Diversity and Outreach
The Institute for Rock Magnetism (IRM) at the University of Minnesota stands firmly against the systemic racism that afflicts society and causes immeasurable daily harm to Black People, Indigenous Peoples, and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as any other form of discrimination.
We recognize portions of our organization lack diversity and mirror the inequality existing in academia and research, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM): we hold ourselves accountable and must do better. In addition to our decades-long mission of serving the greater geomagnetic community by providing access to state-of-the-art facilities and technical expertise, we commit to improving ourselves and our outreach to local, regional, national, and international community partners. As a science support organization, we are committed to providing a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment to all in our community.
IRM personnel work to broaden participation of underrepresented groups, develop freely available and widely disseminated educational materials and best practices, and conduct outreach activities.
Diversity of IRM personnel
- Personnel - The personnel of the IRM includes all faculty, staff, postdocs, long term visitors, graduate students, and undergraduate students that regularly use the facility. We recognize that portions of our personnel lack diversity and mirror the inequality existing in academia and research, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM): we hold ourselves accountable and must do better. Our own past experiences and prior studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and tend to consider input from multiple perspectives. These are qualities that we want to continue to cultivate within the IRM and we are committed to recruiting and supporting as diverse a personnel as possible. The timescale for such change may vary by role and there has been a noticeable improvement in the diversity of ethnic, racial, and gender identities represented by our postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate members. As opportunities arise to welcome new faculty and staff into the IRM, issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion will be important considerations. Ultimately, the long term success of the IRM will depend on our ability to recruit and support a diverse personnel.
Mission of the IRM
- RAC - The purpose of the IRM Review and Advisory Committee (RAC) is to help evaluate NSF Visiting Fellowship applications and to provide strategic feedback on lab matters and proposals. IRM faculty and staff aim to recruit RAC members across a broad range of ethnic, racial, gender and national identities. Our own past experiences and prior studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and tend to consider input from multiple perspectives; two qualities that we hope will help the IRM maintain a high level of excellence.
- Mail-in program - Sometimes the most marginalized researchers are unable to visit the IRM. The goal of the IRM’s Mail-In program is to provide a level of access to our facility for everyone, especially to those who are not otherwise able to travel to Minnesota. In this way, we try to provide others with critical data, to work with them to make their research a success, and to encourage them to participate more directly within the broader geomagnetic community.
- Visitors - Serving our visitors is one of the IRM’s core missions and is one of the most direct ways that we can welcome, train, and support researchers from traditionally underrepresented groups. The diversity of our visitors is one of several considerations during the evaluation of NSF Visiting Fellowship applications. We also regularly host Informal Visitors, either on a more focussed short-term basis (Guest Researchers), or a more long-term basis, e.g., six months/year (Extended Visitors, requiring external funding). These applications are not competitively evaluated as the Visiting Fellows’ and are accommodated throughout the year as scheduling permits, and/or must be coordinated with IRM faculty who agree to host the applicant. Such visits are intended for scholars at all levels and constitute a great opportunity for mentorship/collaborative work or independent investigation. We encourage researchers from all backgrounds to inquire about potential visits to our lab.
IRM Sponsored Events and Newsletter
- Summer Schools - Every two years IRM Summer Schools in Rock Magnetism attract ~20 graduate students and postdocs from across the United States and the world and provide two weeks of lectures on rock magnetism fundamentals and hands-on training with the array of geophysical instruments maintained by the IRM. Applications to participate in the summer schools often fill up within days of their announcement. Among several other factors, IRM faculty and staff consider applicants’ ethnic, racial, and gender identity and financial means when selecting summer school participants and awarding scholarships.
- Conferences - Every two years IRM Conferences on Rock Magnetism draw scientists from around the globe to discuss ongoing research challenges within the geomagnetic community. Often these conferences result in the organization of collaborative partnerships that ultimately overcome these challenges and push our collective science ever farther. Applications to attend in-person IRM conferences often reach capacity within days of their announcement. Among several other factors, IRM faculty and staff consider applicants’ ethnic, racial, and gender identity when selecting conference participants. In 2021, we held our first ever virtual IRM Conference on Rock Magnetism. This online approach dramatically expanded the number and diversity of participants in the meeting. We plan to organize future IRM Conferences in ways that maximize the participation of all members of the geomagnetic community, while at the same time trying to maintain the intimate intensity that has made previous meetings so successful. Additionally, the talks and discussion sessions resulting from the IRM Conferences are freely available to view on the IRM’s YouTube channel and website, as a means of making science more accessible to the larger community.
- IRM Quarterly - The IRM Quarterly is the lab’s newsletter and it shares short didactic articles on rock-magnetic research, new instruments, techniques, meeting reports, as well as descriptions of the research of recent NSF Visiting Fellows. IRM Quarterly articles are written in a manner that is not permissible in peer-reviewed journals, aiming at reaching a broader readership in a way that is easily accessible and educational while maintaining the highest scientific standards. Importantly, each issue also contains a comprehensive list of all of the recent peer-reviewed contributions in the rock-magnetic literature. The IRM Quarterly is distributed electronically to over 500 individuals around the world and past issues are archived for public use. We view this newsletter as a means for expanding access to our multi-user facility. The articles, summaries, and lists of recently published papers allow researchers from around the world to benefit from the IRMs activities and those of its visitors.
- Research Projects - IRM faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates all strive to advance their own independent research programs. An individual’s decision to commit themselves to a particular research project is influenced by many factors, often including a project’s unique subject focus, the availability of funding, the timing or duration of the project, and/or its geographic location. More recently, all IRM personnel have become aware that outreach opportunities and the ability to work with individuals and groups from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM is a critical consideration when deciding which projects to join. We are committed to choosing research projects that broaden participation of underrepresented groups, develop freely available and widely disseminated educational materials and best practices, and conduct outreach activities.
- Academic Partners - Most magnetic studies of natural materials are inherently collaborative and involve partnerships between academic institutions. The selection of academic partners is often based on factors such as prior research experience, access to novel instrumentation, or geographic proximity. IRM personnel are also committed to choosing academic partners with the aim of broadening participation of underrepresented groups in the geosciences and conducting meaningful outreach activities.
- Community Partners - Many magnetic researchers study topics that require partnering with non-academic community groups. Whether it is documenting the movement of airborne dust in urban centers, tracing the flux of soil particles into lakes and rivers, or working with tribal organizations on geoarchaeology projects, it is often critical for the success of a project to be able to build meaningful relationships with community groups. The IRM also uses these non-academic collaborations as avenues for public outreach, to provide individuals with opportunities to participate in geoscience research that matters to their communities.
- K-12 - The most effective way to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM is to reach out to children at multiple points during their formative years from kindergarten through high school (K-12). Many students are simply unaware that the geosciences offer a number of viable professional pathways with stable and lucrative employment. This kind of outreach is only successful if done regularly over decades. IRM personnel participate in outreach events with local K-12 schools and are committed to contributing to meaningful outreach activities that will ultimately improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the geosciences.
Educational Resources from the IRM
- Access to educational resources - In addition to the individual avenues for DEI efforts described in the figure above, we strive to make science and educational materials as accessible as possible on a global scale. We view our website as a “global hub” for magnetic application research in the Earth Sciences and compile various types of educational resources.
- Software - In-house Rock-magnetic processing software that works in conjunction with the IRM database and data stored within is available from our website. Additionally, we compile links to externally-written software that are freely available for download.
- Short-courses and lecture notes - We make educational material available in the forms of lecture slides and direct links to the IRM YouTube channel for a variety of presentations and discussions from past IRM Conferences.
- Hitchhiker's guide to Magnetism - An introductory essential-textbook on rock magnetism written by IRM Director Bruce Moskowitz.
- Other resources - We make available a list of facilities at the University of Minnesota which may prove complementary for conducting research at the IRM, for material characterization or expertise offered. We also list links to databases curated and hosted outside of the IRM, as well as freely available educational materials provided by others.