Equity, diversity & inclusion in the context of science can be approached from different angles. First, one might think about how the science community might become more diverse and equitable as it pertains representation. Hence, the long-lasting question: how can STEM institutions recruit more women and people from underrepresented backgrounds? Furthermore, #ichbinhanna is an ongoing issue ( for good reasons!) and it is important to talk about the often precarious working conditions in academia, to criticize them and to fight for an adjustment of the system. Because once again, those who are disproportionately affected are those who belong to underrepresented groups and do not conform to the long-held normative view of who scientists should be: white, male, from well-educated families.
This post is not meant to be a contribution to this important discussion. Rather, today I would like to report on a goal that we have established as part of our Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. Diversity aspects can (and often do) play an important role in research, and this does not only pertain the people we hire, the composition of our teams, internal policies, and processes; diversity and equity considerations should be embedded in research planning and research design as well.
Carolin Criado-Perez wrote what I think is an eye-opening book on the topic: Invisible Women. In er book she uses numerous case studies to show how women (let’s not even talk about other underrepresented groups) have almost been completely ignored – and thus discriminated against – by research, even though they make up almost 50% of the world’s population! Did you know that most medical textbooks still do not contain any gender-specific information on topics where gender differences have long been proven, such as depression or the effects of alcohol on the body? Or that studies by the pharmaceutical industry for many years were not necessarily conducted on female subjects? Results were considered generally valid for both sexes. It is not a secret that gender differences exist in the functioning of organs. Or did you know that crash tests, which are supposed to making driving as safe as possible, are carried out on dummies modelled on the standard male body and thus used as a representative of the adult population in general? And the “female dummies” that sometimes might be used are simply smaller variants of the male ones and present no specific female features as it pertains body shape and anatomy. Not to mention that they are often only tested in the co-driver’s seat. Pretty unfair and excluding, isn’t it?
Examples like these are numerous, but fortunately researchers are now becoming increasingly aware of knowledge inequality. So, this brings me back to our goal because what is the point of the most exciting and innovative research if it is not also visible. It is almost impossible to keep track of the countless papers that are published every day. Fortunately, there are opportunities for scientists to exchange ideas, and such a format has been established at FZJ with the Jülich Colloquia organised by the Scientific and Technical Council (WTR). In the project, we quickly realised that this format would provide an excellent framework for making D&I aspects of research accessible to a larger (expert-) audience. The WTR was of the same opinion and so, in close cooperation and with the involvement of our scientists, we succeeded in identifying speakers who could either report on D&I-relevant aspects in their research or provide best practice examples of how they promote Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in their institutions. In the future, at least one lecture per year will take place, in which the above-mentioned aspects will be addressed.
When you think of an interesting international personality, it is certainly someone like Dr. Gabriela Figueroa Miranda. Not only does this young woman have two passports, one from her home country Mexico and one from Germany, she also brings with her a high level of innovativeness, a lot of scientific research drive and quite a bit of biochemical knowledge. In short, a personality you want to get to know. As part of the Umbrella cooperation, Gabriela has now visited the land of innovation, Israel.
It is said that traveling broadens the mind. However, what is important for new experiences and a wider world view is the attitude when traveling. An enthusiastic traveler once said, ‚There is nothing wrong with setting goals, as long as you don’t let it keep you from setting interesting detours’. This little quote from Mark Twain describes quite well how Cole Wilson came to Forschungszentrum Jülich. The objective is quite clear in this comparison: gaining experience abroad and in research; the detour is the research field that awaited the young biochemist in Germany. But let’s start right from the beginning.
Science and scientific exchange can create the foundations for a peaceful society. That’s the view of Dr. Sabreen Hammouda. The physicist lives in Garching and works as a postdoc in the PGSB Returner Program at the Jülich Centre for Neutron Science, Neutron Methods (JCNS-4). During her doctoral studies in Germany, the young scientist conducted research at Forschungszentrum Jülich. After her time in Garching, she has the opportunity to return to Palestine, however, she is already committed to supporting Palestinian students and actively shaping the research landscape in her home country.
Or: Insight into the culture, life and, of course, the science of Japan
Many people associate Japan with cherry trees in full bloom, snow-capped Mount Fuji, delicious food and friendly people. However, this highly technological country has much more to offer than these stereotypes. For example, Japan is also characterized by a diverse research landscape and top-class scientists. Felix Cüppers has the opportunity to get to know Japan’s scientific landscape during his fellowship. He is a doctoral student at the JARA Institute Energy-efficient information technology (Peter Grünberg Institute, PGI-10) and will spend a total of six months at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
South Korea is a highly innovative country. It is currently one of the world’s leading economies. Development and innovation already have a long history in this Asian state. Whether the production of silk and pottery products or letterpress printing, South Korea was at the forefront of handcraft and high-technology and was far ahead of many other countries. Today, the ambition and will for further development can be seen above all in the scientific and technical achievements.
Hollywood has a clear answer to the question of what makes good science: It is about the scientific work of smart researchers, who together save the world or mankind at the last moment thanks to a clever idea. Action-packed and full of suspense, the team works under high pressure to develop the saving solution. Loosely based on a German nursery rhyme, science can also deal with seemingly more trivial issues: “Die Wissenschaft hat festgestellt, festgestellt, festgestellt, dass Marmelade Fett enthält, Fett enthält…” (Science has determined, that jam contains fat…). But who is right? Is science only valuable when huge challenges are met with a big bang, or is the solution of everyday tasks also important?
Both are correct! Science and research that addresses both the grand challenges of humankind (without the Hollywood action part, of course) and the small issues of everyday life is valuable. But „good“ science includes many more components.