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In harmony with Oak Ridge National Laboratory's vision for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA), the CNMS is committed to creating a Positive and Inclusive Environment (PIER) in Nanoscience. ORNL and the CNMS thrive on the premise that diversity is essential, equity is inherent, inclusion is innate, and accessibility is achievable. Those core principles provide direction for creating a welcoming environment that attracts, supports, and inspires a diverse and engaged workforce; fuels the scientific mission and impact; fosters greater accessibility for diverse communities; and increases the impact of DOE-supported research and development.   

ERKCZ01 - Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) Plan 

This appendix describes a comprehensive plan to implement diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) strategies with respect to user access and research activities at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS). The CNMS is committed to advancing the Department of Energy (DOE) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL’s) DEIA initiatives for the activities proposed in the CNMS field work proposal (FWP) and across the broader scientific community. The primary focus is to create and maintain a positive and inclusive work environment for users, students, post docs, research staff, and support staff at the CNMS and ORNL. This requires fostering a productive environment and contributing to the engagement, growth, and inclusion of groups with diverse backgrounds, including groups that are historically underrepresented in the research community. The long-term goal is to provide an environment characterized by equality and equity that will help bridge the gaps between historically underrepresented groups in in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. 


ORNL’s DEI vision and mission 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) thrives on the premise that diversity is essential, equity is inherent, inclusion is innate, and accessibility is achievable. These principles guide ORNL’s DEIA vision to create a welcoming environment that attracts, supports, and inspires a diverse and engaged workforce; fuels our scientific mission and impact; fosters greater accessibility for diverse communities; and increases the impact of DOE-supported research and development ( ORNL’s reputation has continued to grow as a leading institution in the development of the future workforce, education, and training. In FY 2022, ORNL had 29 GEM fellows and was elected to the National GEM Consortium Board of Directors, recognized as a top supporter of historically black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions (engineering programs), and named by Minority Engineer as a Top 20 Government Employer. 


ORNL has established partnerships with multiple educational institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs such as Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, North Carolina A&T, and Morgan State University). These partnerships aim to provide accessibility to DOE capabilities and to leverage successful strategies for DEIA initiatives. Furthermore, ORNL has established undergraduate and graduate internship programs, including the GEM Fellowship and “JUMP (Join the discussion, Unveil innovation, Make connections, Promote tech-to-market) into STEM” that aim for the inclusion of underrepresented minorities. Additionally, ORNL hosts interns through the DOE-funded Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program and the Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program (SCGSR). ORNL hosts middle and high school students and K-12 educators through the Appalachian STEM Academy, impacting the local community and offering exposure of students, often from economically stressed communities, to STEM fields and research. ORNL facilitates faculty and student visits to the Laboratory, as well as visits of ORNL staff and Laboratory Leadership to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). ORNL’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) act as networking groups and support networks for staff and provide input to the Laboratory’s leadership relevant to DEIA challenges. ORNL supports events and activities organized throughout the year to bring awareness to and celebrate diversity and inclusion, such as the Black History Month Celebration, Women’s Leadership Workshop, Pride Month, and more, while it also leverages ERGs to assist with staff recruitment. 


CNMS’s DEI vision and mission for Users 

The CNMS offers the national and international user community access to staff expertise and state-of-the-art equipment for a broad range of nanoscience research, including nanomaterials synthesis, nanofabrication, imaging/microscopy/characterization, and theory/modeling/simulation. Users join a vibrant research community that brings together ORNL research staff, technical support staff, students, postdoctoral fellows, and collaborating guest scientists. The CNMS promotes equity, inclusions, and accessibility for users through multiple pathways. First and foremost, the CNMS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility that is open to all interested potential users without regard to nationality or institutional affiliation and allocation of resources is determined by an scientific merit review of the proposed research (…). The scientific merit review is completed by the CNMS Proposal Review Committee (PRC), which is comprised of a diverse pool of external scientists from academia, industry, and other government laboratories. Each proposal is sent to at least three external reviewers. The rank order of the averaged scores is the primary input in the allocation of facility access. Second, the CNMS has a User Executive Committee (UEC), comprised of elected members of the CNMS user community, that provide a formal and direct channel for the exchange of information and advice between the management of the CNMS and the investigators who perform research at the CNMS. The UEC has created a sub-committee on DEIA specifically focused on promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for all users of the CNMS, which is also focused on promoting access to users from underrepresented communities. The sub-committee worked with the full UEC to organize a panel discussion on DEIA at the 2022 CNMS User Meeting and is already planning a similar session for the 2023 User Meeting. The aim of these sessions is to learn more about DEIA related topics that impact researchers in STEM fields and to promote open and honest dialogue to improve diversity, inclusion, and accessibility at the CNMS. The UEC has also established a sub-committee to evaluate the proposal review process to ensure it is fair and equitable by actively combating unconscious bias during the proposal review process. 


CNMS Recruitment Strategies 

The CNMS is committed to improving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility for all current and future CNMS staff and users. The CNMS will increase outreach efforts to MSIs through webinars, workshops, and hosting student interns and visiting faculty through GEM, SULI, and SCGSR programs. The chair of the CNMS UEC, Dr. Zachary Hood, has developed and facilitated a workshop on proposal writing skills for scientific user facilities aimed at reducing the barriers for accessing user facilities. In general, the rate of success for characterizing nanoscale materials strongly depends on the researcher’s experience. The relatively high capital cost of instrumentation at the CNMS coupled with the long training periods to use the instrumentation creates a significant entry barrier for those who want to use these tools in their research. This barrier disproportionally affects early-career scientists and researchers from non-R1 institutions. To help overcome these barriers, Dr. Hood will work with CNMS management to adapt this training course into a webinar that will be shared with potential CNMS users from non-R1 institutions. CNMS also plans to establish a competitive internship opportunity for graduate students from HBCUs. The CNMS will support two students to spend two years collaborating with a CNMS mentor on their dissertation research. Establishing a larger and more diverse group of users will positively impact ORNL and CNMS ability to seek out a diverse pool of applicants for open positions. ORNL and CNMS strongly prohibit discrimination and harassment against any applicant, employee, vendor, contractor, customer, visitor, or guest on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, veteran status, genetic information, citizenship status, marital status, or any other basis prohibited by law. 


CNMS Training, Mentoring, and Professional Development Opportunities 

The CNMS is committed to training and mentoring students, post docs, and staff and provide them with professional development opportunities at all stages of their career. All potential mentors must be approved by CNMS management and take appropriate mentor and mental health training provided by ORNL. Every summer the CNMS hosts a welcome lunch for summer interns that focuses on safety and operations at the CNMS. Interns and post docs are encouraged to attend ORNL workshops (examples include preparing resumes, putting together proposals and teams, and scientific writing) and seminars. CNMS has also established a new post doc coordinator position to ensure that all post docs have a positive and productive experience while working at CNMS. Additionally, CNMS management encourages staff to take advantage of the professional development courses offered by ORNL. 


CNMS Strategies for Creating a Positive, Inclusive Research and Training Environment 


CNMS management, staff, users, and visitors are encouraged to join and be in active in ORNL employee research groups (ERGs), which are employee-led groups whose aim is to foster an inclusive workplace aligned with the Laboratory’s mission, vision, and values. The knowledge and tools gained from membership in the ERGs will help to foster a positive and inclusive research environment at the CNMS. Additionally, CNMS is actively working to evaluate and revise its current website, training material, and outreach documents to make them more accessible for all. 


Creating a Positive and Inclusive Environment in Nanoscience 


The CNMS is committed to promoting inclusive and equitable research at the CNMS. The CNMS will work to establish Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (SMART) goals based on the outlined PIER plan described above. Theses goals will be evaluated and revised annually to ensure CNMS meets the needs of all users, students, visitors, and staff through promoting and providing a positive, inclusive, and equitable research environment.