Kindness in Science

Developing a culture of inclusion which sustains the robust discourse essential for science but does not come at the expense of the dignity of those who participate.

The need and impact

Despite its claims to universality, science has a hostile culture that has marginalised many groups, including Indigenous Peoples. While this problem has been acknowledged by many scientific institutions in recent decades, the science community has been slow to identify effective mechanisms to undo centuries of exclusion.

The scientific community urgently needs to develop and adopt a culture of inclusion, or kindness, which sustains the robust discourse essential for science but does not come at the expense of the dignity of those who participate. Our hypothesis is that such a culture will not only enhance wellbeing for all members of the science community but will also lead to better science outcomes by enabling much broader participation and diverse knowledges to be considered.

This project will use a mixed-methods approach to undertake a comparative study grounded in the Kindness in Science movement, which originated in Aotearoa New Zealand. It will build on previous work by Te Pūnaha Matatini on the impact of science funding and the dynamics of scientific citation patterns, including a documentary source analysis to be conducted in an aligned project.

As a research centre, Te Pūnaha Matatini has been successful in adopting and propagating a number of initiatives that we are confident have led to generative change. These policies and practices have been adopted by a number of organisations, both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas, and members of the Te Pūnaha Matatini are frequently invited to discuss or workshop these with other organisations.

This comparative project extends our earlier work to develop a robust evidence base for building diverse and inclusive scientific teams. Impacts will be delivered via a formal co-design process that will socialised within Te Pūnaha Matatini, and extended more broadly to other research organisations, including to the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

The approach

In this project, we will use a series of organisational case studies informed by anonymous questionnaires, interviews and ethnography to identify:

  1. An overall absence or presence of a trajectory of positive cultural change towards genuine diversity and inclusivity in large scientific teams in New Zealand.
  2. Whether central government’s key messaging and directives are driving improved outcomes for diverse and inclusive scientific teams.
  3. Key features of successful diverse and inclusive scientific teams, including the practices and structures that foster them.
  4. A transformative pathway for scientific teams who aspire to improve diversity and inclusivity.

The case studies will include but not be limited to New Zealand National Science Challenge (NSCs) groups, Centres of Research Excellence, and Crown Research Institutes. Māori perspectives of science culture in Aotearoa New Zealand will enter into all phases of this project, as contributors to and recipients of particular forms of kindness, and also as narrators of the kindness practices and structures observed in the science community.

People

  • Professor Tammy Steeves (Project Lead)
  • Dr Emma Sharp
  • Dr Leilani Walker
  • Professor Shaun Hendy
  • Associate Professor Priscilla Wehi
  • Associate Professor Anna Matheson
  • Dr Aisling Rayne
  • Bethany Cox