This is an evolving summary of my various sociological analyses of diversity and the March for Science. I provide an overview of my articles on the global march (Washington DC) as well as Australia.

As the majority of these conversations happen on social media, I compile them into a series of ‘Moments’ on Twitter, or annotated articles on Storify. These articles and compilations are listed further below.

This page will be updated with new materials as I publish them, or until the next phase of the march becomes better organised in terms of equity, accessibility and inclusion. One compilation that I plan to undertake at a later stage is to address the online harassment I faced writing about the March for Science.

Background

Crowd of protesters march in the city of Sydney
Latino Rebels

Immediately following the Women’s March on 21 January, and in response to President Trump’s adverse science policies in the USA, March for Science emerged from a series of social media conversations. The ScienceMarchDC Twitter account was set up on 24 January 2017, followed by Facebook and Reddit communities.

I have chronicled the issues with the March for Science on Latino Rebels, linking to relevant scientific literature. In brief, within the first couple of days of the Twitter and Facebook profiles being established, the March for Science follower count ballooned from a couple of hundred people to several thousands. By the 13 February 2017, when I started an in-depth analysis of the communications published by the march, the march had a following of over 2 million people across its Facebook and Twitter accounts alone.

The issue of diversity has been a principle concern among scientists who have been following the evolution of March for Science.

The term diversity reflects the language of the march, however it’s important to untangle this meaning. In the scientific literature, diversity is an umbrella term that encompasses three distinct concepts. First, equity: identifying barriers, issues and solutions to structural disadvantage. Second, access: creating, measuring and redesigning opportunities to enhance participation by underrepresented groups. Third, inclusion: actively seeking out, valuing and respecting differences. Additionally, the concept of intersectionality specifically addresses how gender and racial inequalities are interconnected and compound other forms of social exclusion, such as sexuality, disability, class and so on. Intersectionality is central to understanding why science is not an even playing field.

As my article with Latino Rebels shows, issues with diversity began almost immediately after the organisers established their social media profiles. Communications by the march were focused on stereotypes of science and excluded groups that are already marginalised.

Young girls in hijab work together on a computer
DiverseScholar

On DiverseScholar, I have analysed the diversity discourse used by March for Science supporters. In sociology, the concept of discourse describes how language comes to convey and justify dominant ways of thinking, talking, and behaving. Discourses are built around the social identities, values, interests, and power of dominant groups. This means that the stories we tell about “Why things are the way they are,” reinforce the status quo, and thus justify the reasoning, policies, and practices of groups that already have institutional control. My analysis shows that the march discourse serves the interests of scientists who are White and from majority backgrounds.

Read on for a summary of my various analyses of the March for Science diversity issues, or click on the links directly below to see the articles in full (mostly on Storify). Note that all the original sources contain scholarly references.


List of My Articles

Authored articles (analysis of broad issues)

  1. The March for Science Can’t Figure Out How to Handle Diversity, Latino Rebels, 14 March 2017.
  2. Analyzing the March for Science Diversity Discourse, DiverseScholar (8:1), 27 March 2017.
  3. Making the Most of Diversity Lessons from March for Science Australia, Women’s Policy Action Tank, 24 April 2017. 
  4. Better Leadership through Diversity: A Case Study of the March for Science, The Humanist, 8 May 2017.

March for Science DC (chronology of social media discussions)

  1. Diversity Statements, Storify, 18 February 2017.
    • Synopsis: compilation of statements from 24 January to 13 February. Jump to summary ↓
  2. Diversity Themed Social Media, Storify, 18 February 2017.
    • Synopsis: posts from 24 January to 13 February.  ↓
  3. Gender Equity and Diversity, Storify, 25 February 2017.
    • Synopsis: Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (“Girl Day”) gender pay gap discussion from 23 February.
  4. Women in Engineering, Storify, 6 March 2017.
    • Synopsis: Girl Day and why women leave STEM; discussion from 24 February.
  5. Reproducing Inequality, Storify, 7 March 2017.
    • Synopsis: sexism and Rosalind Franklin discussion from 1 March.
  6. Moral Panic, Storify, 13 March 2017.
    • Synopsis: Racism in March for Science Los Angeles; discussion from 3 March. ↓ 
  7. SciComm Cycle of the March for Science, The Other Sociologist, 22 April 2017.
    • Synopsis: ethics and cultural appropriation.
  8. Women of Colour in March for Science, Storify 27 April 2017.
    • Synopsis: why women leave the committees, discussion from 18 March.

March for Science Australia (chronology of social media discussions)

  • Equity & Diversity in March for Science Australia, Storify, 7 April 2017.
    • Synopsis: Dialogue with organisers from 3 February to 1 April.
  • Representation at the March for Science Sydney, Twitter, 18 April 2017.
    • Synopsis: Queries on announced speakers on 10 April.
  • National Strategy for March for Science Australia, Twitter, 19 April 2017.
    • Synopsis: Gaps in vision for Australian policy change, on 17-18 April.
  • Science Party and March for Science Australia: Conflict of Interest, Twitter 20 April 2017.
    • Synopsis: Discussions about partisan involvement of political candidates in March for Science committee on 17-19 April.
  • Science Party and March for Science Australia: Leadership Response, Twitter, 20 April 2017.
    • Synopsis: Science Party and March for Science committee members respond to conflict of interest on 18-19 April.

Media Interviews

  • March for Science Sparks Broader Discourse About Science Activism, Living Lab Radio, Heather Goldstone, 24 April 2017.
  • Why Memphis Has Two Marches for Science, Wired, by Anna Vlasits, 21 April 2017.
  • Scientists and Activists Look Beyond the March for Science, The New York Times, by Nicholas St. Fleur, 17 April 2017.
  • Bill Nye And The Science March’s White-Dude Drama, Buzzfeed, by Azeen Ghorayshi, 31 March 2017.
  • Science March on Washington, Billed as Historic, Plagued by Organizational Turmoil, STAT News, by Kate Sheridan, 22 March 2017.

Graphics

Quotes from my articles for your not-for-profit use. Please credit and link my blog: OtherSociologist.com

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March for Science DC

The March for Science Can’t Figure Out How to Handle Diversity

Published on: Latino Rebels, 14 March 2017

March for Science Can_t Figure Out How to Handle Diversity
Latino Rebels

March for Science (MfS) is a USA-based movement protesting the Trump Administration’s anti-science policies and actions. This includes appointing non-scientists and anti-climate change campaigners with conflict of interests in key policy roles, gag orders on climate and science organizations, a vow to cut federal spending by slashing funding and hires, removing information about climate science from the White House website and a threat to the integrity of the peer review process, amongst many other worrying decisions. Scientists have resolutely stated that these interventions will “lead to bad public policy.”

The Trump Administration has similarly issued cuts and gag orders to organizations in the humanities and human services, including cutting aid to global organizations offering abortion services and temporarily suspending visas to people born in seven Muslim-majority countries. The latter so-called “Muslim ban”  received a stay that Trump subsequently appealed then ultimately dropped, only to resurface again.

Immigration raids; the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines; the threat of the American Health Care Act; the Transgender Bathroom Bill all have scientific ramifications, and affect the personal and professional lives of minority scientists. In short, science is under threat; but the impact will be more acute for some scientists over others. Opposition to poor science policies makes any science protest a broad-reaching, cross-disciplinary scientific endeavor.

Researchers from around the world began to critique the organisers of March for Science as early as 26 January, only two days after the March for Science Twitter account was established. Scientists – especially people of colour – were already expressing deep dissatisfaction with the exclusionary message of the march. Even at this early stage, scientists were put off by the “apolitical” stance of the march, and they highlighted that this approach was antithetical to social protest. This “neutral” approach is especially problematic for minority scientists whose lives, work, communities and safety are undermined by the Trump Administration’s various policy changes.

My article covers the various issues of diversity, including the poor communication and planning on equity, inclusion and accessibility, as well as a discussion of the  scientific literature on why diversity matters in science. Discussions over the march are important not just due to the planned demonstration. The debates matter because they reflect broader issues of diversity in science.

Read more on Latino Rebels.

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Analyzing the March for Science Diversity Discourse

Published on: DiverseScholar 8:1, 27 March 2017

DiverseScholar

In my article for DiverseScholar, I show that by setting up the march as being “not political” and reproducing various problems of gender inequality, racism and other forms of exclusion, the march organisers inadvertently created an anti-diversity discourse, which has been subsequently adopted by a vocal majority of the MfS supporter base.

In sociology, the concept of discourse describes how language comes to convey and justify dominant ways of thinking, talking, and behaving. Discourses are built around the social identities, values, interests, and power of dominant groups. This means that the stories we tell about “why things are the way they are,” reinforce the status quo, and thus justify the reasoning, policies, and practices of groups that already have institutional control.

The idea that White men are the taken-for-granted norm of what it means to be a scientist is learned early in school, and then reinforced throughout education, career progression, prestigious prizes, and the publication and funding systems. Institutional mechanisms in science serve to reinforce a discourse that naturalises White men’s dominance in science.

My article on DiverseScholar shows how the MfS organisers have come to reproduce the existing discourse of science, by normalising the interests of scientists who are White and from majority backgrounds. I present an analysis on public reactions to the third (of four) MfS diversity statements that reflect this position.

I analysed 354 comments and over 3,300 reactions to the MfS diversity statement. There were two broad response types to the March for Science diversity statement on the public Facebook page: comments were either discouraging or encouraging of the MfS diversity statement.

The discouraging comments fell into four sub-groups: people who felt that diversity was either politicising or dividing the practice of science; and those who felt that diversity was depreciating or distracting from the goals of the march more specifically.

The encouraging comments included individuals who felt uniquely positioned to be informing others about why diversity is important to the march, and supporters who thought that diversity is enhancing science more generally.

Discourses reflect the history, culture, identity, and politics of those in power. To make the MfS truly inclusive, the organisers need to think more strategically about how to manage misconceptions about science. They will also need to be more proactive in promoting a new discourse about the march.

Read more on DiverseScholar.

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Diversity statements

Published on: Storify, 18 February 2017

Crowd of families marches through a park in Sydney
Storify.com/othersociology

I reviewed the first three weeks’ of social media posts on Twitter and Facebook (Twitter N=1,500 plus Facebook N=78). I started with a review of the diversity statements published from 24 January to 13 February 2017, with the aim of cataloging the issues March for Science has exhibited in the early phase of the organisation.

During the three-week period under review, there were 14 tweets that directly address the diversity plans for March for Science. These are largely apologetic in response to critiques about the lack of clarity on the objectives of the march as they relate to diversity. There were also messages of contrition for tweets that otherwise reproduce inequity or exclusion of underrepresented scientists.

There have been less frequent communications on diversity on the public Facebook page. During the period reviewed, there had only been two direct posts addressing diversity. These posts met vocal opposition from followers, although there were also positive responses. Most of the people commenting are members of the public, and few people identify themselves as scientists in their replies to the diversity posts (see analysis on DiveseScholar).

The interesting dynamic on Facebook is that there is demonstrably less interaction between the social media managers and their followers in comparison to Twitter. On Twitter, messages reference specific users who have shaped the thinking of organisers on diversity issues. This is not the case on Facebook. The nature of Twitter, which encourages acknowledging individual users likely impacts on this pattern.

Twitter also provides an easier way to track conversations, as retweets, mentions, quotes and the spread of ideas are easier to track in one easy glance at the dashboard. This may make patterns of critique more immediate.

The article provides examples and a collection of administrative posts that chronicle the early organisation of the march.

Read more on Storify.

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Diversity-themed social media

Published on: Storify, 18 February 2017

Two women of colour sit behind a table in the background with a laptop open, they are smiling and talking with another person out of focus in the foregroundI evaluated March for Science social media posts that spoke to issues of diversity beyond the diversity statements, as published from late January to mid-February 2017 (Twitter N=1,500 plus Facebook N=78). Much of the diversity issues grow from the position that the organisers continue to voice in media interviews: that the March for Science is not political.  Around a dozen posts focus posts on diversity in general (such as the Trump Administration’s visa and immigration ban); and around 50 posts focus on women in science; though few of these posts specifically feature people of colour.

There were no posts on disability and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) scientists.

There were only two posts on Black History month, but a dozen tweets on owl science facts and twice as many for Darwin Day.

Three posts stress that the march is “non-partisan.” This is a theme that is reinforced in media interviews by the organisers. This dual argument on the non-partisan and apolitical aims of the march has been used by public supporters of the march to dispute the need for diversity (see my analysis in DiverseScholar).

This article also includes a summary of the media reports that the march promotes about itself, which do not include any of the articles critiquing issues of equity and diversity.

Read more on Storify.

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Gender Equity and Diversity

Published on: Storify, 25 February 2017

Storify.com/othersociology

On 23 February 2017, the March for Science DC Twitter account attempted a discussion on an important equity and diversity issue: the gender pay gap. The approach brought to light recurring problems with diversity; namely how inclusion is imagined by the march organisers.

The tweet that sparked a series of important critiques has now been deleted, but colleagues screen capped a copy. The tweet asked “ladies” to explain the gender pay gap ahead of the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (“Girl Day”).

March for Science responded to my tweets, saying that they had women (“female”) engineers on their organising team, who were “curious” to hear answers about the gender pay gap from “current students and others.” The literature is clear on why the pay gap exists. It would be more useful to lead an informed discussion, beginning with some statistics, trends from the empirical literature, and then the solutions, which are well documented.

March for Science then asked me to “propose” some solutions, saying with an almost defeatist attitude: “what society has been trying isn’t working.”

I then tweeted studies and other resources showing that the patterns affecting the gender pay gap in engineering are not about individuals. I showed that the issues are structural.

I discussed how the gender pay gap links to socialisation of science. Girls do as well as boys in maths but they are discouraged from pursing this subject. Children have a diverse idea of scientists until grade prep, but then school teaches otherwise. By Grade 2, children have learned to see scientists as White men. Despite outperforming boys in maths and science, teachers don’t help or encourage girls. Science curriculum shows no examples of diversity, with virtually no people of colour, disabled researchers, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) scientists. Children are also exposed to few White women scientists.

Women who persevere in their science education have scant role models at university and their courses contain gendered examples of science. By this stage, women have endured harassment, microaggressions; stereotype threat; and other systemic barriers.

The pay gap is also exacerbated by the “motherhood penalty.” Moreover, engineering is socially constructed as “guy’s work,” meaning that career pathways are set up to appear as if they are not suitable to women. There are other pay biases in terms of recruitment, as well as racial inequity and sexuality discrimination that compounds sexism. Black and Latin scientists, as well as people with disabilities, are underrepresented in engineering and science as it is, let alone bearing in mind other gender, sexuality, class and disability dimensions.

This article offers advice about how to address the gender pay gap as well as how March for Science can better improve diversity.

Read more on Storify.

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Women in Engineering

Published on: Storify, 6 March 2017

Indian woman solar engineer working
Storify.com/othersociology

Having already set off a thunderous round of critique the previous day, on the 25 February 2017 (still in celebration of Girl Day), the March for Science Twitter account published a nearly identical post asking women to share the reasons why they left engineering. The response from scientists was equally critical.

I discussed the fact that scientists had already provided useful resources and advice to enhance the March for Science diversity practices. The recurring mistakes, particularly one day to the next, were perplexing. I noted that the March for Science history was chequered on equity and inclusion.

Especially problematic is the fact that March for Science does not actively moderate discussions. Instead, its various social media accounts publish controversial questions without responding to the resulting conversations. When it comes to diversity in particular, this one-way approach to communication comes across as a weak commitment to inclusion.

Scientists from minority backgrounds discussed that they had initially applied to volunteer for the march, but they had been ignored repeatedly. With such a high profile project and around two million followers across social media, it has been puzzling how volunteers have been selected, given there are so many experts who have offered their services.

Other scientists from underrepresented backgrounds expressed their reticence to join the March for Science team. Without a clear framework for diversity, and following so much public miscommunication, it is hard to have faith in their internal equity processes and make the leap to join the cause. Accessibility has been one of the major areas where March for Science is struggling to gain scientists’ confidence.

This post goes on to discuss the problems with leaving social media discussions un-moderated, as is the case with March for Science posts to date, and the toll of equity and diversity work on minorities, especially on women of colour. I also include some of the considerations from the global discussions for the March for Science in Australia.

Read more on Storify.

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Reproducing Inequality

Published on: Storify, 7 March 2017

Rosalind Franklin sitting in her lab
Storify.com/othersociology

Having recently created two issues of gender inequity, March for Science made their third foray into inappropriate gender commentary less than a week later.  On the 1 March 2017, just days after apologising for these previous issues, the March for Science Twitter account tweeted about Professors James Watson and Frances Crick’s “discovery” of DNA; thus subsuming the contribution of Dr Rosalind Franklin, whose work was stolen by Watson and Crick.

As hundreds of scientists pointed out, Franklin’s stolen work gained Watson and Crick a Nobel Prize, while recognition for Franklin was withheld. This story is well-known; anyone who is committed to gender equity should know this sordid tale of a deserving woman being robbed of her scientific achievement. By stumbling into one of science’s most infamous tales of fraud and sexism, the march organisers once again proved that diversity awareness is not on their radar.

March for Science did not own the issue and instead doubled down. They retweeted a link to a story about Franklin which actually argues that Franklin’s story is a myth, a proposition refuted by Sienna Schaeffer (and many other historical accounts vindicating Franklin).

Hundreds of women scientists flocked to tell March for Science that their tweets were downplaying the significance of Franklin’s research. This went on for hours, but the organisers only responded to one person: marine conversation biologist Dr Matt Shiffman. March for Science pleaded their case to Shiffman, saying that the miscommunication was due to character limit (Twitter allows for only 140 characters per post). This therefore replicated gender inequality, by ignoring women’s critique of sexism.

If this is how they approach gender issues for White women, it is no wonder that they are reticent to support racial and ethnic minority scientists.

The rest of this analysis focuses on the organiser’s poor grasp of equity and diversity, as well as problems with the apolitical stance of the march.  I also provide advice on how to improve their science communication. I discuss how one of the male March for Science committee members weighed into the conversation not to address sexism, but instead to berate me. He tweeted at me for hours that he took my critique personally and he threatened to quit the march (but didn’t). He argued that “tweeting facts” about equity and diversity would have no impact. Other scientists noted the irony that a march for science would be unwilling to hear scientific facts.

The article also includes discussion by underrepresented scientists expressing their frustration over the lack of inclusion and the exploitation of labour by minority scientists who were investing a high degree of expertise and time to encourage change, only to be ignored by the organisers. I end with advice on allyship and self-care for minority scientists who were being maligned by the emotional toll of critiquing the march, and the resulting abuse from members of the public.

Read more on Storify.

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Moral Panic

Published on: Storify, 13 March 2017

Beaker from The Muppets is shaking his head in panic
Storify.com/othersociology

By early March, 400 marches had been announced internationally. One stands out for the wrong reasons: Los Angeles and its attempt to generate a moral panic about minorities.

In a now-deleted tweet published on 2 February 2017, the March for Science LA Twitter account indulged in a thinly veiled attempt to test the waters of racism. The tweet read: “Some scientists are concerned with the march turning into political event and losing its focus. What do YOU pledge to do to keep it peaceful.”

As you can see in the screenshot below, saved on 3 March, the tweet didn’t receive a lot of direct engagement (no retweets at that stage and only four “likes”), though there were a few comments. One of these was by Dr David Shiffman, marine conservation biologist, who used an image of the “Clipppy” meme to say: “You seem to be suggesting that letting minority scientists voice concerns means ‘violence.’ Would you like to rephrase?”

A colleague alerted me to the tweet on 2 March, which I retweeted. Another colleague, data science student Paulette V-R then questioned the Los Angeles organisers: “So political = violence?”

March for Science LA promptly dismissed the conflict. They argued they hadn’t made the connection between politics and violence. Yet, in effect, they had—by implying that politics leads to non-peace.

March for Science LA quibbled, placing emphasis on the “critics of our march” who had made the connection between politics and peace.

By 3 March, March for Science LA had already deleted its tweet, so I retweeted a screen grab.

The idea that science and politics can be separated is a political idea; it is the outcome of historical dynamics in science.

White men’s dominance in science is so deeply entrenched that their identities, experiences and status have become established as the norm. In other words, White male politics in science is not questioned. Instead, everyone else’s identities are the Other: the point of difference, the “identity politics” that are threatening to White men’s interests in science.

Moreover, March for Science LA decided to elevate the racist views of “some scientists,” thereby normalising this moral panic by challenging their followers to maintain peace. This follows weeks of vocal opponents arguing that diversity undermines the goals of the march.

By elevating diversity dissenters, the LA organisers have chosen to make “folk devils” of minority groups. This is an especially vexing position to take in Los Angeles, where half the population is Latin.

Unfortunately, March for Science LA responded defensively, instead of taking the opportunity to reflect. March for Science LA tried to de-escalate the critique. They took issue with the perception of “racist undertones.” Diminishing the impact of racism is part of how racism is enforced. Whether someone is being consciously or maliciously racist is not the issue. Racism is so pervasive that it happens in routine interactions that people do not always recognise. Intent does not dictate the impact of racism. The consequences of racism are real, not imagined, and certainly not subjectively judged by White people.

Other scientists were clear of March for Science’s dog whistling. They understood that the March for Science LA posts were unfairly targeting underrepresented groups.

The rest of the article includes discussion from scientists who revisit the notion that science is not political, as they encouraged March for Science LA to work with established social justice movements. Others noted that the dynamics of “peaceful” protests were driven by racial relations.

Read more on Storify.

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SciComm Cycle of the March for Science

Published on: The Other Sociologist, 22 April 2017

Woman of colour reads her phone in front of a laptopOn 13 April 2017, an article in Science Magazine featured the academic research planned on the March for Science, and interviews with one of the march co-chairs. The journalist reported that George Mason University was seeking email addresses of supporters for a planned study.

Scientists from around the world who have been holding the march organisers accountable criticised the ethics of such a proposed study. This eventually led to the organisers requesting a correction from the journalist.

Two days later, on 16 April, the March for Science was forced to issue a public apology after appropriating African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in a now-deleted tweet (below). This was heavily critiqued, especially by Black researchers, who pointed out the hypocrisy of using AAVE when Black scientists had been marginalised by the march, and received abuse for speaking out on inequalities within the march. Black scientists were also ignored when they encouraged the organisers to work with established social justice groups, including Black Lives Matter. Cultural appropriation of AAVE is doubly offensive given these patterns of exclusion.

The organisers have established a damaging cycle of communication failures and weak apologies since the March for Science was first promoted. The SciComm Cycle involves:

  • Step 1: The March for Science releases a piece of science communication (scicomm).
  • Step 2: Minorities and White women respond to scicomm problems, en mass.
  • Step 3: The communication problem becomes so big that the organisers cannot ignore it any longer.
  • Step 4: Having finally reacted to critique by scientists, the march goes back into the same cycle, to produce the next scicomm problem.

The rest of this post discusses the chronology of a dozen public apologies that the organisers have issued for their sexist, racist and exclusionary public communications. I also analyse the damage of their weak “non-apologies” that have promised changes that never eventuated.

Read more on Storify.

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Women of Colour Leaving the March for Science

Published on: Storify, 27 April 2017

Two women of colour work together on a computer
Storify.com/othersociology

By mid-March 2017, women of colour (WOC) had been contacting me about their experiences with various March for Science satellite marches. They were concerned about low commitment to diversity, especially racial inclusion. Other issues, such as accessibility, also remained a problem.

These women’s efforts to increase proactive action on diversity was being met with opposition from fellow local committee members. This ranged from not being listened to, to being told that there were no problems with inclusion, to outright hostility, alienation and conflict with organisers or fellow committee members. One woman described this experience as “gaslighting.”

The women who were in touch with me felt under-valued, and some questioned their involvement or were seeking advice about how to reconcile their efforts in a culture lacking collegiality and solidarity for women of colour.

By the 18 March, the central organising committee still has gaps on its leadership with representation of experts for disability; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) researchers; and equity and diversity practitioners making decisions mindful of racial, ethnic and religious minorities in STEM.

The march’s non-partisan and “a-political” stance seems to be a shield against directly confronting Trump Administration policies. It is unclear how the March for Science will have concrete impact given they don’t have a road-map for policy change. Overturning the Trump Administration’s adverse policies, such as the Executive Order on visas and immigration (the “Muslim ban”), requires practical action and collaboration with other organisations and social movements. The organisers seem to be preoccupied with making Trump supporters comfortable with the goals of the march, without being willing to address the safety and impact on minority groups more acutely affected by President Trump’s policies.

As an organisation, the March for Science functions as an extension of White privilege, by shying away from decisive political action. This trend makes it easier for majority groups to feel safe and welcome at the march, while minorities are forced to weigh up their personal safety and community interests should they choose to attend. With one month before the march, the event was in serious danger of reproducing the status quo, seeking high attendance from White people from majority groups, over proactive inclusion and social justice.

This compilation goes on to show examples from women of colour who report leaving their local marches, as well as other women of colour who expressed tensions and disenfranchisement from the march as a result of mismanagement of diversity. Other White woman scientists involved with the central organising committee shared the difficulties they experienced in making inclusion and accessibility a priority.

A broader discussion followed with many scientists conveying their disappointment with the march. Many felt the organisers seemed to be playing it safe, possibly due to funding concerns or lack of experience with social movements. Some scientists clearly expressed that they would not march as a result of these diversity issues.

Read more on Storify.

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A Brief Overview of #Marginsci

Published on: Storify, 28 April 2017

Storify.com/othersociology

This is a brief overview of how the hashtag #marginsci came to be used by underrepresented minorities (URM) in different parts of the world to discuss issues of diversity within the March for Science. In this discussion, which I led on on 5 March 2017, I respond to the backlash associated with the hashtag and some of the lessons that the March for Science organisers might draw from the activism of scientists using the tag, as well as the efforts of the Women’s March to take an intersectionality approach to their activism.

The tag was started by Dr Stephani Page, to unite various conversations already happening. Dr Page had been an early contributor to thoughtful discussions about exclusion within the march; a commitment she continued after taking up her role within the committee. Dr Page first tweeted critique of the march on 28 January. She connected the exclusion of Black women from in mainstream feminism to what was happening with the march. On the 3 February, Dr Page discussed how her identity impacts how she does science.

Subsequently, Dr Page joined the central organising committee in Washington DC, which is also overseeing coordination of the global marches.

On 20 February, Dr Page proposed the #marginsci hashtag to bring together various conversations happening across English-speaking global networks on Twitter. Dr Page said that despite being on the committee, she wanted to address the “vile messaging around our place in science, the March for Science and satellite Marches.”

By the 5 March 2017, #marginsci conversations had reached a peak of collaboration, having already addressed various problems with the messaging of the march. Most recently, scientists had used the #marginsci tag to discuss racism by the Los Angeles satellite march.

In this compilation article, I discuss the history of #marginsci, beginning with Dr Page’s activism, and her discussion of intersectionality for the march. I then give an overview of the history and issues with the Women’s March, and show how similar dynamics were impacting inclusion in the March for Science.

I address the racist push back to these #marginsci efforts. I noted that supporters for the March for Science show greater anger that racism is discussed rather than the actual incidents of racial discrimination.

Other scientists voiced their disappointment and frustrations with the March for Science. Some researchers saw that the organisers were being too conservative, undermining the purpose of a protest. Although many science organisations have officially endorsed the march, it is unclear as to whether these organisations are aware of the diversity issues arising from the march.

Read more on Storify.

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Better Leadership through Diversity: A Case Study of the March for Science

Published on: The Humanist, 8 May 2017

Protesters watch speeches at the March for Science, Sydney
The Humanist

In failing to take responsibility for diversity in a methodical and transparent manner, the March for Science leadership made four major errors. First, the organizers attempted to set up the march as “apolitical” without having thought about equity, inclusion, and accessibility. The organizers failed to connect with diversity experts and activist groups.

Second, the march organizers did not proactively manage the anti-diversity discourse that their supporters engaged in.

Third, the march used an ineffective communications strategy that exacerbated poor diversity practices.

Fourth, the organization was not welcoming of diversity. Several women publicly left over dysfunctional dynamics and lack of support for diversity.

In short, rather than learning from similar problems of exclusion that emerged from the Women’s March, the March for Science replicated them, particularly by marginalizing people of color and community activists.

The best way to redress the inequities in science is through structural reform. This means reviewing policy through an evidence-based process. A more productive approach to diversity focuses on responsibilities of leaders to enhance measurable results. In other words, for science to make the most of everyone’s talents, leaders must “walk the talk,” modelling best practice and promoting accountability for themselves and other managers.

Read more on The Humanist.

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March for Science Australia

Equity & Diversity in March for Science Australia

Published on: Storify, 7 April 2017

Australians protesters at the March for Science in Sydney
Storify.com/othersociology

The idea for an Australian march came two days after March for Science DC account was established on Twitter, on 26 January. Australia was the first country outside of the United States to receive recognition as an official satellite march. Two weeks after the first global march was announced in Washington DC, on 3 February 2017, Dr Carly Rosewarne led a series of public discussions with March for Science Australia on diversity. I provided various suggestions for the Australian marches to improve diversity.

At the beginning of February, Dr Rosewarne was interested in how the Australian march will be uniquely tailored to the local science policy context and how diversity will be proactively addressed. She did not get any specific answers.

One week later, on the 13 February, I wrote to the central march in Australia (based in Sydney), noting Australians were keen to get more details on the leadership and diversity strategy. The central march said the leadership team included “diverse individuals” but did not provide further details on equity and diversity.

On the 24 February, Dr Rosewarne asked the Melbourne march for their thoughts on the global diversity discussions. The conversation with a small group of women scientists in Australia emphasised the need to make inclusion a point of distinction for the local marches. We emphasised the need to publicise the organising team to increase visibility of diversity.

In mid-March, women scientists and members of various local organising committees discussed themes of inclusion and accessibility. We noted that being proactive on equity would help to anticipate needs of underrepresented groups. I provided the March organisers suggestions for Indigenous leadership, LGBTQIA inclusion and accessibility.

Some of the local organising committee members reached out to Dr Rosewarne and I and we met with them privately. I provided further equity and diversity advice. This included bringing in more diverse leadership to support decision-making, planning and accessibility; greater transparency of the committee; strengthening public communication of gender equity and diversity planning; and putting out a call of expressions of interest to get more diverse volunteers. I followed up with an extensive list of experts and organisations in Indigenous science; LGBTQIA rights in STEM; minority disability policy and activist groups; and culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse leaders. I put the organisers in direct contact with a couple of academics who offered to further aid their planning for Indigenous and LGBTQIA inclusion.

Read more on Storify.

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Representation at the March for Science Sydney

Published on: Twitter, 18 April 2017

Australians protesters at the March for Science in Sydney including a mother with her child on her shoulders and a woman in a wheelchair
Twitter.com/OtherSociology

On 10 April 2017, the March for Science Sydney released its speaker list. I had a conversation with the organisers on Twitter about the gaps. Although they had secured distinguished speakers, there were no Indigenous STEM experts nor LGBTQIA and disabled scientists. There was no Welcome to Country listed either.

The organisers said they were still working on finalising the Welcome and Indigenous speaker. They said their MC was an “advocate” for LGBTQIA people, but did not clarify if they were seeking an LGBTQIA-identified scientist to speak.

I also noted that one of the announced speakers, Dr John Hewson, a politician and former leader of the Liberal Party, is a partisan guest, especially given his party is currently in federal leadership. The Sydney organisers deflected that this was against the “non-partisan” remit of the march. I refuted this argument. A politician from one of the major parties is the definition of a political speaker.

I also noted that two of the speakers and the MC (McCrossin, Hewson, and Newby) were represented by a commercial company, Celebrity Speakers. It seemed an odd coincidence to invite paid speakers, and that one of them, Hewson, was recruited and announced before an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scientist. It seemed a lost opportunity, especially given that the Redfern Statement was a locally produced national document with relevance to STEM. The organisers did not address these points.

Read more on Twitter.

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National Strategy for March for Science Australia

Published on: Twitter, 20 April 2017

People protesting at Martin Place, Sydney
Twitter.com/OtheSociology

One week before the March for Science Australia, there were many tough questions that had yet to be answered by the organisers. On 17 April 2017, I tweeted at the organisers asking why they had not yet communicated a clear vision for the march that reflects the Australian STEM context. The organisers did not address equity and diversity issues in a proactive manner, and instead responded sluggishly to public critique and advice.  There was no documentation about the strategy for policy reform, nor Terms of Reference or a similar guide that the public might use to hold the organisers accountable.

The stated goals of the march were generalised, containing no specific details for science policy change. The goals were: universal literacy; open communication; and stable investment. What do these mean for Australian science specifically? Why was equity and diversity not one of the stated goals of the local marches, as they were for the global march?

Pressing science issues were not picked up by the Australian organisers, such as protest against the Adani coal mine that threatens to create ecological carnage as well as infringe upon the Native Title rights of Aboriginal communities. There was no mention of Close the Gap Day, nor the Redfern Statement, both of which address issues of science, health and medicine for Indigenous Australians. There was no condemnation for the culling of the Safe Schools program, which provided anti-bullying and health support for LGBTQIA students.

The full line up of speakers had not been announced for many of the local marches. I noted that Australia’s multicultural STEM community needs a uniquely Australian approach, and one that is centrally led by Indigenous science.

In this conversation, local organisers report that equity and diversity was of concern to them, but still, there was some guarded responses about the gaps.

Read more on Twitter.

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Science Party and March for Science Australia: Conflict of Interest

Published on: Twitter, 20 April 2017

Two one way signs at a cross roads in front of high rise buildings
Twitter.com/OtherSociology

This collection is part one of two discussions with members of the Science Party and March for Science Australia regarding a conflict-of-interest that contravenes the “non-partisan” stance of the march. On the 17 April 2017, Tom (@Gorgeauz) came to my Twitter thread to challenge the questions I’d posed on the national strategy of the march. I directed Tom to my previous advice to the march organisers. Given his defensiveness, I questioned his affiliation to the March. At the same time, Tom was involved in another conversation that I was mentioned in, where he was similarly promoting the march and linked to the Science Party.

During the course of my interactions with Tom, I noted he seemed to have vested interest in discussing the Science Party. He had not declared his affiliation to the Party in either conversation. His Twitter profile did not list his work nor his political affiliation (he has since updated his profile). After asking him directly about his link to the Science Party, he initially evaded the question, but finally admitted he worked for them. He said the Party did not have an interest in the March.

Throughout the next 48 hours, I uncovered that, although Tom was not directly affiliated with the March for Science, there were five other members of the Science Party who had been part of the March for Science organising committee: the leader of the Party, Dr James Jannson (who had left the committee after a couple of weeks), plus four other members. Between these five Science Party members, four were political candidates, currently raising money for various elections, from local councils to the Senate, in various states in Australia. Four of the five March for Science members were also in Executive roles with the Science Party.

These political ties were not publicly declared, and additionally violated the March for Science “non-partisan” edict. This is pivotal because the “non-partisan” aspect of the march had led to much marginalisation of underrepresented scientists. Minorities faced push-back to diversity in the lead up to the march on the grounds that this inclusion was tantamount to “identity politics” and a violation of the “a-political” and “non-partisan” view of the march.

Members of the Science Party who are also on the March for Science committee defended the lack of public disclosure saying the march was short-staffed. One march committee member argued she had pushed against their involvement, but did not acknowledge the lack of public transparency as a problem. I noted that I had collaborated with her colleagues providing advice on equity and diversity but this strong link to the Science Party had not been disclosed to me.

The lack of transparency and disclosure by the Science Party is troubling as science organisations, not-for-profit ventures, and political parties are all equally bound by ethical processes. This fact seemed not to be taken seriously by any of the march members nor the Science Party.

Read more on Twitter.

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Science Party and March for Science Australia: Leadership Response

Published on: Twitter, 20 April 2017

Microphone in the foreground, with people in the background of a large exhibition space
Twitter.com/OtherSociology

In this second and final discussion on conflict of interest within the March, the leader of the Science Party, Dr James Jannson, and his party members who are in the march committee respond poorly to questions on transparency. The Science Party has 15 political candidates; four candidates were part of the organising committee of the march and a fifth march member is an Executive of the Science Party.

Dr Jannson was antagonistic, returning to various of my threads, for a period of two days. On the one hand, he noted that, while he was initially involved with the March for Science, he no longer had an official role. On the other hand, he spent a lot of energy refuting issues with the March for Science Australia, especially on diversity. At the time of this discussion, across Australia, only half a dozen of the announced speakers came from a minority background, meaning his stance was nor borne out by evidence.*

Another Science Party candidate and march committee member, Dr Andrea Leong, revealed that “There are members of at least three other political parties on the committee.” This was also not stated anywhere on the March for Science website and public marketing. She did not discuss further.

Science Party members variably refuted that there was a problem concealing this conflict of interest; that it should be expected to have “political support” in a protest; that a protest without political party members “will fail;” and that the “Science Party helped make this [March for Science] happen.

As the conversation evolved, Dr Jannson became increasingly antagonistic, while other members of his party were defensive and refused to address conflict of interest as a serious matter. Other women scientists revealed that the Science Party has engaged in similar hostilities with other women in science. In his responses to me, Dr Jannson made sexist jokes, calling me an “outrage machine” and “troller,” (remember he came to my thread uninvited); and he argued I was “sexistly devaluing women in democratic roles” by uncovering his Party’s undisclosed conflict of interest. To their credit, other women from the March for Science committee called out Dr Jannson on his behaviour – but notably none of the members of his Party stepped in to address his sexist remarks.

Finally, the Science Party reported that they had wanted to disclose their conflict of interest but this was rejected by other March for Science organisers.

Revelations on lack of transparency and the conduct of the Science Party members were equally troubling.

*NB: Less than a week before the March for Science, the announced minorities included: two able-bodied Indigenous scientists; two other able-bodied women of colour; one able-bodied, White transgender woman scientist; and one White, disabled woman non-scientist. Another speaker, an able-bodied man of colour, is also one of the Science Party members who is on the March for Science committee. His speaker biography did not list either affiliation.

Read more on Twitter.

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Making the Most of Diversity Lessons from March for Science Australia

Published on: Women’s Policy Action Tank, 24 April 2017

Women’s Policy Action Tank

The issues for the global March for Science, as well as the national marches in Australia, are fundamental to issues of diversity in STEM around the world. The march is a microcosm of the battle to create a more inclusive culture in STEM that truly values and promotes diversity.

We start with the backwards logic. The march began without diversity in mind. The diversity statements by the global march came only after various mistakes and in response to critique from underrepresented scientists. Locally, there is no publicised diversity statement in the first instance, let alone a detailed strategy for equity, inclusion and access.

Extensive, longitudinal research shows that diversity statements and policies alone do not lead to greater diversity in the workplace. In fact, individual programs, whether it’s mentoring women or one-off training, do little to advance (only some) White women’s individual careers, and many programs have little effect on women of colour and other minorities. This is because programs are designed to “fix” individuals, without committing to changing the system.

Diversity is effective, and pays dividends in productivity, where equity, inclusion and accessibility are at the core of leadership and organisational practice. For an organisation to realise the full potential of diversity, leaders must not only model behavioural changes, but also lead proactive planning, evaluation and targeted solutions to transform their workplace culture. Superimposing a diversity statement on the existing structure allows only a few individuals to succeed while White men’s dominance remains unperturbed.

Diversity is just one of many important STEM issues in Australia, and one that should not take a backseat role to other pressing science issues. In fact, diversity undercuts all STEM policy matters. For example, Indigenous science is vital to addressing climate change and developing sustainable practices, as well as being indispensable to health initiatives, technology R&D, and other STEM ventures. Scientific potential will never be met unless Indigenous Australians lead STEM programs and activities, moving away from a deficit model to one of self-determination and empowerment in STEM. This includes activities like the March for Science. Imagine how an event that aspires to be a critical moment of change in STEM would have looked like with 60,000 years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wisdom leading its strategy!

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Other articles

Below are articles by other researchers and scientists on diversity and related issues with the March for Science.

  • Kim Sauder, I have Concerns about The March for Science, Crippled Scholar, 28 January 2017.
  • Emily Willingham, The March For Science In Washington Is Political Whether You Like It Or Not, Forbes, 5 February 2017.
  • Laura Mandanas, Notes from a Queer Engineer: Science Has Always Been Political, Autostraddle, 22 February 2017.
  • Eric Anthony Grollman, Planning to March for Science? Bring a Mirror, Conditionally Accepted, 1 March 2017.
  • Francie Liep, When Did Science Become Apolitical?, Pacific Standard Magazine, 13 March 2017.
  • J. Ama Mantey, #MarginSci: The March for Science as a Microcosm of Liberal Racism, The Root, 20 April 2017.
  • Luke Briscoe, Where are the Indigenous voices in the March for Science?, NITV, 21 April 2017.
  • Dorothy Charles, We Need a March for Science, but This is Not the One, Al Jazeera, 23 April 2017.
  • Science for the People, Which Way for Science?, Science for the People, 18 April 2017.

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