Skip to content

Objective 1

Deepen the community’s knowledge of the effects of racism on the participation and
retention of black, brown, and indigenous people in Geoscience

Objective 2

Use the existing literature, expert opinion, and personal experiences to develop anti-racist policies and strategies

Objective 3

Share, discuss, and modify anti-racist policies and strategies within a
dynamic community network and on a national stage

Many geoscience programs and societies are currently having conversations surrounding racism. These conversations are inspired by recent reminders (e.g., George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Aumad Aubery’s death) that the injustices in society are reflected and perpetuated in Geoscience. Morris et al., (2020) appropriately described the effects of racism on the careers of black, brown, and indigenous Geoscientists when they stated that “in place of mass incarceration, there is mass exclusion [and] in place of police brutality, [geoscience] careers are killed through forced attrition and under-investment.” 2 Like the rest of the world and academia, the Geosciences need to unlearn racism.

We designed a community-wide journal-reading and policy-design curriculum to help the Geosciences unlearn racism and improve accessibility, justice, equity, and inclusion (AJEDI). We call this program Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE; Similar to Geoscience departments and societies across the country, we believe that the Geosciences need to implement policies that help shift the culture from one that is, at best, passively not racist to one that is actively anti-racist. To design these policies and make the cultural shift, Geoscience departments and societies are currently discussing and developing anti-racist plans through town halls3, commentaries4, petitions5, opinion pieces6, social media campaigns7, book clubs, and bias training. The resulting anti-racist policies will only be as good as the data that inform them, the people who uphold them, and the resources that go into supporting them. Anti-racist policies will also be insufficient without deep and sustained education and reflection. The policies we develop must, therefore, be well-informed by multiple ways of knowing (i.e., personal experiences and scientific literature) and well-supported by the entire community, especially by those with the most power to change the system (i.e., people who are overrepresented and or control how policies are created and implemented).

In this virtual era where COVID-19 is real, book clubs have become popular ways to increase one’s knowledge of or begin the conversations surrounding the effects of racism on the careers of black, brown, and indigenous Geoscientists. The utilization of literary work as a medium for discussions allows the book club participants to reflect on the existing scholarship and share their personal experiences. Book club discussions allow different perspectives to be molded and acts as an effective tool for increasing awareness and understanding.10 However, local and virtual book clubs remain limited because the discussions and sharing of information occur only among small, isolated groups. As scientists, we know that the best ideas often emerge when we honor the existing literature, test and discuss their appropriateness for new sites, and when the entire community contributes to a refining of those ideas, as is done through the peer-review process. We should thus apply the similar processes when designing our anti-racist policies.

URGE addresses the problem of siloing (i.e., the limited reach of book clubs) by facilitating small weekly reading groups that will fit into a larger dynamic community network. URGE has four primary objectives. They are to (1) deepen the community’s knowledge of the effects of racism on the participation and retention of people of color in Geoscience, (2) use the existing literature and expert opinion to develop anti-racist policies, strategies, and structures that limit implicit bias, (3) expand departmental and institutional anti-racist conversations to a national stage, and (4) develop intimate groups that will hold each other accountable to the anti-racist policies that will be put in place.

Our goal is for lab groups, departments, professional societies, and others to form ‘pods’ that will serve as their discussion groups throughout the project. Resources for effective group discussions, group leading, registering pods, and finding or joining pods that suit your needs (i.e. affinity groups) will be available on the URGE website. Each group will participate in eight, two-week units that incorporate readings, interviews, and discussion focused on learning about and implementing efficient anti-racist and inclusion strategies. The first week of each session will be dedicated to independent reading followed by a live interview with the author of the paper or expert on racism. The interview will provide additional insights into the readings and will allow pod members to ask questions. Interview recordings will be made available on the URGE website. The second week of the unit will be dedicated to pod discussions, where the interview and readings are discussed and used to generate anti-racist strategies and policies. Each pod will then share these strategies and policies on the URGE website, so that the pods can see, discuss, and learn from each other. At the end of the curriculum each pod will submit a reflection, works in progress, and future action plan….

URGE’s vision is to empower geoscientists, especially those who are historically over-represented, to implement anti-racist strategies into their work and their careers and take ownership of the need for real change in our discipline. We encourage pods to share their action items over social media (using #URGEO) and on the URGE website. We will have discussion boards available on the website for everyone to see what policies and strategies other pods have developed and to share ideas. Please visit our website at and sign up your pod now! Come help us unlearn racism in geoscience.

Scroll To Top