The Royal Society, the UK’s leading research organization, is launching a pilot scheme to provide substantial grants to young black scientists in an effort to increase diversity in the field. Five scientists per year will receive grants of up to £690,000 over four years. The fellowships will allow recipients to work in any research institute in the country, while also providing mentorship and career networking opportunities.
Royal Society President Prof Sir Adrian Smith stated that the current low number of black scientists in the UK is “unacceptable.” The hope is that these fellowships will make a sustainable difference over time by encouraging more representation and establishing role models for future scientists.
The initiative has been met with support from the scientific community. Dr Yolanda Ohene, an early career black physicist at the University of Manchester, applauded the Royal Society’s commitment to supporting early career researchers of black heritage. However, black scientists have also highlighted the challenges they face, such as feeling unsupported, overlooked for promotion, and unfairly rejected for grant applications. Many believe that the UK research system is institutionally racist.
Data analyzed by the Royal Society from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveals that black researchers tend to drop out of their scientific careers at higher rates compared to their white counterparts. This dropout pattern worsens as they progress up the career ladder, with only a few becoming professors. The data also shows that black people account for only 1.7% of research staff in the UK, despite making up 3.4% of the population.
If successful, the pilot scheme may expand to include researchers from other underrepresented groups. The Royal Society aims to address the “haemorrhaging” of talent and provide the necessary support to remedy the situation. The fellowships will be awarded to scientists who have recently completed their PhDs, as this is the stage where the dropout rates for black researchers begin to increase.
The Royal Society’s initiative follows similar efforts by the Royal Society of Chemistry, which launched a support scheme to increase the number of black researchers in chemistry. The RSC’s investigation found that racism was pervasive in the sector, and their initiative aims to make a significant difference to those considering leaving research.
– Grants: Financial support provided for a specific purpose, such as research projects.
– Fellowships: Scholarships or grants given to individuals to support their research or study.
– Diversity: The presence of a variety of different elements or qualities.
– Institutionally racist: A term used to describe systems or organizations that perpetuate racial discrimination.
– BBC News: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58666562