Did you know that the current administration recently eliminated a proposal to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 U.S. census survey? You may or may not realize that doing so poses potentially serious threats to the rights of many Americans through this powerful form of erasure. Without this data, we will continue to have only rough estimates of the number of LGBTQ+ people living in the U.S.
As stigma surrounding sexual minority identities has lessened over the last few decades, many psychologists and social scientists across specialties are increasingly encountering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) participants in research conducted in general populations. As researchers who strive to maintain a certain neutrality when collecting and interpreting data, the degree to which we can actively further an equal rights agenda in conducting the research is limited. However, through the small, yet impactful act of prioritizing inclusivity in research practices, social scientists can help to challenge systems of oppression while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of the science.
By merely (yet accurately) recognizing the diversity that exists with regard to people’s sexualities, we can both affirm the identities of people of those experiences and signal to all participants that such experiences are present and valid. This can be accomplished, for example, through the use of inclusive language in surveys and offering more options than just the typical “male/female” and “straight/gay/lesbian” for possible answers to demographic questions. When phrasing questions in binary terms or restricting demographic responses, researchers may inadvertently oppress gender and sexual minority individuals by reinforcing binary conceptions of gender and imposing limited characterizations of sexual orientation.
Dismantling these systems calls for a paradigm shift within every social sphere—including scientific research. Consider the ways in which social science informs public policy. If we do not produce research that reflects the diversity that we know exists in our society, the public institutions that draw upon that research will continue to marginalize that diversity. Given the historical role science has played in oppression, we have an ethical imperative to do better.
Here are ten things that you can do to integrate inclusive research practices into your next study:
Graduate school doesn’t last forever, which means that as you approach your defense date you must also consider how to navigate an impending job market. For students interested in research careers, a logical next-step may be to acquire a post-doc, which affords more time after school to expand research skills. Although many psychology students now choose a post-doc as their next career move, the specifics as to how to actually land one are often unclear.
Because this process doesn’t need to be as mysterious as it usually is, below we’ve compiled some tips to help students navigate the post-doc market. Since we’ve already written on the topic of landing a health services psychology (HSP)-oriented post-doc, here we cater more to readers specifically interested in research-specific options.
So, you’ve put hundreds of hours into your research – you know the theories inside and out. You can talk about the relationships between your variables. Your methods. Your findings. Your implications. But, can you do it in 30 seconds or less?
Convention necessitates we prepare our ‘elevator speech’ to engage quickly (but meaningfully) with colleagues while we are crunched for time moving from session to session or waiting for a session to start. Maybe you’re looking to solidify your introduction for a seminar or conversation hour you’re leading. This is your opportunity to communicate the importance of your work and how it benefits our field. Think of this as a way for you to provide a clear, brief message on who you are and what interests you.
Here are some quick and easy tips to help you prepare your ‘elevator speech’ and build connections at convention:
• Think about the major themes of your research. What are the questions you are trying to answer? What are the topics that excite you? Why are these issues important? Given the diversity of our field, it is likely that you will interact with psychologists and students who are unfamiliar (or vaguely familiar) with your research area, so be sure to eliminate all jargon.
• Talk about what motivates you. Your goals for life post degree. Why is it that you are doing this work? Are you seeking to impact clinical practice? Are you trying to influence policy? Are you looking to join the academy, clinical practice, think tank, etc.?
• Write it down and practice. This might seem silly, but it is crucial. Here is your opportunity to refine what you are trying to say and become comfortable communicating it with others. You can practice with your family, friends, and classmates. Here is your opportunity to work out the bugs and practice these conversations. Check out an outline here and watch Duke University students practice their elevator speech (literally) here.
• Let them know who you are. Find out who they are. Remember, this ‘speech’ is an opportunity to make a meaningful connection. Make it personal. It’s likely you may want to follow up with them in the future, and your 30-60 second interaction may blossom into a relationship or mentorship. After all, your elevator speech opens the door for further conversation.
Lastly, remember to breathe and enjoy convention.
Editor’s Note: Check out these additional posts about how to have a successful Convention experience.
I have been asked this simple, two-word question more times than any other question in the past year. Back in September, I began working as a graduate-level policy scholar for the Public Interest Government Relations office at the American Psychological Association. As this opportunity coincided with my fifth year of doctoral studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, I have often had to explain my hectic schedule upon meeting new individuals. Research and academia, most will understand, as those things fit seamlessly into the doctoral studies mold. But then comes the follow-up question: Why policy?
This year, the APAGS Convention Committee has put graduate student programming at Convention into tracks: Diversity, Professional Development, Science, and Internship. We’ve done so with an eye for how certain programs and talks might go together, so that students can set their goals for convention (e.g., get the skinny on how to research efficiently) and feel assured that they hit all the talks.
My self-care activity throughout grad school has been hiking. For that reason, my mind is making connections between our APAGS tracks and hiking routes. Imagine each track as a particular hiking path. Sometimes they intersect with other paths, and sometimes you can hop between paths based on your needs. In fact, the hiking analogy can be extended further! Hydrate during convention, pack good footwear (lots of walking), and tie up your food at night so that grizzly bearshungry grad students cranky advisers don’t get into it.