What is Dig-UK?
Diversity in Geoscience (DiG-UK) is the UK-based chapter of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD). Our aim is to improve equality, diversity and inclusivity within the UK geosciences by raising awareness of the challenges faced by under-represented groups, and working with educators and employers to support the development of a more diverse and inclusive geoscience community. We believe that everyone should be able to access education and careers of their choice, suited to their skillsets, and without barriers to participation. Geosciences are address critical issues that affect us locally and globally including the impact of human activity on the natural environment, the search and development of new and existing resources, and understanding and mitigating the effects of climate change. To best understand, and find solutions to, current and future issues we need talented geoscientists with diverse abilities and a diverse range of perspectives. Currently, however, this diversity is lacking because certain groups face barriers to engaging with the geosciences. This includes (but is not limited to) groups that identify by gender, disability, race and ethnicity, sexuality and social class. We want to find ways to overcome barriers to engagement that exist for these groups within education, academia and industry.
What is ‘geoscience’?
DiG-UK apply the term ‘geoscience’ in its very broadest sense, to include any subject related to the study of the Earth and its systems, including the impact of human activity on the environment. Allied subjects include, but are not necessarily restricted to, geology, geography, environmental science, aspects of bioscience (e.g. ecology, zoology), archaeology and civil / geotechnical engineering. An important characteristic of these subjects is that they require learners to participate in fieldwork, sometimes a considerable amount of fieldwork, particularly at undergraduate level. Exploring issues around participation in fieldwork is therefore of particular interest to DiG-UK.
What is ‘Unconscious Bias’?
Unconscious bias is considered to be a social stereotype, judgement, assessment or prejudice in favour or against an individual, a place, situation or culture, from a place outside of an individual’s conscious awareness. Bias may arise from deep-seated and semi-automated thinking, absorbed from the deeply unequal society in which we live. Bias is influenced by our own past experience, cultural environment, and background. It is important that we are aware of the potential for in-built bias and develop strategies to avoid this. Here are two common examples:
- The tendency, in teamwork or recruitment for example, to gravitate towards people we believe are ‘like us’ (e.g. gender, race, educational attainment).
- Making assumptions about an individual’s ability or experience based on a particular characteristic (e.g. age, gender, race, disability).
It is important to eradicate unconscious bias because it creates barriers that prevent some individuals from performing to their best and achieving their full potential.
What does ‘Decolonising the Curriculum’ mean?
Decolonising the curriculum refers to the process of addressing the colonial legacies that persist within Western forms of knowledge. It invites academic staff and students to critically reflect on the formation of knowledge, the views of the ‘fathers’ of modern knowledge, how this knowledge is taught and who it is taught by. Our curriculum tends to position the knowledge and traditions of white men from the global North as intellectually superior. Decolonising the curriculum seeks to question and transform this way of thinking as well as to review how we teach and learn. That said, decolonising is not an easy concept to define. It can be understood in the context of the removal of forces that have taken over a geographical space, a people, or a culture. However, it also refers to the decolonisation of mindsets, re-shaping ideas imposed or promoted by the colonisers, that tended to deem the colonised society and their way of life, education, or cultural practices as inferior. Universities are principle sources of knowledge production and dissemination, but it is recognised that in UK universities, this knowledge can often exclude non-Eurocentric points of view, essentially marginalising or dismissing them all together (Cupples and Grosfoguel, 2018). This is no longer acceptable. As we become a more enlightened society and as the student body increasingly diversifies it is now time to recognise and reflect the much wider range of perspectives that exist within the curriculum, rather than perpetuating the legacy of colonialism by presenting white, Western knowledge as the only or dominant form of knowledge.
What is meant by the phrase ‘White Privilege’?
This term is widely understood to acknowledge the inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race, having greater access to power and resources than a person of colour in the same situation. The term does not mean that white people haven’t struggled, nor that what they have achieved is in some way unearned. It is more about a recognition of built-in advantage rather than a comment on an individual’s income or personal circumstances. In a society characterised by racial inequality and injustice, white people have also suffered hardship, but the colour of their skin has not made their life even harder still.