What More Diverse Science Could Teach Us About the Planet

Questions are at the heart of every scientific field. Asking questions leads to new answers and ideas for solving global problems, including how to take care of the planet.

There’s one question many scientists have been asking more frequently in recent years — how can scientific fields become more inclusive? Making science a more accessible and welcoming space for underrepresented communities is a top priority for many institutions.

It turns out diversity is more than just the right thing to do — it also has practical implications that can shape how we address climate change and other environmental issues.

What Is Diversity in Science?

Diversity in scientific fields can take many forms. Ethnicity, gender, nationality, neurodiversity, educational background and scientific discipline are all ways scientists, researchers and other personnel can differ. Each brings a different perspective to the table.

Inclusive science encompasses individual and team or group diversity, which impacts a study’s potential reach and influence. A recent report shows that papers written by ethnically diverse groups resulted in a 10.63% impact gain.

Advantages of Diversifying Environmental Science

Greater diversity has a positive impact on the scientific industry — but why?

It may come as no surprise that the populations most disproportionately affected by climate change are also underrepresented in science. These communities can bring new skills and perspectives to every discipline, especially environmental studies.

Here are a few specific ways more diverse science is a step toward learning more about the planet than ever before.

Wider Focus

Most scientific fields are currently set up to study and serve a narrow section of humanity. However, more diverse teams of scientists encourage expanded views and consider a wider range of issues and solutions.

For example, scientists worldwide focus on important issues typically ignored or underfunded by Western industries. Bringing their research to the forefront and expanding access to essential tools and lab supplies is necessary to make a real difference in the planet’s climate challenges.

Increased Productivity and Impact

Diverse research teams are more likely to receive citations and publish papers than their non-diverse counterparts. That’s because unique perspectives bring new attitudes and behaviors to a lab or field project. Questions and healthy debates can flourish when people have different ideas, leading to further discoveries.

Additionally, scientists from communities disproportionately affected by climate change often have an increased sense of urgency to address such issues.

Community Involvement

Research shows that diverse research groups can improve community participation rates when studying minority populations. Having team members from those communities can help facilitate communication and trust.

For example, several racial minority communities in the U.S. are more likely to mistrust research establishments based on decades of mistreatment and system racism. They’re also often left out of environmental studies. However, research groups led by Black and Hispanic scientists may be able to help overcome community concerns and begin bridging troubling research gaps.

More diverse participation also strengthens environmental movements. Broader science can get a wider swath of the public excited about effective solutions.

Clearer Communication

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 can make scientific doscoveries more relatable to a greater segment of the population.

Diversifying 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, retention and more.

However, the results speak for themselves — diverse science is stronger science. Inclusive research groups will discover more about our planet, to everyone’s benefit.