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: • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 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 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? • 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? • 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.