In 2020, the IASC Council released a statement on Race and Systemic Bias in Arctic Sciences. They noted that: “Arctic science still suffers from systemic biases that marginalize and exclude people who are Black, Indigenous, or from other under-represented minorities both in the Arctic region and around the world. Racism takes many forms – from the overt to the subtle or unconscious. Systemic racism can and does silence people, devalue their contributions, and exclude them from Arctic science. Changes to remove systemic racism and bias will require work on all levels, from the individual to the institutional.”
In order to build on this statement, a group of IASC fellows made a request to hold a workshop to tackle this issue further. Originally planned to be held in 2021 but delayed due to the ongoing travel issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop was held at the beginning of ASSW 2022.
The day was planned by Sammie Buzzard (IASC Cryosphere Fellow 2020) in collaboration with Polar Impact and Inclusion in Northern Research. The workshop began with two Polar Impact members sharing their personal experiences of working in polar research. Kimberly Aiken (University of Tasmania) joined us virtually to share both her PhD research, which focuses on the intersection of race (racial diversity) and gender in expeditioner recruitment in the Australian Antarctic workforce, and her personal experiences. Caleb Walcott (University of Buffalo) then shared some of Polar Impact’s ongoing activities, and invited those present to join and support them.
The second session was led by Jamie Bell (Inclusion in Northern Research) who joined us live from the Canadian Arctic. Despite to it being a national holiday in Canada, Jamie was able to share a variety of projects and reflections from their grassroots initiative via a series of videos which led to interesting discussion.
The final session of the workshop was dedicated to discussion around routes that IASC, and the Arctic research community in general, could take to make our community a more inclusive space. Ideas included:
- Establishment of an EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) action group
This workshop was only the first step for IASC, and a dedicated group of people is needed to continue this work with support and membership of the council.
- Funding structure and opportunities
While we appreciate the need to progress the interests of countries that fund IASC, this can be prohibitive in terms of increasing diversity. We recommend as a priority to open IASC fellowships beyond membership countries.
- Activities and collaboration
The planning of explicit sessions solely for EDI during the ASSW program will promote and
allow attendance. Conference delegates should not have to choose between science sessions or business meetings, and timetabling sessions at the ‘edges’ of the conference program also makes attendance more difficult.
4. Fieldwork access and partnership:
IASC are in the ideal position to provide leadership and resources for access to fieldwork.
IASC should lead on encouraging universities and scientific organisations to educate students and employees about discrimination issues (e.g. workshops) and their impact on day-to-day work.
A detailed version of these recommendations was presented to the IASC council during their May 2023 meeting.
Sammie would like to thank Polar Impact and Inclusion in Northen Research, without whom we would not have had a workshop and numerous IASC fellows and community members for feedback in the application and planning stages. IASC funding made it possible for Polar Impact to participate and for three early career researchers to attend the workshop and subsequent ASSW activities.
Date and Location
ASSW2023 / Vienna. Austria
IASC Working Groups funding the project
Sammie Buzzard (Cardiff University, UK)
Year funded by IASC