Dr Woods pushes diversification further into the science community

The Government’s diversification policies are being pushed further into the science domain, where they are already being applied by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced the launch of new measures “to help increase diversity in New Zealand’s science community”.

“Diversity guarantees we capture the very best ideas and talent to support the highest quality research. This work will maintain the existing high level of scientific excellence in the workforce while enabling fair and equal opportunities for all,” says Dr Woods.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates female doctoral graduates outnumber male doctoral graduates, but women make up just 32% of the scientific workforce, Dr Woods says.

And whilst nearly a quarter of the New Zealand population identifies as Māori or Pasifika it is estimated they make up less than 2% of the scientific workforce.

The ministry’s new Diversity in Science Statement

” … aims to support a vibrant and successful science and research workforce that is as diverse as New Zealand. This will happen through the way policies are developed, encouraging diversity of people and perspectives as part of scientific process, challenging bias, and ensuring fair and inclusive funding processes.”

Specifically, it’s a commitment to:

·       collect and report on the diversity of science funding applicants,

·       review funding policies and process to understand their impact on inclusion and diversity,

·       ensure a diverse range of people and perspectives in science advisory, assessment and decision making bodies, and

·       showcase researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds and raise awareness of unconscious bias.

“This initiative is a big step towards everyone having a fair and equal opportunity to participate in our science system to their fullest potential,” says Dr Woods.

“Diversity of genders, ethnicities and career stages throughout the science community cannot be achieved without strong leadership, mentors and role models who challenge bias and encourage inclusivity at every step of the science process.”

The Point of Order blog reports a challenge to belief in the efficacy of diversification programmes, quoting a critique by Heather MacDonald, the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She earned a BA from Yale University, an MA in English from Cambridge University, and a JD from Stanford Law School.

She writes for several newspapers and periodicals, including The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe New Criterion, and Public Interest, and is the author of four books, including The War on Cops: How The New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe and The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture (forthcoming September 2018).

She argues:

Marie Curie did not need female role models to investigate radioactivity. She was motivated by a passion to understand the world. That should be reason enough for anyone to plunge headlong into the search for knowledge.

As for the belief that diversity encourages excellence and that diverse thought is necessary to solve complex problems, MacDonald says this is ludicrous on multiple fronts.

“Aside from the fact that the one thing never sought in the academic diversity hustle is “diverse thought,” do [the champions of diversity] believe that females and underrepresented minorities solve analytical problems differently from males, whites, and Asians?

“A core plank of left-wing academic thought is that gender and race are ‘socially constructed.’ Why then would females and under-represented minorities think differently if their alleged differences are simply a result of oppressive social categories?”

Columbia’s science departments do not have 50/50 parity between males and females.

But does this prevent them from achieving “excellence”?

MacDonald notes:

“Since 1903, Columbia faculty members have won 78 Nobel Prizes in the sciences and economics. The recipients were overwhelmingly male (and white and Asian); somehow, they managed to do groundbreaking work in science despite the relatively non-diverse composition of their departments. “

The  Royal Society’s diversification policy aims (among other things):

To embrace diversity in all Society activities, with particular emphasis on those involving panel- and committee-based evaluation and assessment processes, and public lectures and other events.

The society shares the Minister’s confidence in the beliefs which are debunked by MacDonald. Its policy says:

The value in different viewpoints and perspectives offered by people of different backgrounds, age, experience, ethnicity and gender is considered to lead to more informed decision making, greater innovation and better outcomes for our stakeholders.

We believe that recognising and embracing diversity provides the opportunity to make our organisation stronger, leads to increased morale, and is an essential element in the long term success of the Society.

Under the society’s policy all employment interview panels should have at least 30% women.

At least 30% of nominations/applications in all nomination rounds should be from people from under-represented group.

The society’s staff including management and Council must have at least 30% from under-represented groups.

Results are to be published annually.


Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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