University of Washington's Center for Evaluation and Research for STEM Equity (CERSE) serves as the evaluator for BRAINS. The evaluation team collects data via surveys of participants and non-participants, annual interviews with a stratified random sample of participants, observations of meetings and events, and tracking career outcomes. "Learning to thrive: Building diverse scientists' access to community and resources through the BRAINS Program," (CBE - Life Sciences Education, 2016) reports early data on near-term individual impacts on career-advancing behaviors and career experiences of BRAINS participants from the 2013 and 2014 cohorts. “Connecting counterspaces and community cultural wealth in a professional development program” (Race Ethnicity and Education, 2020) demonstrates how the counterspace of the BRAINS program serves to strengthen participants’ access to their community cultural wealth.
Also, a poster about the impact of BRAINS was presented at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.
1. Early Program Impacts
BRAINS has had four cohorts to date, one starting in January 2013, the second in September 2014, the third in September 2017, and the fourth in September 2019. The majority (63%) of these participants have identified as women; 42% of all participants have identified as Black, while 33% have identified as Hispanic or Latinx.
The first three cohorts have completed three follow-up surveys, one, two, and three years after their baseline survey; the fourth ohort has completed two follow-up surveys thus far. Evaluation data show that participation in BRAINS leads to near-term impacts on career-advancing behaviors and experiences.
BRAINS participants from all four cohorts have reported successful career progression, research productivity and increased connection with other scientists. BRAINS participants are leading successful, thriving careers. As of 2020, 50% were in tenure track positions, compared to 24% at time of application, a statistically significant increase (t(140)=6.33, p<.001). Specifically, 72 participants were currently in tenure track positions, including 42 participants who have become assistant professors since entering the program, and 15 participants who have advanced to associate professor, full professor, and chair positions. BRAINS participants are staying in science. As of 2020, 97% of participants continue to pursue science careers. For example, in addition to becoming tenure-track faculty, participants are now journal editors, science program officers, and researchers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
BRAINS participants reported significant increases in career self-efficacy, mentoring, and networking. Qualitative data have demonstrated that BRAINS participants see BRAINS as an important and ongoing source of community and support, even referring to BRAINS as a family, sanctuary, and safe space. Participants continue to return to the BRAINS community for ongoing engagement long after their first year in the program. The BRAINS program has created a long-lasting community and empowers participants to thrive.
2. Anticipated Long-Term Impacts
We expected that near-term individual impacts will both lead to long-term career impacts on participants, as well as impact diversity and inclusion in neuroscience at the national scale. Figure 5 illustrates the BRAINS program theory and impacts.
Figure 5: The BRAINS program theory suggests that program features will lead to short-term impacts on career behavior and experience. We anticipate that these individual impacts will lead to long-term impacts on the careers of BRAINS participants and serve to impact diversity in neuroscience at the national scale.