We consulted with a number of groups about the selection process. The key question we had in mind was, “How can we be unbiased when the traditional metrics are biased?” We sought to approach fairness as much as possible, given that we know most racial bias affects most academic metrics. We consulted with SROP administrators in the States to find out more about their process. We also consulted with the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Group in the Psychology Department at U of T, including students, faculty, and staff. We also consulted with a group of social psychological experts on EDI in STEM fields.
These consultations led us to adopt a nomination-lottery approach based off recent approaches by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Swiss National Science Foundation, where they conducted a lottery for funding grants that passed a certain quality threshold. Applying that model to our selection process, faculty reviewers read the two essays submitted by each applicant and used those writing samples to choose to “nominate” applicants for the fully funded program. We used the two writing samples for the nomination review, because the research statements and personal statements allowed the students to shine, in their own words, and we had provided a reasonable amount of help scaffolding these essays on our FAQ. Among all nominated students, we conducted a lottery among the students nominated by the reviewers to select students for the full program, stratified by the identities that were prioritized by our EDI initiative. Letters of recommendation mattered, but they came into play at the end when we contacted the faculty who were matched with a student.