Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at BAS

Equality, diversity and inclusion is  vital for our society, our communities and our workplaces. All of us should have the opportunity to develop our skills and reach our full potential whatever our identity or background. All of us should have the opportunity to work in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment, where we are recognised and valued.

EDI and polar science

Science thrives on diversity. Equality, diversity and inclusion are essential for the creative, collaborative and dynamic research that we need to understand our world and tackle the challenges we face.   At BAS, we are committed to creating a workplace that is fair and inclusive, and which welcomes diversity. We value all our staff, and recognise the contribution and potential of every individual at BAS.

Our vision is to be a world-leading centre for polar science and operations. The science we do addresses some of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns. Making our vision a reality depends on the excellence and diversity of our staff.

BAS operates in some of the world’s most remote and challenging environments to understand humanity’s greatest threats and most complex problems. To do so safely and successfully requires a diversity of thought, ideas and experience. 

Everyone at BAS – from support and technical staff to scientists and research vessel crews – has a key part to play in the science we do and in creating an inclusive workplace which welcomes diversity.

EDI and evidence

As a research-led organisation, BAS believes in evidence. We are using this approach to understand where problems exist and how to address them. We are gathering and analysing data, as well as testing and evaluating new interventions so that we can identify what works and do it .

BAS is very different today compared with its inception more than 60 years ago. Then, much of UK science and all Antarctic field work was white and male. Major change occurred in the 1980s when women began to work on polar research vessels and in research stations in the Antarctic.

Today, women represent more than one-third  of our workforce – from station leaders and scientists to pilots and engineers. The current director of BAS is Professor Dame Jane Francis. However, we know that our workforce does not fully reflect the dynamism and diversity of UK society: [only 3% of staff in UK polar science come from a ethnic background and 1.8% have a disability, compared with 16% and 19% respectively in UK society.]

BAS believes that culture change comes from leadership and grassroots staff engagement. We support and encourage staff who want to celebrate and promote diversity. We are proud that the Pride in Polar Research network is growing and flourishing at BAS, and of the work of our Equality, Diversity Inclusion Network and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champions.

Ethnicity in science

In December 2020, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) published a detailed ethnicity analysis of its funding applicants and awardees for the first time. The data show continued under-representation of people from Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and highlight persistent, systemic racial inequalities.

UKRI chief executive Dame Ottoline Leyser described this lack of ethnic diversity in UK research and innovation as ‘profoundly upsetting’. BAS shares this view. We also share NERC’s commitment to embedding equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels and in everything we do.

A race impact survey conducted by the Diversity in Polar Science Initiative (DiPSI) – set up by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and BAS – found that people from BAME backgrounds faced problems in entering polar research via recruitment and academic  pipelines. Respondents also said that polar science lacks diverse role models and has yet to address its colonial past.

EDI in action

We are already working to make BAS more diverse and more inclusive. We are  updating our policies and processes to embed equality, diversity and inclusion in all we do. BAS is part of a community of UK science bodies, national Antarctic operators, and transnational polar organisations. By working together, learning from each other and sharing best practice we can accelerate the pace of culture change.

Equality, diversity and inclusion form a key part of our training, team building and leadership development. We are committed to openness and transparency so that we can be subject to constructive external scrutiny and help others learn from what we do.

Career opportunities

BAS is committed to taking positive action to address under-representation in our workforce. We will review our recruitment policies and practices, and set ambitious targets for interviewing applicants from minority backgrounds. We will use specialist recruitment agencies to reach beyond our traditional talent pools, and work to ensure that our administrative staff reflect the makeup of our local community.

BAS is learning from experts. We are active members of the UK’s leading employers networks promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace: Disability Confident; Athena SWAN and enei, the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion.

We need a better understanding of how to attract more diverse applicants for jobs and studentships. To make a broader spectrum of talent aware of career opportunities in polar science, we are piloting outreach to schools and universities with the most diverse student populations, and our staff are using Seals from Space – an innovative citizen science project combining satellite images and social media – to engage under-represented groups in polar science.

With DiPSI, BAS is working to promote polar science opportunities to under-represented groups, including women, BAME, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities. DiPSI’s Polar Horizons programme is giving students and early career scientists direct experience of the breadth of opportunities in polar science, and establishing new links between polar scientists and under-represented groups.

Career success

For BAS to succeed in becoming more diverse and inclusive, we need to enable more diverse talents to build successful careers at BAS, as research leaders, engineers, station staff and pilots.

Research and innovation should be ‘for everyone, by everyone’. A dynamic, diverse and inclusive research and innovation system must be an integral part of UK society. UKRI’s ambition is for the UK to be the most diverse, inclusive and fair research environment in the world – an ambition BAS shares.

We also believe that equality, diversity and inclusion must be ‘for everyone, by everyone’. BAS’s ambition is to be a world-leading centre for polar science and operations. Making this vision a reality depends on everyone in BAS working to make us more diverse and inclusive.

As Professor David Vaughan, Director of Science at BAS says: “I want science to to lead in promoting and facilitating diversity, it will be stronger for it; and I want BAS to play a proactive and visible role in making this happen.”

We welcome feedback on what we are doing, what we can do better, and how we can work together to achieve our vision for outstanding UK polar science, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and to benefit.