ASPB and partners awarded $2 million NSF grant to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the plant sciences

By Mary Williams and Crispin Taylor, with graphics designed by Siobhan Braybrook

We are excited to announce that ASPB, along with our partners, has been awarded a five-year grant through the NSF’s LEAPS [LEAding cultural change through Professional Societies (LEAPS) of Biology] program. As the lead organization, ASPB has the privilege of coordinating the development of a Research Coordination Network (RCN) in partnership with other plant science organizations and organizations that serve marginalized scientists.

The project, named ROOT & SHOOT (Rooting Out Oppression Together and SHaring Our Outcomes Transparently), will provide resources, trainings, opportunities, and structures aimed at seeding and cultivating cultural change towards an inclusive, equitable, scientific future for our discipline. The goal of an NSF LEAPS RCN is to catalyze cultural change and as such we aim to include more partners as the project progresses and openly share our ongoing work and all resources we develop.

This change work will begin within ASPB and our initial plant science organization partners: the American Phytopathological Society (APS), the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT), the Botanical Society of America (BSA), the International Society for Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions (IS-MPMI), the Maize Genetics Cooperation (MGC), and the North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee (NAASC). In addition, we have partnerships with Corteva Agriscience and Bayer Crop Science to ensure that plant science industry benefits as well.

We will also be working with STEM inclusion organizations including the Society for the Advancement of Chicano/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), Out in STEM (oSTEM), and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). We will grow our network of partners in this area as well, ensuring that we are listening to all marginalized communities and working to remove structural and systemic barriers to true inclusion.

Two representatives of each organization, including the PI Mary Williams and co-PI Crispin Taylor (ASPB) will comprise the initial RCN Steering Committee: Denita Hadziabdic Guerry (University of Tennessee) and Leslie Holland (University of Wisconsin) for APS; Laura Lagomarsino (Louisiana State University) and Pam Soltis (University of Florida) for ASPT; Catrina Adams (BSA) and Chelsea Specht (Cornell University) for BSA; Roger Innes (Indiana University) and Dennis Halterman (University of Wisconsin) for IS-MPMI; John Fowler (Oregon State University) and Thelma Madzima (University of Washington, Bothell) for MGC; and Jennifer Nemhauser (University of Washington) and Siobhan Braybrook (UCLA) for NAASC.

I am ecstatic that ASPB and partner societies and collaborators have received this award! The idea of a community of plant scientists devoted to removing barriers to inclusion and diversity has been in our minds for some time now and this grant provides the vehicle to achieve this goal. I’m excited to continue supporting ASPB and other societies in making plant biology the most inclusive and equitable discipline out there! – Miguel Vega-Sanchez, Chair of ASPB Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee

Collectively, these organizations will develop and propagate tools for cultivating a sustainable sense of shared belonging and removing oppression from individuals with identities that are historically and currently marginalized (based on gender, gender identity, disability status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or race). Although each RCN Participant Organization has begun this work, the award will allow the coordination and resources needed to enact meaningful change and to achieve lasting impacts in reshaping the entire plant science community.

This is a fantastic opportunity. The proposal funded by NSF provides a clear roadmap of activities that will help each participating society to self-evaluate and change to become more inclusive. Together, these societies can break barriers and change the makeup of the plant science community. This grant also gives us, the ASPB leadership, the resources and support to continue making our society a more just organization. – Gustavo MacIntosh, incoming ASPB President Elect

The ROOT & SHOOT program was collaboratively designed to accomplish three major aims: first, to immediately address known key systemic barriers to full participation within each organization; second, to require the partner organizations to dig deeply into themselves and build more equitable and inclusive structures; and third, to allow the plant science community to identify bold new directions that will continue expanding participation and provide a system of coordination of the required labor and sharing of ideas, practices, and outcomes (community-based working groups). The award also will provide broad training of the plant science communities in equitable practices and operations, including inclusive teamwork, climate and culture assessment, and culturally responsive mentoring.


I am very excited to hear the wonderful news! I am grateful for NSF’s acknowledgement of the importance of increasing and supporting diversity and equity and that scientific societies are excellent venues to drive change. ASPB, together with multiple other societies/organizations and partner companies, will be more effective and innovative in achieving our goals. Thanks to all for their ideas and effort in putting the proposed ideas to paper. We look forward to working together to support and mentor future generations of plant biologists! – Judy Callis, ASPB Past-President

In the fourth quarter, as the award begins, we will begin to ramp up the RCN programs by creating a website for real-time information dissemination and community feedback, identifying experts and trainers to guide our practices and work, forming working groups and training members, and preparing webinars and workshops. More information about opportunities and how you can participate will be provided in the coming months- so stay tuned!


7 thoughts on “ASPB and partners awarded $2 million NSF grant to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the plant sciences”

  1. This is incredibly exciting! As an Indigenous botanist and mycologist, I’m so interested in how these outcomes will translate in my communities.

    • Hi Az, let me (us) know if you have ideas or specific concerns that you would like to see addressed as part of the work directly related to this award, or as part of the general mission of the society. I really want to hear from people in the community we serve (and the ones we have neglected).

  2. Hi, I was just wondering whether you plan to have International partnerships as well , especially from people working on minor crops and spices that often get overlooked/ under represented in the International community .

    • Dear Manjula,
      The funding is from the US government and it is primarily focused on the cultures and climate for scientists working within the US. However, we believe that the efforts we make through this award will benefit everyone. We hope to offer training opportunities and resouces that will benefit people no matter where they are located.

  3. This is an amazing oportunity! I would be really happy to see how equity can be mixed with plant sciences, and how to a apply a gender ‘sight’ in this area of study.

  4. Hi
    this is very exciting news!
    I am wondering if this grant will lead to recruiting/creating any postdoctoral positions?



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