The underrepresentation of Indigenous individuals, racialized groups, sexual minorities, and people with physical disabilities as trainees in the field of muscle physiology – including both nutritional and exercise science – remains an ongoing challenge. For example, the field of human nutrition is disproportionally represented by white faculty members with only 2.6% and 16.3% of nutrition faculty members at Canadian universities identifying as Indigenous or racialized minorities, respectively (1). Exercise science has similar representation issues with many Canadian Kinesiology departments – in which exercise science research is housed – being comprised of greater than 70% white faculty members with less than 10% of tenured faculty representing indigenous or racialized minority groups (2).
Individuals from equity-deserving groups encounter several systemic barriers of entry to nutrition and exercise science, including implicit bias during the hiring process. Disparities in funding and mentorship opportunities can create further inequities in training and research dissemination/promotion opportunities. Under representation of people with physical disabilities is attributed to many factors including ableism and the lack of accessibility, particularly in biochemistry-based laboratories such as our own. The lack of representation of indigenous, 2SLGBTQI+, and people with physical is particularly problematic given emerging evidence that the efficacy of nutrition and exercise interventions is impacted by race, gender, and activity status
Drs. Gurd and McGlory are committed to increasing the number of research team members who identify as members of equity-deserving groups, specifically those who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour. We also aim to maintain and/or improve gender balance within the Queen’s Muscle Physiology Lab (QMPL) (opportunities in QMPL) and the Nutrition and Metabolism Research Group (NMRG). Increasing the representation of research team members who identify as members of equity-deserving groups is a small step towards improving the diversity of perspectives and translatability of muscle physiology research in nutrition and exercise science.
The diversity of our candidate pool will be improved through inclusive job postings that are widely and publicly available for a minimum of 30 days. In addition, all job postings will include language that specifically encourages applications from equity-deserving groups. Further, all research team members involved in the hiring process will complete training regarding inclusive recruitment as well as unconscious bias training through the Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office. Team members involved in the hiring process will also be expected to reflect and draw upon knowledge gained from connections developed with on-campus and community partners supporting equity-deserving groups including Queen’s University Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre, Queen’s Black Academic Society, Queen’s Black Premedical Association and Queen’s Accessibility Hub.
Together, the QPML and NMRG have initiated a $1,500 summer student scholarship and research position in our laboratory specifically for Black and Indigenous students. This scholarship is intended to provide an opportunity for experiential learning while mitigating some financial pressure associated with volunteering in a research group and sacrificing traditional summer student job opportunities (or reduced hours). Drs. Gurd and McGlory are also committed to advertising other scholarships and research opportunities available to BIPOC students on our lab website and through lecture materials in our undergraduate and graduate courses.
To remove barriers to access to training and research dissemination/promotion opportunities for trainees Drs. Gurd and McGlory aim to: 1) improving access to funding for provincial, national, and international conference attendance, 2) providing research dissemination and presentation opportunities for trainees, and 3) increasing trainee access to specialist workshops within their respective research area.
To accomplish these aims, trainees will meet regularly with their respective supervisor to develop conference funding applications aimed at sources both within our institution and from external sources (e.g., those offered by conferences). Trainees will also attend webinars and workshops offered at Queen’s University including the “Writing Essentials” workshop to improve their writing skills to aid in the production of high-quality funding applications. In addition, the cost of trainee conference travel will be included in grant applications and conference travel will be supported financially whenever possible. Drs. Gurd and McGlory aim to support all trainees attending at least one provincial conference per year, one national conference every two years, and one specialist training workshop every two years.
To increase research dissemination/promotion opportunities for trainees, trainees will prepare and deliver community lectures and share their research at departmental research days. Trainees will also be able to generate knowledge translation social media posts which will be shared on institutional social media pages and, where possible, by community partners including Kingston Gets Active.
Drs. Gurd and McGlory recognize the importance of a more inclusive curriculum and adopting an intersectionality-based lens to combat blanket recommendations regarding nutrient requirements and exercise prescriptions given the impact of cultural aspects and lifestyle factors on diet, exercise, and metabolic health. To improve inclusivity the research and accomplishments of researchers from equity-deserving groups will be highlighted in laboratory meetings, knowledge mobilization events including departmental research presentations, and in undergraduate and graduate lectures. Honoraria will also be provided to attract guest speakers from equity-deserving groups and any resulting invited talks will be advertised widely across Queen’s campus.
In addition to providing the necessary supports for all research team members to engage in EDII training, all team members will be encouraged to become EDII champions by volunteering/applying for leadership positions for EDII initiatives. Finally, the QMPL and NMRG are committed to ensuring lab accessibility for individuals with physical disabilities whose engagement in molecular laboratory work may be prevented by a lack of infrastructure and poor design.
How Do We Move Beyond the Flawed Paradigm of White Intellectual Superiority – Ben Arhen and Brendon Gurd
1. McBurney MI. (2022) Are professors of human nutrition faculty at Canadian universities representative with respect to common social constructs of gender and race? Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 47: 517-520.
2. Sullivan EK. & Ali AE. (2023) Are kinesiology programs oppressive? a content analysis of Canadian university kinesiology curricula and websites. Sport, Education and Society
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