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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

Diversity within Science and its Community

Taner Edis

Division of Science — Physics

www2.truman.edu/~edis

diverse or uniform
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.
ethnic diversity a
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.)
gender diversity c
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.
improving diversity
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.
where diversity fits
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.
where diversity strains
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.”
multiculturalism
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.
what does this mean
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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