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Five Steps to Supporting a Better Research Culture

Report from the Crafting Equitable Research Cultures (CERC) Working Group

Quick Summary

  • What specific problems need to be addressed to make research culture more equitable? What are potential solutions?

The mission of the Feminist Research Institute (FRI) is to shift research cultures to enable more impactful and accurate knowledge. Key to this mission is the creation of equitable research cultures that empower faculty, staff and student researchers to thrive and make vital contributions to knowledge ecosystems.

In 2020-2021, FRI collaborated with faculty and staff at UC Davis who are committed to addressing issues of equity in research contexts. The working group, Crafting Equitable Research Cultures (CERC), brought together over twenty faculty and staff at UC Davis to give insight into the changes needed to create more just and equitable research practices and norms.

What specific problems need to be addressed to make research culture more equitable? What are potential solutions?

Systemic Issues

Efforts to address issues in research cultures will only go so far without more fundamental, systemic change. Most notably, CERC members identified four broad areas that have a significant impact on research cultures:

  • Work-life balance: Researchers need to be understood as people first, with a variety of needs that may shift over time as their roles and responsibilities change. Inequities in research cultures are often produced and/or exacerbated by the demands of caregiving labor, including childcare, eldercare, and support for family members with disabilities. In addition, researchers from marginalized and minoritized groups often engage in substantial service work related to diversification and inclusion efforts that is taxing, often unrecognized and unremunerated, and can make it difficult to advance personal and collaborative research endeavors.
  • Reward, review, and evaluation structures: All reward, review and evaluation structures should be transparent and free of bias. Reward and review procedures for faculty should recognize and value DEI-related service work and publications that are likely to have widespread impact, particularly those that engage historically under-served communities.
  • Racial and sexual harassment: Harassment has a significant impact on researchers’ well-being, advancement, and retention. Mechanisms to address harassment are often focused on protecting the institution, rather than on protection and redress for those impacted. In order to ensure that researchers are able to thrive and engage in important forms of networking, mentorship, and collaboration, it is critical that harassment is proactively addressed through both prevention and robust response mechanisms and support for those harmed.
  • Funding and cost of living pressures: Researchers are most successful when they have the time and means to engage in their research. Funding packages for faculty and graduate students should allow for financial stability and build protected time for research and professional development opportunities that enhance research.

We see the issues laid out above as in alignment with and amplifying other critical conversations happening at UC Davis, including the important work undertaken by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the UC Davis Initiative to Engage Faculty Retention and Inclusive Excellence Networks--Designing Solutions (FRIENDS), as well as key efforts that have emerged out of ADVANCE such as CAMPOS and CAMPSSAH. We strongly encourage UC Davis leadership to continue to invest in these efforts and expand their reach.


The recommendations in the next section focus on targeted efforts to address equity issues in research cultures.

  • Mentorship: Robust structures of mentorship support are important for faculty, staff and student research success. Mentorship structures should be formalized and not reliant on individualized networking as this tends to exacerbate inequities. Guidance should be provided to both mentors and mentees on mentorship expectations. Start-up packages for faculty should include mentorship opportunities, including those specifically focused on research development and starting and running a lab, as applicable.
  • Research development support: Faculty, staff and students should have access to research development support for one-on-one mentorship and assistance with identifying funding opportunities, grant writing, and team building. Current services provided by the Office of Research should be expanded so all researchers can benefit from the expertise of research development professionals.
  • Funding: University support for areas of research often under-supported by federal and private funders, including support for collaborative, interdisciplinary, and community-engaged research, as well as research in the social sciences and the humanities, should be increased. Research on structural inequities should be catalyzed through fundraising campaigns, rapid acceleration funding, and funding to support interdisciplinary team formation and building community partnerships.
  • Space: Space allocation policies should be transparent to ensure equitable distribution. Space often seems to be allocated based on historical precedent. Historical precedent favors those who have been at UC Davis longer, thus reinforcing systems of privilege. An equity audit of space, rebalancing and future transparency may be an opportunity to rectify this.
  • Accessibility: Research spaces need to be made accessible and safe for all potential researchers. This includes addressing the culture of a lab or research team and the physical space or field site. Particular attention should be given to access for those with disabilities.


Most importantly, UC Davis must increase funding and resources allocations to make meaningful progress on these recommendations. This means continuing and expanding existing successful programs, investing in both physical infrastructure and personnel, and consulting expertise from those most impacted by historic systems of oppression.

Co-signed by Working Group members:
  • Cindy Shen, PhD, Professor of Communication
  • Clare Cannon, PhD, Assistant Professor of Human Ecology
  • David Michalski, PhD, Social and Cultural Studies Librarian
  • Dawn Sumner, PhD, Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences
  • Denneal Jamison-McClung, PhD, Director, UC Davis Biotechnology Program
  • Elizabeth Pontikes, Associate Professor of Management, Graduate School of Management
  • Jacquelyn Gervay Hague, PhD, Professor of Chemistry
  • Jeff Sherman, PhD, Professor of Psychology
  • Jennifer Schultens, PhD, Professor in Department of Mathematics
  • Jessica Draughon Moret, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing
  • José Juan Pérez Meléndez, PhD, Assistant Professor of History
  • Kalindi Vora, PhD, Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies
  • Kimberly Nettles-Barcelon, PhD, Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
  • Lorena Garcia, PhD, Professor of Public Health Sciences
  • Marina Leite, PhD, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Nancy Bulger, PhD, Executive Director of Research Programs in Office of Research
  • Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Violence Prevention Research Program
  • Piri Ackerman-Barger, PhD, Associate Dean of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Sarah McCullough, PhD, Associate Director of Feminist Research Institute
  • Sarah Messbauer, PhD, Coordinator of Grantsmanship Programs in Office of Research
  • Shani Buggs, PhD, MPH Assistant Professor, Violence Prevention Research Program
  • Tessa Hill, PhD, Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences