculty participation in international collaborations for students at MSIs, particularly mentoring applications in international collaborations? Methods: This evaluation involved multiple modes of inquiry and data collection including online surveys of PIs and mentees, telephone interviews with PIs, and document analyses of applications and reports. Semi-structured phone interviews were completed with PIs to capture unique aspects of the international collaboration given the PIs’ diverse institutions, fields, and levels of experience. These qualitative interviews provided rich data to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the MWRIC program as well as to learn more about the research environment at MSIs through the PIs individual experiences. Findings: Project findings support the notion that global competency is developed by both living and working in a foreign environment, developing foreign language skills, and from direct interaction with a foreign collaborator within one’s field of study. The collaborations were also highly productive, with 92% of participants publishing with their collaborators. Additionally, the majority of PIs were able to secure follow-on funding to continue their collaborations.  Conclusions: The findings of the MWIRC evaluation indicate that international research collaboration projects are mutually beneficial to all parties, namely through multidimensional mentoring and increased research productivity. By targeting resource-restricted institutions, such as MSIs, funders can also encourage the participation of underrepresented groups in the STEM workforce. Although barriers remain, MWIRC provides a useful model on engaging both women and minorities in STEM fields and encouraging their participation in the STEM enterprise.