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Feds award over half a million dollars in grants to study 'safe zones' for some LGBTQ students

The federal government is spending over half a million dollars in research on how to promote inclusion of LGBTQ engineers. (Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)

What did you say my taxpayer money is being spent on?

The National Science Foundation is spending a combined $587,441 of taxpayer money on a joint study called "A Virtual Community of Practice to Promote LGBTQ Inclusion in Engineering." The research will include an online Safe Zone course that will provide inclusion training to engineering students and professionals across the nation.

Why are they doing this?

"Recent research on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals in engineering has shown that the climate can be unfriendly (or "chilly") for both students and professionals. This project aims to increase the inclusion of LGBTQ students and professionals in engineering," the grant award reads.

Who is involved in this program? 

NSF will partner with researchers from the following places in the joint study:

American Society For Engineering Education (receiving $473,325.00 in grant money)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (receiving $114,116 in grant money)

Rowan University (a public research university that hosts one of the study's lead investigators)

How long will the study last?

The study will start on Jan. 1, 2018 and run through Dec. 31, 2020.

What are the details?

Ideas in the abstract detail the researchers' intent to teach others to prioritize inclusion of LGBTQ  engineering professionals.

"It will provide support for new approaches to foster inclusion and research on how to enable faculty and staff to become change agents," the grant award says. "The project will identify issues faced by LGBTQ students and professionals in engineering, identify and implement strategies to create more welcoming engineering environments, and disseminate those strategies so that they can be expanded to a national level.

"This project uses qualitative research to generate new knowledge about the processes of developing a community of practice to promote LGBTQ inclusion in engineering, how the members of the community develop into change agents, and what strategies are effective in reshaping norms and increasing LGBTQ inclusion in engineering departments. The results will be translated into practice through the iterative refinement of Virtual Community of Practice activities and implementation of promising practices to advance LGBTQ inclusion in engineering departments," it adds. "In addition, the research will be the basis of systematic development and formative refinement of an online Safe Zone course to provide inclusion training to engineering students and professionals nationwide."

Why does it matter?

The National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency, currently has a budget of $7.5 billion of taxpayer money for the 2017 fiscal year. NSF's website boasts that it is the funding source for around 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by American colleges and universities.

(H/T: Washington Free Beacon)

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