Improving diversity and inclusiveness in Dutch physics – best practices

10 July 2020

In a rapidly globalised world, the importance of diversity is becoming increasingly recognised across all aspects of life and across all scientific disciplines. Physics is no exception. The value of diversity in enriching human learning and experience is well-known: a diverse environment benefits both personal and organizational development and fosters scientific advancement. In 2019 the Dutch Platform Academic Physics (PAN), in which all eleven physics research departments/institutes at universities and the four physics-based NWO national institutes are represented, launched an inquiry to get an overview of how diverse these institutions are and what practices they have developed to be more welcoming. In the present document we summarise the results of this exercise into a collection of best practices, which can serve as an inspiration and a guideline in the path towards a fully inclusive work environment. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to receive more details of the collected background information. The best practices here summarised focus on increasing the representation of “women in Dutch Physics”, improving the “onboarding of internationals”, and “retaining international talents”. While these are crucial and complex questions, other important questions inherent to the very nature and definition of diversity are necessarily left unexplored.

Diversity refers to differences across our social identities. These include, but are not limited to, race/ethnicity, gender, disability status, nationality, religious affiliation, socioeconomic background, and sexual orientation. An inclusive environment is thought of a space where all these differences are not only welcomed and valued but are supported and celebrated. These identities are intertwined and intersecting and as a collective they pose questions related to equality. Aspects of diversity and inclusiveness are crucially important not only for senior researchers, but for students and junior colleagues as well, for whom we strive to serve as role models. The importance of representation is embedded both with issues of representation (e.g. how does a physicist look like?) but also with issues of diversification of the image of physics (e.g. what careers in physics are all about?). After all, nobody can dream to be what they cannot see and nobody can love what they don’t know. Creating inclusive environments in Dutch Physics involves a profound cultural change that will take years to accomplish. This cultural change does not take place in a vacuum. Instead, it takes place within a sociocultural space made of a series of complex systems, which include researchers, group leaders, colleagues, students, committees, the curriculum of BSc and MSc programmes, and organizational policies. For complex systems to work, however, all components need to interact with each other and work in synergy. What you have in your hands is only a tiny component of this complex system and as such it does not promise to fully address the challenge of creating an inclusive physics culture. We do hope, however, that it will act as an evidence-based starting point and source of inspiration for future diversity and inclusiveness initiatives. Our journey to promote inclusion in physics and valorize all human talents has only just begun.

Source: NWO

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