COMMUNITY LABORATORY FACILITIES CAN INCREASE ACCESS, INCLUSIVITY, AND DIVERSITY IN GEOSCIENCE: FINDINGS FROM OUR FIRST THREE YEARS
The community laboratory model addresses access limitations by opening laboratories to visiting researchers from around the country and world. Visitors to the Community Cosmogenic Facility at University of Vermont include people from a wide range of institutions, backgrounds, geographic regions, and areas of study. In our first three years, we hosted 17 undergraduate students, 31 graduate students, 13 research professionals, and 20 faculty members, for a total of 81 laboratory users. Laboratory visitors came from 24 US states and 9 countries outside of the US; 17 came from institutions that grant only BA/BS degrees, 10 from institutions that grant a MS as the highest degree in the relevant program, and 47 from institutions that grant a PhD; the remaining 7 visitors came from non-academic research institutions. Laboratory users report a wide range of outcomes, which we quantified using an anonymous survey. Almost all visitors (93.5%) reported that visiting the laboratory heightened their sense of community in the geosciences. Visitors also reported that they learned new technical skills, worked collaboratively, learned about other visitors’ projects, and will use their data for future presentations, publications, and proposals.
However, challenges to fostering a diverse community still exist; the cost of supplies, isotopic analysis, and travel to the community facility are roadblocks to diversification. Our experience suggests that supporting more community laboratory facilities in the United States is an important and efficient way to further diversify the geosciences, both in terms of the people involved and the types of research performed.