We, the Conformable Decoders team, are appalled, outraged, and saddened by the grave racial and ethnic injustices that continue to perpetuate in this nation’s culture. We say the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, among others, whose murders have catalyzed a necessary national discussion about systemic racism and police brutality—systems that have followed centuries of profound discrimination and abuse.
We recognize our privilege and accept our obligation to honestly reflect upon and address the biases embedded in our field of academia. Our influence will be used to create awareness of and drive effective change against the ongoing inequalities that persist in our society.
Conformable Decoders group is committed to ensure that our values of inclusion, equity, and transparency are upheld within our laboratory practices, research, and scholarship. However, we cannot fulfill this mission if we continue to allow racism to exist in our field, our educational systems, and ourselves. Therefore, we are urgently promoting input from and action by the greater community.
We stand in solidarity with our students, colleagues, and communities who are actively working to fight the racism and oppression that plague this nation. We are committed to engaging in uncomfortable discussion, educating ourselves, holding each other accountable, and elevating the voices in marginalized communities.
Our goal is to ensure that the institutions we are a part of become more diverse and inclusive. We will strive to make positive contributions towards creating a culture that features, amplifies, and prioritizes the scholarship and success of underrepresented individuals. The following list details our specific commitments and can serve as a point of reference for others who seek to support this movement.
1.) We will release a diversity statement on our website that communicates our group values of acceptance and anti-racism.
2.) We will revise our group’s design protocols for human trials to increase inclusivity and diversity with our research participants.
We are committed to breaking the long-held history of misrepresentation of communities within research and academia by ensuring that our in vivo trials include individuals from a variety of racial, socioeconomic, and LGBTQ+ communities. We plan to execute this at an institutional level so that this standard is applied to all human trials conducted at MIT (with exemption for studies that are specially targeted towards a specific demographic).
Particular to our work, we will ensure that our skin-laminated devices and algorithms will function effectively across all skin tones. A diverse sample of participants will provide more representative data to reach this standard.
3.) We will have monthly meetings to collectively discuss anti-racism and anti-discrimination.
Our monthly meetings will be dedicated to educating ourselves as allies and looking at our own workplace culture, policies, and practices. Ten days prior to these monthly group meetings, one individual will select a documentary for each CD member to watch individually. Each member will then perform relevant literature review and reflect upon these readings and themselves. The responsibility of documentary selection will cycle through each CD member, who will create a discussion framework to enable purposeful reflection and growth. We plan to watch any documentary that explores the history and/or hardships of minority groups across the world. These include 13th by Ava DuVernay, Just Mercy by Destin Daniel Cretton, and The Hate U Give by George Tillman Jr. These meetings will begin July 23rd, 2020.
4.) We will donate semesterly to fundraisers supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement.
We want to fiscally support any communities fighting to achieve economic equity for those affected by racial injustice. These may include MIT-based organizations like BSU, BGSA, and SPXCE.
5.) We commit to highlighting existing issues surrounding race, gender, disability, sexuality, and other dimensions of identity in our papers.
Most, if not all, of our papers are relevant to these issues and have the potential to bring the advancement of science and technology to a more equitable and inclusive state.
6.) Once a semester, we will organize a tour of our cleanroom, the YellowBox, for primary and secondary school students to learn more about our laboratory and research.
We aim to reach individuals of local, marginalized communities in order to provide a resource that many may not have access to otherwise. Moreover, this stands in line with our broader commitment of de-stigmatizing STEM, and instead characterizing it as a community that welcomes individuals of all backgrounds.
As allies, we are committed to in-depth education, reflection, and immediate action in order to incite change within not only our group, but also the greater community of MIT and beyond.
It is imperative to be cognizant of the challenges marginalized individuals face daily and engage in uncomfortable but necessary discussion that is informed, structured, and deliberate. Rather than basing discussions on opinions and personal experiences, an anti-racist framework must be implemented to drive educated, evidence-backed conversation. The Black Lives Matter movement has encouraged us to educate ourselves on the needless hardships endured by all marginalized communities, including those who identify at the intersection of these demographics and thus face unique and complex injustices.
Specific to our research, we are committed to imbuing anti-racist theory and anti-discrimination into the design and engineering of our conformable devices. Eradicating underrepresentation in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic background in human subject selection will certainly bring new dimensions to conformable device design. Conformable devices that attach to the human skin should be designed such that their functionality remains consistent across all skin types. Meanwhile, a wider range of scientific discovery can be achieved, advancing the scientific community and ensuring unbiased findings.
We recognize that we must hold each other accountable and bring about change from the individual scale to the global scale. We encourage all individuals and communities to exercise their platforms and stand with us in the fight against centuries of systematic oppression and racial inequity. The Black Lives Matter movement is NOT transient, and all of us must commit ourselves to sustained reflection, education, and action. Values of diversity, equity, and inclusivity must be imbued throughout our lives, the institutions we are a part of, and the world as a whole.
We can, must, and will do better.