A global study by Emerald Publishing highlights the barriers preventing inclusivity in society, the role of research in helping to solve these issues, and systemic issues within the academic research sector.
The survey, undertaken just prior to the pandemic’s spread to western countries, gathers the views of 1,055 academic researchers across nine different countries to understand the opportunities for change, in order for impactful research to be more effective in driving policy and igniting change.
Emerald also commissioned an independent survey of 1,000 members of the UK general public and 1,000 people in the US in order to examine the challenges from a non-academic perspective, and to understand the public’s views on the role and importance of research in creating a more inclusive society.
The report found that global academic communities rate inclusivity highly, with nine out of 10 academics agreeing that being ‘inclusive for all’ is important to society and the workplace. There was acknowledgement that diverse voices brought different ways of thinking (92%), a more open learning culture (90%), and a positive effect on creativity (90%).
Despite this, more than one in ten academics (13%) still did not think there are any noticeable benefits of having an inclusive society, with ‘promoting mediocrity’ cited by a survey participant, as one of the potential downsides. In contrast, only 4% of the general public surveyed saw no benefits to increased inclusivity.
The report also revealed a gap between the personal importance academics placed on inclusivity, relative to that of their institution and the wider research ecosystem. While 86% of academics ranked inclusivity as being important to them personally, they didn’t feel it was quite as important to their ‘Institution’ (68%) and ‘Academia in general’ (64%), and only half thought it was important to ‘Funders’.
Findings suggest academics see significantly more issues than do the general public, within respective workplaces. There is a raft of ‘home grown’ issues revealed within the research environment, with 60% of academic participants saying there is a universal culture of recruitment bias, compared to just 18% of respondents from wider UK society. This culture – unique it seems to academic circles – is further indicated by ‘management leadership attitudes’ being the second biggest barrier (57%) to an inclusive workplace, with ‘too much pressure on career progression’ (46%) and ‘not enough mentoring’ (42%) also raised by survey respondents. This points to systemic issues within the academic system holding back progress rather than referring to the broader societal issues of gender, age and racial discrimination reflected in other sectors.
The report goes on to look at the major societal issues of inclusivity, with poverty and the divide between ‘Those who have and those who have not’ cited by 60% of academics as the strongest barrier to inclusivity. This was closely followed by racial and ethnic discrimination (58%) and gender discrimination (49%). Also cited as a key barrier to having an inclusive society for all was class, with 41% of all global participants viewing it as problematic when it comes to parity. In Britain that figure rises to 61%, with Asia seeing similar challenges.
In terms of academic views on the building blocks to societal change, 61% of academic respondents said ‘Poor decision making by policy makers’ was preventing society from becoming more inclusive. Both academics and the public believe there should be more funding for inclusivity research, with 79% of academics calling for this and nearly a third of the UK public (rising to 47% in the US). The need for more knowledge exchange was cited as the single biggest challenge within academia (67%) when looking at helping to build a more inclusive society for all, followed by interdisciplinary collaboration (60%) and a lack of inclusivity within academic culture (55%).
The message to the publishing world was for ‘greater opening up’ with 43% of academic survey participants rating ‘open up publishing opportunities through increased open access’ as their top answer, and one in three respondents calling for publishers to have greater diversity amongst their editorial boards, as their highest priority for change.
Emerald Publishing is offering free access to key articles around the subject of inclusivity and has made its 2020 global inclusivity report available for all to download via its website.
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