Diversity with EFI and How You Can Get Involved

Date: June 18, 2020

Post by: The EFI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group

The Ecological Forecasting Initiative, like many other organizations, calls for justice for George Floyd and countless other Black individuals and persons of color, and we stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues and friends saying #BlackLivesMatter. Our EFI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group is committed to listening, learning, and exploring ways to promote anti-racism and to make EFI, and STEM fields more broadly, a welcoming environment. In regards to ecological forecasting, as a first step, we need the input and experience from people of all backgrounds at all stages of the ecological forecasting process, from forecast development and implementation to stakeholder decisions. Ecological forecasting as a field is relatively new; creating an inclusive, anti-racist field starts with understanding the lived experiences of all types of forecasters, end-users, and community stakeholders. We have more in-depth initiatives and tasks associated with the current NSF funded EFI-RCN grant and other proposals submitted for review, but for now, the following are four ways we invite you to get involved by joining the group, using or adding to our Bibliography of resources, filling out a short 5-minute survey, or joining our book club.

ONE
Of all the EFI Working Groups, our DEI Group has the smallest number of participants. We welcome anyone who is interested in participating to learn more about ways to expand diversity and inclusion as well as brainstorming ways to increase diversity within the ecological forecasting field. Our next call is June 30 and upcoming monthly meetings are posted on the EFI’s DEI webpage, as is our Strategic Plan, which is a living document that provides an overview of the steps the DEI Working Group is taking to promote diversity, accessibility, and inclusion in EFI. Email eco4cast.initiative@gmail.com to be added to the mailing list for this group.

TWO
If you are not able to join the Working Group calls at this time, there are additional ways to get involved. We are compiling a Bibliography that provides resources for learning more about anti-racism and the diversity status of fields relevant to ecological forecasting. These resources include lists of minority supporting associations, links to diversity and inclusion plans from professional societies, blog posts, publications, and compiled lists of resources from other organizations. This is also a living document, to which we will add additional documents moving forward. If there are additional resources you have found useful, they can be submitted through this Google form.

THREE
As part of Step 1 of our Strategic Plan, “Identify and clarify the problem”, we are working to identify the current status of diversity within fields relevant to ecological forecasting as a baseline to assess the current status of diversity within the Ecological Forecasting Initiative, specifically. Once we assess the current diversity status of EFI, our next goal is to provide suggestions to ecological forecasting labs about ways to recruit more diverse students into our undergraduate and graduate programs.
To assess the current status of diversity within fields relevant to ecological forecasting we are using the NSF funded NCSES Interactive Data Tool IPEDS database of the racial and ethnic backgrounds of students that have graduated from US institutions in over 400 academic programs. We have narrowed down the list to 29 academic degrees and are asking for your help to rank the relevance of these degrees to ecological forecasting in this short survey (https://nd.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3Pdyo1bh5OG8R93). Once we know which academic degrees are most relevant to ecological forecasting, we can assess the current diversity of those degrees relative to EFI. We will then work on Step 2 of our Strategic Plan, “Identify barriers that may prevent students from underrepresented groups from participating in ecological forecasting.”

FOUR
To encourage open, honest conversation and anti-racist thinking, EFI will host its first virtual book club. We will begin with The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us by Paul Tough. Tough’s book explores privilege in higher education, from the application process to the classroom. As many forecasters are educators and participants in higher education, we believe this book will serve the interests of EFI’s mission while helping participants grow in anti-racist values. The book club is open to all participants, regardless of EFI membership, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other personal identity – we ask only that you participate with an open mind and a willingness for vulnerability. For those who would like to participate but need help acquiring the book, we have a limited amount of financial assistance available. Email eco4cast.initiative@gmail.com for more info.
Logistics: The book club will meet weekly, in the evenings, starting the week of July 13th, with about 40-70 pages of reading per meeting (although meeting frequency and page counts can be adjusted to meet the needs of the group). If you are interested in participating, email eco4cast.initiative@gmail.com so we can send you the doodle poll to find a day/time for the group to meet.

EFI Guest Post on Dynamic Ecology

Date: June 8, 2020

EFI Member Nick Record (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences) led an effort with Jaime Ashander (Resources for the Future), Peter Adler (Utah State University), and Michael Dietze (Boston University) to write a guest post titled Ecological forecasting ethics: lessons for COVID-19” for Dynamic Ecology|Multa novit vulpes.

You can find the post here:

https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2020/06/08/ecological-forecasting-ethics-lessons-for-covid-19/

EFI Status Update: Accomplishments over the Past 6 Months

Date: December 1, 2019

Post by Michael Dietze, Boston University

We have had a busy 6 months with lots of progress and community building for the Ecological Forecasting Initiative. Here is a summary of what the group has been up to since the EFI meeting in DC in May.

Participants at the May 2019 EFI Meeting in Washington, DC

The inaugural meeting of the Ecological Forecasting Initiative took place at AAAS Headquarters in Washington, DC on May 13-15, 2019. The meeting brought together >100 participants from a broad array of biological, social, and physical environmental sciences and spanning internationally across academia, government agencies, and non-profits. Overall, it was a highly productive meeting that generated a lot of excitement about our growing community of practice. The meeting was organized around EFI’s seven themes (Theory, Decision Science, Education, Inclusion, Methods, Cyberinfrastructure, Partners) with a mix of keynotes, lightning talks, and panel discussions on each area. The panel discussions were particularly valued by participants, as they generated dynamics community discussions and often highlighted the perspectives of early-career participants. The meeting also included time for break out discussions, starting with a series of sessions (with participants randomly intermixed) addressing high-level questions about the opportunities for advancing science and decision making, and the challenges and bottlenecks facing our community. These breakouts then fed into a later set of sessions, organized by theme, where individuals self-organized by interest to synthesize what we learned and to start discussing next steps.  Finally, there was a healthy amount of unstructured break time, as well as a conference dinner on Monday night and a poster session on Tuesday early evening, that provided attendees with time for informal discussions and networking. A post-meeting survey showed overall satisfaction with the meeting was very high (4.8 of 5), as was the likelihood of attending another EFI meeting (4.6 of 5).

The original conference plan was for the breakout groups organized around the EFI cross-cutting themes to be the kick-off of the theme working groups. In practice, this was delayed slightly by the NSF Science Technology Center preproposal deadline (June 25) which occupied much of the organizing committee’s time in the ~6 weeks post-conference. However, working group telecons kicked off in July and all eight working groups have continued to meet virtually on Zoom at approximately a monthly frequency. Based on group discussions at the conference, and our post-meeting survey, a number of key ideas emerged for the working groups to focus on. A top priority was the establishment of community standards for forecast archiving, meta-data, and application readiness levels. Standards will allow our growing community to more easily perform higher-level synthesis, disseminate predictions, develop shared tools, and allow third-party validation. The bulk of the work on developing a draft set of forecast standards has been taken on by the Theory working group, which is focused on making sure forecast outputs and metadata will be able to support larger, synthetic analyses. Theory has also held joint meetings about Standards with Cyberinfrastructure, which has focused on the CI needs of archives (blog post in prep), repeatability/replication, and the standardization of model inputs. Application Readiness Levels (ARLs) have also been discussed by the Decision team, which wanted to evaluate whether existing NASA and NOAA ARLs reflect decision readiness.

Second, there was considerable enthusiasm for discussing and documenting best practices, both around the technical aspects of forecasting and for decision science and interacting with stakeholders. On the technical side the Methods and Tools team is working on a document summarizing the tools being used by the community in seven key areas: Visualization & Decisions Support tools; Uncertainty quantification; Data ingest; Data cleaning & harmonization; User interfaces; Workflows & Reproducibility; Modeling & Statistics. The primary goal of this exercise is to produce a set of EFI webpages that inform forecast developers about the tools available (especially newer members of the community). The secondary goal is to enable a gap analysis that will help the Methods and Tools team prioritize areas where needed tools are missing or not meeting the needs of the community. At the same time, the Decision team has been discussing the stakeholder side of best practices, has already produced two blogs about lessons learned by NOAA in translating from Research to Operations (R2O), and a third blog is being drafted that describes areas in the ecological forecasting process where social science can provide valuable input. Similarly, the Partners team has been thinking about how to improve the ‘matchmaking’ process between stakeholders and forecasters and is working on a survey to reach out to potential EFI partners to let them know what EFI is, what we are doing, and to learn how organizations are currently using data, models, and forecasts and where there is the potential for synergies with EFI.

Third, the community is interested in the expansion of educational materials and open courseware. The Education and Diversity teams have mostly been meeting together and have discussed key forecasting vocabulary and are working with EFI’s Cayelan Carey, who has a new NSF Macrosystems grant to develop undergraduate forecasting modules, to develop a survey of forecast instructors to provide information on (and a compilation of) syllabi, code, problem sets, and topics currently being taught, pre-requisites, and input on what new forecasting teaching material would be most useful. The Diversity team is also drafting a Strategic Plan to work on increasing diversity and inclusion in EFI and ecological forecasting more generally.  Steps in this plan include: 1) Identifying the current diversity status, 2) Identifying the barriers, 3) Identifying solutions and which solutions make sense to work on given the participants and networks currently in EFI, 4) Identify who else needs to be involved and make a plan to bring them in, and 5) Form collaborations and seek funding to carry out the plan.

Fourth, there was interest at the EFI conference in supporting the development of an EFI student community. The EFI student group was launched in August and is working on developing a charter, forming a steering committee, and running a journal discussion group.

Working Groups are always open for new people to join. There are 3 more calls scheduled before the end of the year: Education on Dec 4, Social Science on Dec 16, and Partners on Dec 17 all at 1pm US eastern time.  Polls will be sent out in mid-December to set recurring times for working group calls in Jan-May 2020.  If you would like to join a working group and be included on any of the remaining calls or if you wish to participate in the polls to set times for next year’s calls, email eco4cast.initiative@gmail.com

In addition, to responding to the ideas discussed at the EFI2019 conference, the EFI working groups are also involved in the planning process for the EFI Research Coordination Network. This NSF RCN funding was awarded after the EFI2019 meeting and ensures that EFI will continue to meet and grow over the next five years. The EFI RCN is also launching an open forecasting challenge using NEON data, the protocols for which will be finalized at the first RCN meeting, May 12-14, 2020 in Boulder, CO at NEON headquarters.

Other key products of the EFI2019 meeting are the meeting slides and videos. The overall meeting was recorded and the individual keynote and lightning talks have been edited down and released on YouTube, the EFI webpage, and Twitter. In addition, EFI2019 participants suggested dropping EFI’s existing discussion board (which participants were encouraged to use as part of meeting prep) and replacing it with a Slack channel, which has seen substantially greater use. The EFI organizing committee is also close to finalizing an Organizing Principles and Procedures document which establishes the obligations and benefits of EFI membership and lays out the operations of the EFI Steering Committee and committee chair. The OPP is currently being reviewed by legal counsel and we anticipate holding our first elections shortly after the new year.

Finally, we are happy to pass on that the NSF Science Technology Preproposal that was submitted shortly after the EFI2019 meeting has been selected to submit a full center proposal in January.