Following recent events in the USA we are reminded that systematic racism is detrimental to the lives and well-being of Black people everywhere. Racism and prejudice, in any form, are not tolerated by the Palaeontological Association. The Association is committed to providing equality of opportunity and increasing diversity within palaeontology. Equitable practices lead to more productive and innovative organisations. However, if we want science to improve for the benefit of everyone, we have to be more active in supporting activities and behaviours, including anti-racism, that lead to meaningful change.
We stand in solidarity with Black members of the Association, as well as those within the geosciences and the wider scientific community.
The racism and risk of harassment or violence that some people face in their daily lives is not unconnected to diversity and inclusion within the scientific community. As palaeontologists, we see a major lack of diversity within our discipline. In the geosciences, Black people remain underrepresented at all academic levels, and palaeontology is no exception: <1 % of respondents to the Association’s 2017/2018 Diversity Study identified as Black. The results of our study reveal that the Association and our community have not done the work required to ensure parity in the employment and career progression of people from ethnic minorities in palaeontology, and to eliminate discrimination and harassment based on racial identity. As palaeontologists we should all have the right to feel safe in public spaces, including during conferences, at work and while out in the field.
Historically, as an Association and within our discipline, we have simply not done enough to make palaeontology accessible and inclusive for everyone. We recognize this, and have been taking initial steps to rectify this.
• We began by benchmarking: the Diversity Study served to both highlight and quantify our shortcomings.
• We have since ensured that data collection and monitoring will continue, including providing the opportunity for members to anonymously provide feedback and suggestions.
• We have been actively seeking more diverse voices for our Newsletter and website.
• We will continue to host diversity panels and events at our Annual Meeting.
• We have revised our nomination and selection procedures for our annual medals and awards, and will continue to revisit this process.
• Council members are now required to read a statement on subconscious bias before evaluating submissions for grants and awards.
• For our Undergraduate Research Bursaries priority will now be given to students from underrepresented groups based on self-declared protected characteristics. Black students will be given top priority, as members of the most underrepresented group among Geoscience students.
• We have created a mentoring scheme to provide support for early career palaeontologists, initially focusing on those at the postdoc level and recently extended to include those at PhD level.
• We are developing school programmes with the aim of reaching out to children from underrepresented groups.
We acknowledge that this is not enough and that we must do much more towards increasing ethnic diversity. This must include raising awareness and playing an active part in developing anti-racist initiatives.
As a scientific organization with global membership, the majority of whom are white, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves. Why is our discipline not more ethnically diverse? Why are there so few Black members of the Association? What barriers are in place? How can we do better? What can we do to support our Black colleagues and those from other ethnic minorities? How can we make our scientific discipline work for more people? In addition to the work that we must do as an organization, we believe that every member of the Association can also play a role in instigating and sustaining change. Here are several things that most of us can do to help with progress, wherever we are in the world:
• Learn and communicate the history of racism in science and society, in particular anti-Black racism, how it is perpetuated and how it impacts people’s lives;
• Recognize your own implicit and subconscious biases;
• Take part in relevant courses (e.g. unconscious bias, allyship training) if this is available at your workplace/institution. Learn to actively challenge racism and discrimination in your workplace;
• Recognize that belonging to marginalized groups impacts personal and professional lives in ways that are not always visible;
• Amplify the voices and experiences of colleagues and students from ethnic minorities;
• Actively support organizations that support ethnic minority individuals and communities;
• Recognize and engage with the broader non-academic scientific community, including science communicators and educators, to allow space for more diverse voices;
• Invite and support ethnic minority colleagues in being editors, reviewers and authors of your peer-reviewed papers and grants. Be intentional in broadening your professional circles;
• Recognize the work of your Black and ethnic minority colleagues through co-authorship, citation, promotion and employment opportunities;
• Ensure that conferences, seminars and panels have a diverse range of speakers;
• Actively engage at your workplace/institution to challenge practices and policies that put any ethnic group at a disadvantage;
• Nominate your ethnic minority colleagues for Association medals and awards as well as those of other learned societies and professional bodies;
• Fill out Association diversity surveys to increase the reliability of our data monitoring;
• Encourage your ethnic minority colleagues to stand for PalAss Council.
We emphasise that both individuals and organizations, including the Association, have an important role to play in making further progress.
If you have any suggestions or feedback for us please get in touch with the Diversity Officer or Executive Officer via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com) or contact us on Twitter @ThePalAss.
We are grateful for the external input we received in preparing this statement.
The PalAss Council