Ciencia Puerto Rico, an online network designed in 2006 to connect people interested in science and Puerto Rico, has been profiled in the prestigious scientific journal PLoS Biology as a model to link scientists from groups traditionally underrepresented in science and increase their visibility and ability to reach out to their communities.
The article describes how CienciaPR, one of the largest networks of Hispanic scientists in the world, has been able to leverage its membership for initiatives that support science education in Puerto Rico and explains how the concept can be replicated to link other groups of geographically-dispersed scientists seeking to impact the development of science and research among their communities or countries of origin. The article was chosen by the editors of PLoS Biology as one of the most important articles of the publication.
According to the article, CienciaPR activities have resulted in an increase in the number of science stories in the Puerto Rican press, in conferences to promote the professional development of young scientists, and in a book of essays that presents Puerto Rican scientists as role models and explains scientific concepts with examples from the Puerto Rican landscape and cultural context. The latter has been used in classrooms in Puerto Rico to increase student interest in science.
“It is important to provide students with role models who come from communities like theirs. This counteracts common stereotypes about scientists, demonstrates that science is relevant to their lives, and encourages young people to aspire to careers in science,” said Giovanna Guerrero-Medina, executive director of CienciaPR and principal co-author of the article.
“Providing a database of Hispanic scientists and several forums and initiatives to talk about their work, has helped raise their visibility, in Puerto Rico and among Hispanics,” said Daniel Colón-Ramos, associate professor of cell biology at Yale University and founder of the network.
According to the National Science Foundation, Hispanics account for only 6 percent of the science and engineering workforce despite representing more than 16 percent of the U.S. population.
“Our experience with the creation of CienciaPR can serve as an example to other minority groups and to countries with similarly geographically-dispersed scientific populations, that are seeking to connect for research, training, education, and outreach opportunities” said Guerrero-Medina.
Ciencia Puerto Rico is a nonprofit organization that provides a collaborative space for anyone interested in science and Puerto Rico. Its more than 6,500 members cover a large geographic footprint (48 countries), and a wide range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines (more than 100). Members include professional scientists, scientists-in-training, K12 students, science educators, and enthusiasts from the general public.