Power, biases and slowing down science
A panel discussion of the research, chaired by Dame Carol Robinson, led to lively discourse on a variety of issues, including departmental “gate-keeping” that denies women opportunities to apply for competitive research funding; unfair and opaque recruitment processes; and the problem of intersectionality, compounding barriers faced by minority groups.
“Being a minority is not just about population parity,” said Dr Karen Salt from the University of Nottingham and deputy chair of UKRI’s Diversity Advisory Committee. “It’s about power, and how much power you wield in certain spaces.
“We have a whole track of work around ethnicity and race, and an incredible amount of work looking at gender, but what happens when those two spaces overlap?”
Professor Randall Peterson, director of the Leadership Institute at the London Business School, talked about the risks of unconscious bias: “When you’re recruiting for leadership positions you need to have very clear criteria on the qualifications, experience and skills needed, and not leave room for the mysterious quality of ‘fit’. ‘Fit’ means someone like you that you’re comfortable with.”
Professor Uta Frith from University College London and chair of the Royal Society’s Diversity Committee proposed the idea of supporting ‘slow science’ – encouraging scientists to think more about the quality of their research output by capping the number of papers academics are allowed to publish per year.