The Diversity Journal Club @ SP is a place and a moment for open dialogues about diversity and inclusion in the context of science in the broadest sense, like how these play out in research and education.
In our policies we strive to stimulate the diversity in our Faculty community. With the input and contributions from the Diversity Sounding Board the Faculty Diversity Office organises activities and facilitates debate aimed at increasing awareness on issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.
The month of December, end of the calendar year, is characterised by a number of holidays and festivals – both in private as in work circles. As celebratory as this may seem, many holidays are no longer celebrated without raising issues.
Given an increasingly diverse and international community, we may ask ourselves whose festivals should be included in our celebrations’ calendar. Furthermore, some festivals refer to histories and traditions that are not shared by everyone.
In addition, celebrations sometimes involve activities, food or symbols that are not equally agreeable for all. Two members of the Faculty’s Social Committee – organising our faculty’s celebrations and holidays - will start a conversation on such issues with the participants of this Diversity Journal Club’s edition: Pascale Nukoop (Communications department) and Joris Flesch (Buildings and Safety).
Winners and Losers of the Internationalisation of Higher Education
During Black Achievement Month, the DJC@SP will focus on two brief texts that demand for a more global and inclusive internationalisation, if higher education is to contribute to the global challenges that our world faces and to avoid some form of neocolonialisation.
In the Netherlands and elsewhere, critical debates about the parallel processes of neoliberalisation and internationalisation of higher education are being held. These processes entail growing mobility of students and researchers, international competition between institutions for talent, and increasing inequalities at several levels. What is often neglected is how these processes negatively impact developing countries, especially in the Global South.
During Black Achievement Month, the DJC@SP will focus on two brief texts that demand for a more global and inclusive internationalisation, if higher education is to contribute to the global challenges that our world faces - including the UN SDG’s- and to avoid some form of neocolonialisation. Brief introductions to an interactive discussion on these topics will be given by dr Stanley Brul (Professor of Molecular Biology and director of the College of Life Sciences, UvA) and - as special guest - by MSc. Geoffrey Mboya from Nairobi (PhD student in Mathematics at Oxford U and founder of Mathematical Sciences mentorship scheme Mfano Africa).
Increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM is not a matter of some separate measures but requires a comprehensive approach, the authors of “Anti-racist interventions to transform ecology, evolution and conservation biology departments” argue. For the serious underrepresentation of diverse groups in STEM faculty is related to issues like the uncritical approach of racist and eugenetic elements in the histories of the life sciences and to neocolonial practices in earth sciences, for example. Hence, the authors distinguish measures towards ‘Laboratory cultural changes’, ‘Course design changes’ and ‘Departmental changes’ and offer several more and less impactful proposals.
To start the new academic year, during which the Faculty Diversity Office & Sounding Board will focus on several diversity & inclusion goals, this DJC@SP will discuss this helpful article with participants also as a way to hear about their preferences. Faculty Diversity Officer and philosopher of science Machiel Keestra will kindle our exchange of ideas by drawing some connections to diversity & inclusion goals of our university and faculty.
June is International Pride Month and so in this version of the Diversity Journal Club we focus on the climate for LGBTIQ+ people in the sciences. Despite the common belief that academia is accepting, a 2016 report by the American Physical Society (APS) on LGBTIQ+ physicists in the US shows reasons for concern.
The report documents feelings of isolation sometimes experienced by LGBTIQ+ physicists in a workplace that largely expects them to conform. Indeed, the APS research finds a significant portion of physicists have experienced discrimination, with trans individuals facing the most adversity. A more recent UK survey among physical scientists similarly shows that many sexual and gender minorities experience workplace discrimination.
We will discuss these findings and related questions related to how sexual orientation and gender identity affect scientists such as: What makes professionals feel comfortable in revealing their identities in the workplace? What are the differences between US and Europe, academia and industry? And what can we do throughout to make the sciences more inclusive and improve the lives of LGBTIQ+ scientists?
Dr. Eleni-Alexandra Kontou (Postdoctoral researcher at ITFA; Diversity and Inclusion council of the Institute of Physics, UvA) and Erik Persoon (Online editor / content specialist, FNWI; UvA Pride) will host the event and introduce the readings.
Racism against Asian people has always existed but has lived in silence. Voices have been muted by prejudices, stereotypes, and stigmas. The arrival of COVID-19 has magnified these negative images of and discrimination against Asian people. Now, the time has come when anti-Asian racism has come to the attention and that awareness of anti-Asian racism increases. Where does the underlying mechanism for the hate crimes and increase of racist behaviour against Asian people originate from? What can we as universities do to tackle this and to create a more inclusive environment?
In this edition of the Diversity Journal Club, we will discuss anti-Asian racism* and Sinophobia based on the article “Sinophobia: How a virus reveals the many ways China is feared (Wong, 2020)”. Furthermore, we will discuss what role universities can play in combating anti-Asian racism by the articles “Why universities need to actively combat Sinophobia (Aydin, 2020)” and “How to Counter Anti-Asian Racism in the University: 7 Suggestions (Choo, n.d.)”.
An introductory talk will be given by Rosie Zheng, a student in Psychology and Artificial Intelligence at the UvA. She was born in China and has lived in the Netherlands since she was three years old. Throughout her life, she has faced anti-Asian racism many times. Currently, she is active at VHTO, WiF Students, and Asian Raisins.
*The focus will be on racism against East-Asian people.
Here are three opinion pieces about this subject:
Facts show that increasing diversity and inclusion enhances the quality and relevance of research and education, strengthens connections with wider audiences and improves collaborations.
Yet a study by Jimenez e.a. from 2019 shows that the majority of faculty is not involved in activities to increase diversity and inclusion. Instead, those with a minority background are mostly involved. Sadly enough, they often discover that time and actions spent on this are not formally recognized, potentially harming their career prospects. So how can we change this situation, how can we challenge and invite majority members to play their part in increasing diversity and inclusion?
In discussing the article “Underrepresented faculty play a disproportionate role in advancing diversity and inclusion” (Jimenez e.a., 2019) we can explore this paradox of diversity and inclusion to have become a task for minorities. In addition, we can consider measures to get the majority involved and feel responsible.
Dr. Bob Pirok (Assoc. prof., HIMS research institute) and Lotte Schreuders MSc (lecturer Chemistry; ‘SistersinScience_NL’) will host this edition and start the conversation with an introduction to the topic and text.
Underrepresentation of women in STEM: How to keep females in STEM fields? PhD candidate Lisa Teichmann (SILS) will host this edition of the Diversity Journal Club and start the discussion on how to keep females in STEM fields.
n recent years there have been many initiatives aiming to reduce the gender gap in academia. Although there is a widespread perception of an equal ratio of female to male students in STEM fields, the gross number of female academic staff is still smaller than that of males; with numbers showing consistently a ‘leaky pipeline’ across academic careers.
This underlying and persistent problem is thought to be a result of higher dropout rates of women when compared to their male counterparts. Future initiatives should therefore focus not only on making careers in STEM more attractive to women, but also on creating a welcoming environment for them to stay.
At our Faculty of Science, we are also concerned about such numbers, which is why this edition of the Diversity Journal Club @ SP focuses on the question: why do female students (and to some extent faculty, too) leave STEM in disproportionate numbers?
PhD candidate Lisa Teichmann (SILS) will host this edition of the Diversity Journal Club and start the discussion on how to keep females in STEM fields. She will introduce an IZA report by the Institute for Labor Economics (Germany) that offers some insights on the gender difference in student dropout rates in STEM. Even though female students have higher high school scores and equally inquisitive personalities - both thought to be favorable to successfully graduate, the dropout rates are an astonishing 23% higher.
It seems like females ‘avoid the culture of STEM rather than science itself’, switching to more female prevalent subjects. The authors attribute dropout rates to the upbringing of women, from the early childhood throughout their educational path, absence of female role models, and their disliking of the competitive culture in STEM.
The relation between science and religion has often been portrayed as inevitably conflictual. This view assumes that both science and religion are making truth claims but use fundamentally different methods which are incompatible with each other. An alternative view presents science and religion as domains with different content domains, tasks and methods, which would avoid their relation as necessarily conflictual.
In discussing the article 'Religion and Science: Beyond the Epistemological Conflict Narrative' (Evans & Evans, 2008) we can explore alternative ways of understanding the relation between religion and science. In addition, we will briefly touch upon some data about the religiosity among scientists. Prof.Astrid Groot (IBED) will host this edition and start the conversation with an introduction to the topic and text.
Optional extra readings for those interested:
To better understand what our faculty needs to do for increasing its diversity and inclusion it is of essence to be able to rely upon data on the composition of our students. However, this is not a simple matter as we will discuss in the December session of the Diversity Journal Club, asking what data are needed to work on a more inclusive faculty. Isn’t this topic fitting for the Faculty of Science’s community, indeed?
For example, what benchmarks should be used to assess our faculty’s population? Should we compare the percentage of student’s (non-western) migration background with that percentage at other universities, in relation to the city’s population or to 18-year-old vwo pupils across the country? What indicators/characteristics does a STEM-faculty need to be diverse and inclusive?
For this edition two different texts are chosen by Moataz Rageb (Msc Sociology and project coordinator of the Student Impact Centre FNWI): one text on UvA data and a more general conceptual text presented by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. These will give us food for thoughts to discuss the possible ways in measuring/benchmarking our faculty’s (student) composition.
The controversial theme of ‘Decolonizing the academic curriculum’ has reached also the exact sciences like mathematics and physics, sparkling intense debates. In the November session of the Diversity Journal Club, we will reflect on this multifaceted topic focusing on mathematics.
We will touch on the existence of different mathematical systems all over the world, historical context of the mathematical process and accessibility of mathematics.
To that end, for this edition two very different texts were chosen by its hosts Diletta Martinelli (assistant professor at the Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics) and Danielle van Versendaal (Educational Policy Officer Science Faculty).
In the last years, the debate over the divisive legacy of colonialism in South Africa’s top research institutions has ignited fierce discussions and protests. The article collects opinions of different academics working at the University of Cape Town.
Are science and mathematics rational descriptions of the world converging on the truth, or are they socially constructed accounts of the world, and offering some of many possible accounts.
Read here the report of this event.
During the week around Diversity Day, the second edition of the Diversity Journal Club @ Science Park dicussed a review article that shows some problems inherent in ‘parachute science’: researchers from wealthy countries conducting research in developing nations without involving local scientists and publishing in journals that on average underrepresent authors from the Global South.
In their study “Out of Africa: The underrepresentation of African authors in high-impact geoscience literature” the authors illustrate this problem from the context of geoscience, yet their insights are valid for many other fields like public health, biology and economy. With regard to geoscience the authors note how African countries are being heavily mined and provide the global population with great quantities of rare earths and minerals for which there is a high demand. Yet the geoscience studies that are published about these topics hardly involve researchers from those regions that are most affected by and involved in these developments. Why should this also be a matter of concern to us, and what could be done about this?
The text to be discussed is “Out of Africa: The underrepresentation of African authors in high-impact geoscience literature” (Michelle North e.a., Earth-Science Reviews 208 (2020), p. 1-12 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2020.103262 ). After a brief response to the article by Dr. Kenneth Rijsdijk, geoscience and island researcher at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), participants can share their thoughts with each other. Why should we be concerned about our involvement in ‘parachute science’?
Encouraged by the many discussions on diversity and inclusion in science around the summer on our campus, the Faculty Diversity Office and Diversity Sounding Board are starting the new academic year with a monthly Diversity Journal Club @ SP, open to all members of our community.
The first text to be discussed is the short essay 'How Diversity Makes us Smarter' by Katherine Phillips in Scientific American 2014/2017, in which the author responds to the question whether social diversity is valuable in addition to diversity of expertise. Using insights from various disciplines, she approaches the question in terms of informational diversity. After a brief response to the article by Faculty Diversity Officer and philosopher of science dr Machiel Keestra, participants can share their thoughts with each other. Can we also increase our faculty’s creativity by enhancing its diversity?