New vision for broadening perspectives in geosciences
Geology and other geosciences, physical geography and environmental sciences remain “disproportionately white” in the UK and US, according to a new study. Addressing the reasons for this disparity and the growing representation of minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, the authors say, is crucial to creating a stronger academic field, more capable of meeting challenges. interdisciplinary and political.
According to the new study published in Geosciences of nature, geoscience students represent a small subset of the UK population. Between 2018 and 2019, only 5.2% of physical geography, 6.9% of environmental sciences, and 10.4% of postgraduate geology students identified as Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic (BAME), even if these groups represent 18.5% of the 18 to 24 year old population. In the past 5 years, there have been two years that no black woman has undertaken full-time postdoctoral research in geology or physical geography programs.
The American panorama does not look any better. Over the past 40 years, about 85% of geoscience doctorates have come from non-Hispanic white backgrounds. According to data from the National Science Foundation, of the 610 geoscience doctoral degrees awarded to U.S. citizens in 2016, white students received 480 (79%), Asian students 28 (5%), Hispanic students, or Latinos 27 (4%), black or African students. American students 11 (2%) and Native American students 5 (less than 0.1%)
Researchers agree that inequitable access to geoscience education has one of its roots in how geoscience has been historically defined: with colonialism, white supremacy, and resource exploitation. This legacy prevents black, Asian, Indigenous, LGBTQ + and disabled researchers early in their careers from identifying with the classic image of a geoscientist.
Natasha Dowey, senior lecturer in physical geography at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK and lead author of the study, said the first step to closing the inclusion gap is to decolonize early geoscience education by supporting it with history and sociology lessons to “tell the whole truth about the subject from different experiences and points of view.”
Big changes require diverse perspectives
To support these perspectives, faculty need to understand that students from under-represented backgrounds may identify with more than one cultural or social identity. Recognizing such intersectional identities will help “ensure that no student is left behind,” said Ann-Marie NÃºÃ±ez of the Department of Educational Studies at Ohio State University. NÃºÃ±ez was not involved in the Geosciences of nature to study.
Greater inclusion in the geosciences will help communities outside academia, argue the report’s authors: from studying air, soil and groundwater pollution to risk assessment and discovery. new minerals, terrestrial and environmental studies have everything to do with the climate crisis. âIf we don’t have a diverse workforce working on these issues, how are we really going to address them fairly in all communities? Dowey asked.
Mitzy CortÃ©s was chosen by the UK Embassy in Mexico City as âAmbassador for a Dayâ to discuss the need to include the perspectives of women from indigenous communities at the 26th Conference of the United Nations Parties on Climate Change (COP26). CortÃ©s is a Mixtec student in the Mexican Indigenous Languages ââPromotion and Advocacy Project at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
From CortÃ©s’ perspective, research and decision-making on climate change issues is always taken from a privileged-exclusive perspective. The establishment of clean energy projects such as wind farms or hydroelectric plants, for example, has serious consequences in indigenous and indigenous territories, where land dispossession is a familiar practice. These industries are often accompanied by territorial militarization, she said, which increases violence, especially for women. Including the views of those who have experienced such a situation, she explained, is a necessary practice to find solutions to climate problems that do not perpetuate violence against women in rural and indigenous communities.
Dealing with climate change is about more than reducing carbon emissions, CortÃ©s said. It’s understanding how the climate crisis affects all communities around the world differently, especially those that have been historically marginalized.
âOur academic research is entirely determined by our life experiences. And we have been historically excluded for where we have [been] born, the color of our skin and our sexâ¦ There is no way to save the planet if these systems of oppression are not disarticulated, âshe concluded.
Academic, institutional and governmental reform
To close the inclusion gap, not only in geosciences but in STEM in general, much more effort from academia, government and institutions is needed, the authors of the article said.
Starting to change the elitist logic of hiring processes at high-fee universities is a good place to start, said Christopher Jackson, chair of sustainable geosciences at the University of Manchester in the UK and co-author of the new study. The tariff classification system describes âthe reputation of a university in the international marketâ based on the data of established entry standards. High-fee universities in the UK include Oxford, Cambridge, and University College London.
The admission standards used by high-fee universities “have nothing to do with intelligence,” Jackson said. “It is the fact that some [applicants] growing up in a better socio-economic situation which allows them to obtain a good grade, which then allows them to be accepted in a specific university.
On the government side, many American researchers say there is a need to support public institutions serving minorities (MSI). MSIs enroll 16% of all African American students, 40% of all Hispanic students, and a rapidly growing number of Asian American students in higher education, according to data from the US Department of the United States. Interior.
Institutions are also reacting. In 2019, for example, AGU launched the first geoscience-focused inclusion initiative, the Bridge program, which aims to increase “opportunities for students from under-represented populations to obtain graduate degrees and to create a network of peers, mentors and counselors to support and serve them. before, during and after higher education.
âHumberto Basilio (@humbertobasilio), science writer
September 2, 2021: This article has been updated to better reflect the AGU Bridge program.
Basilio, H. (2021), New view of Expanding Perspectives in the geosciences, Eos, 102, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EO162455. Posted on August 26, 2021.
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