Institute of Diversity Sciences Awards 2021 Grants
UMass Amherst’s Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS) has just announced the winners of this year’s grant competition. The awards, of up to $12,000 each, have gone to three teams. One team will investigate the social effects of flooding, another team will explore digital citizenship and the third looks at the ethnic and racial disparities in nursing-home care for those with Alzheimer’s disease. The goal of the grants is to advance equity through multidisciplinary and socially-impactful STEM research and to provide mentored research experience for students.
Christian Guzman and Cielo Sharkus (both from civil and environmental engineering) along with Seda Salap-Ayça, Christine Hatch and Eve Vogel (geosciences) will investigate who is most vulnerable to flooding and post-flood hazards. “A flood’s consequences on a community,” the team writes, “depends not only on its geography, but on socio- economic status, cultural dynamics, and other features of community demographics.” The team plans to produce maps from US census data showing who is vulnerable to flooding, and then use those maps to quantitatively compare how residents living in the same municipality face different risks, depending on demographic differences. They will focus their efforts on Massachusetts.
Do new digital technologies increase public participation and equity in civic decision making? This is the question that Narges Mahyar, Ali Sarvghad (College of Information and Computer Sciences), Jane E. Fountain (School of Public Policy), and Ethan Zuckerman (School of Public Policy) will pursue in their project. The team has developed two tools – a real-time community-sourcing tool called CommunityClick that allows for digital participation during community meetings, and a social network dedicated to town-specific issues – which they will deploy in Amherst and Holyoke. The team will analyze how these tools affect community participation, and whether or not they can help nurture more inclusive local government.
The final grant-winning team will examine why there is such an enormous disparity among those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia (ADRD) who use palliative care before their deaths. While 50% of white patients make use of palliative care, only 37% of those identifying as Hispanic and 34% of Black patients receive such end-of-life care. Ning Zhang (public health and health sciences) and Joohyun Chung (nursing) will quantify racial and ethnic disparities among a broad set of nursing home residents in Massachusetts with ADRD who are receiving palliative care. The team will also conduct and analyze interviews with healthcare providers at the largest hospice and palliative care provider in Massachusetts to gain their perspectives on racial and ethnic disparities in palliative care for nursing home residents with ADRD.
Director of IDS, Professor Nilanjana Buju Dasgupta says, “we are excited to see such high impact and wide-ranging multidisciplinary research projects to advance equity: Two that uncover inequalities – in health and as a result of climate change – and one that designs an innovative solution to get more voices around the table for decision-making in local government.”
During the academic year, IDS also hosts three monthly research-group seminars: on equity in learning and work, health and climate change, respectively. To join a research group or sign up for the IDS biannual E-Newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org. IDS’s 2022 call for proposals will be made in the fall and due March 1, 2022. See the IDS website for more information.