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Diversity within Science and its Community Taner Edis Division of Science — Physics www2.truman.edu/~edis Diverse or uniform? Diversity OK as abstract principle, but what happens in specific institutional contexts? Complicated… Culture of science is ambivalent:

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Diversity within science and its community l.jpg

Diversity within Science and its Community

Taner Edis

Division of Science — Physics

www2.truman.edu/~edis


Diverse or uniform l.jpg
Diverse or uniform?

  • Diversity OK as abstract principle, but what happens in specific institutional contexts? Complicated…

  • Culture of science is ambivalent:

    • Good example of current diversity and of progress towards diversity, but also

    • Science is a monoculture — it welcomes previously excluded people on condition they adapt to this preexisting culture.


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Ethnic diversity: A

  • People from all national backgrounds do science. Common to work together.

  • Poor populations underrepresented, but not due to exclusion.

  • I hail from Turkey, have worked with Hungarians, Serbs, Indians, Chinese…

  • The results of science are available to all. (Reason for atrocious writing style of journals.)


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Gender diversity: C

  • Science slower in opening up to women, particularly in “hard” sciences such as physics. Loss in Ph.D. pipeline.

  • Unwelcoming culture — women do better in biology, math, astronomy.

  • Institutions have operated on slave-to-research model. A wife is assumed to take care of all non-physics aspects of life, even career-related socialization.


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Improving diversity

  • Lack of gender diversity bad for science

    • Social and political climate has changed.

    • Not good to exclude talent.

  • Slowly, things are changing. There’s institutional awareness of the problem.

  • But note:

    • Weak intrinsic commitment to diversity; motivation is health of science.

    • There still is enough male talent in physics.


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Where diversity fits

Reasons science may welcome diversity:

  • Science aims to be valid for all, regardless of nationality, gender etc. We all have to live with gravity.

  • Bad historical experience with “Aryan science” or “Jewish science” drivel.

  • So good science must be open to people from all backgrounds, and diversity is a sign of health.


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Where diversity strains

Science is open on its own terms:

  • Aspiring scientists are required to join a pre-existing culture. To do science.

  • This culture is not rigid, but change needs to be justified as a way of improving scientific practice.

  • Scientists suspicious of feminist, Afrocentric, religion-based attempts to introduce “other ways of knowing.”


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Multiculturalism?

  • The culture of science is explicitly universalistic; it does not go well with extensive “multiculturalism.” E.g. if a culture supports creationism, it is wrong.

  • Science depends on the freedom to criticize — dethroning white patriarchal Christianity just to replace it with a more inclusive set of sacred cows is no improvement.


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What does this mean?

  • The interests of scientists and diversity-advocates often overlap. But they can also clash.

  • Few scientists would object to diversity as a way of fleshing out science’s commitment to openness.

  • Calls for diversity will meet resistance if they come as a heavy-handed identity politics which restricts free inquiry.


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