Questions are at the core of every scientific field. Asking questions leads to new answers and ideas for solving global problems, including how to care for the planet.
There is one question that many scientists have asked frequently in recent years – how can scientific fields become more inclusive? Making science an accessible and welcoming place for underrepresented communities is a top priority for many institutions.
It turns out that diversity is more than just the right thing to do — it also has practical implications that can shape how we deal with climate change and other environmental issues.
What is diversity in science?
Diversity in scientific fields can take many forms. Race, gender, nationality, neurodiversity, educational background, and scientific discipline are all ways in which scientists, researchers, and other employees can differ. Each one brings a different perspective to the table.
Inclusive science encompasses individual and group or group diversity, which affects the accessibility and impact of the study. A recent report showed that papers written by racially diverse groups resulted in an increased impact of 10.63%.
Advantages of diversifying environmental sciences
Great diversity has a positive effect on the scientific industry – but why?
It may come as no surprise that the populations most affected by climate change are also underrepresented in science. These communities can bring new skills and perspectives to each discipline, especially environmental studies.
Here are some specific ways more diverse science is a step toward learning more about the planet than ever before.
Most scientific fields are currently set up to study and serve a narrow section of humanity. However, more diverse teams of scholars encourage broader perspectives and consideration of a broader range of issues and solutions.
For example, scholars around the world focus on important issues that Western industries usually ignore or suffer from underfunding. Putting their research at the forefront and expanding access to essential tools and lab supplies is essential to making a real difference to the planet’s climate challenges.
Increase productivity and impact
Diverse research teams are more likely to receive citations and publish research papers than their non-diverse counterparts. That’s because unique perspectives bring new attitudes and behaviors to a lab or field project. Healthy questions and discussions can flourish when people have different ideas, leading to more discoveries.
In addition, scientists from societies disproportionately affected by climate change often have a heightened sense of urgency to address such issues.
Research shows that diverse research groups can improve community participation rates when minority populations are studied. Having team members from these communities can help facilitate communication and trust.
For example, many ethnic minority communities in the United States are likely to distrust research institutions based on decades of abuse and systemic racism. They are also often excluded from environmental studies. However, research groups led by Black and Latino scientists may be able to help overcome societal concerns and begin to fill troubling research gaps.
More diverse participation also promotes environmental movements. Broader science can get a broader segment of the public excited about finding effective solutions.
Scientists who come together from different backgrounds and disciplines must learn how to communicate effectively with each other. Developing common ground makes it easier to discuss their findings with the public and reach more people. This could make scientific screenings more relevant to a larger segment of the population.
Diversify scientific fields to learn more about the planet
Making the scientific community a more inclusive place has its challenges, from outreach and recruitment to mentoring and retention and more.
However, the results speak for themselves – a diverse science is a stronger science. Comprehensive research groups will discover more about our planet, for the benefit of all.