June 9, 2020

To all AChemS members,

As members of the AChemS leadership, we are deeply disturbed, angered and saddened by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African American, at the hands of a Minnesota police officer. This is the most recent of a long list of people of color who have suffered and lost their lives at the hands of people in power in this country. The nation has erupted now with protests occurring in all 50 US States and in countries around the world; we are in a global moment to speak out for change.

We realize that the killing of George Floyd is but one manifestation of the systemic and structural racism around us, and that these problems impact the lives of minorities in all institutions, including academia. AChemS is the largest scientific organization committed to the study of the chemical senses. We recognize that our society includes a very small fraction of underrepresented minority (URM) members, and that as a society we need to work to improve the representation and success of URMs in our field. While AChemS supports URM students through its Diversity Travel Awards and through its Mentoring and Networking events at the annual meeting, we realize that these efforts alone are inadequate and that we need to do more to help create an even playing field in the areas of training, research, and career development. We also recognize that these are longstanding issues at a societal level that span US history, and that have never been fully addressed nor resolved with a deep resolution of fairness, justice, and equity. We believe it is critical that AChemS recognize the experiences of our URM peers, listen to their voices, honor their work, and not let them stand alone. The AChemS leadership supports the calls for fairness and justice at all levels, and supports the actions those in our community are taking to effect change .

In particular, we are committed to listening and responding to the needs of the URM members of our society, and invite all those who would like to express their views. As the host of this year’s International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste (ISOT), we will hold a forum at the upcoming virtual ISOT meeting, with the executive board present, on how we can better support URMs and to develop action plans as a group. We will also include programming that specifically addresses career issues for young URM scientists. 

In the interim, we would like to affirm that we, as a professional society and community of scientists, are committed to the following actions addressing issues of inequality that impact minority groups:

  • We are committed to increasing the number of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in our field, which means maintaining current URM members chronically, as well as increasing interest in the sciences as a career among URMs at an early age. 

  • We are committed to bridging URM college students to graduate school. We propose to create a fund to support research opportunities for undergraduate URM research in the Chemical Senses throughout the school year and for Summer research. This fund will accept directed gifts from individuals, corporations and funding agencies.
  • We are committed to increasing funding for URMs (from undergraduate to post-doctoral) to attend our annual conference and to travel to laboratories for research rotations and training experiences.

  • We are committed to helping to create a fair networking "playing field" of career advancement by pairing mentees with mentors to help with training, funding, and job networking opportunities.

  • We are committed to helping URMs in our science community be better represented among our honored members, awardees, and meeting speakers.

While AChemS may be a small professional organization, we recognize that we are part of a larger academic community that plays an important role in society by advancing knowledge and educating our young people. Thus it is important that we work to eliminate systemic and institutional racism, personal racism, and unconscious bias, and also work to increase the diversity within our own profession, without succumbing to the institutional structures and processes that can block openness and prevent change. If you have ideas or suggestions for AChemS leadership, please reach out at info@achems.org and join the dialogue and the action for change.

On behalf of the AChemS Executive Board and Diversity Committee,
Matt Wachowiak
President, Association for Chemoreception Sciences
Association for Chemoreception Sciences | Website