Diversity in UK Polar Science Initiative

Diversity in UK Polar Science Initiative

Start date
1 September, 2019
End date
31 December, 2021

Banner with project logo for news and latest updates






As part of a series of activities and initiatives to mark the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica, the Diversity in UK Polar Science initiative, conceived and funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Polar Regions Department, celebrates existing diversity, and takes an important step forward to promote and enhance Antarctic science opportunities to under-represented groups, including women, people from ethnic minorities, BAME, LGBTQ+ community and people with a disability.

For over 100 years since its discovery, visitors to Antarctica were overwhelmingly men.  It was not until the 1980s that the first British female scientists began working at the frozen continent.  The ambition for this initiative is to deliver a more diverse and inclusive future for UK Polar science –  a future that reflects the diversity in British society today.

To achieve this we are delivering a two-year programme of work that enhances understanding of current barriers, explores ways to nurture and increase diversity in Polar Science, and pilots positive action to help boost diversity in UK polar science.

Diversity in Polar Science – a starting point

To understand the current Polar Science diversity landscape we examined data from the 2017 Office of National Statistics Research Report on the percentages of minority groups in UK society and compared these with data from STEM higher education and BAS (as a proxy for UK polar science).  This created a benchmark from which to measure improvement.

Boosting diversity in Polar Science – Steering Committee

A Steering Committee, Co-chaired by representatives from the British Antarctic Survey, the University of Bristol and Imperial College, drives the initiative forward. Convened in September 2019, the committee comprises representatives from across British Antarctic Survey (BAS), experts from the UKRI Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Board, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, European Polar Board, and a BAME in STEM consultant.

Delivering success – making an impact

Our delivery plan includes a series of events and engagement activities aimed at to improving diversity in UK Polar Science.

Get involved with the Diversity in Polar Science Initiative

Our initiative needs advocates, and people who can amplify the momentum for diversity and inclusion within their own organisation.  Please contact Project Manager Donna Frater if you are a member of the UK polar science community and would like to get involved.

Contributions relating to the following are most welcome:

  • Sharing successful case studies where your science organisation has addressed and improved diversity issues
  • Connecting Equality Diversity and Inclusion Champions in your organisation to this initiative
  • Guest presentations in our online webinars to inspire students from groups currently underrepresented in polar science
  • Join the conversation in upcoming events

The Diversity in UK Polar Science Initiative aims to:

  • increase representation of people from under-represented groups engaged in Polar Science in the UK from <3% to be closer to the STEM national average of 16%
  • to align UK Polar Science engagement across the UK with national policy and best-practice principles set out in the FCO Diversity and Equality Report 2018-19, the UKRI Equality, diversity and inclusion programme, and BAS commitment to equality, inclusion and diversity
  • promote career opportunities in polar science (including support roles) and influence BAS and UKRI-NERC policy decisions to address potential or perceived institutional barriers to diversity
  • Involve and engage experts from the wider BAS-UKRI-NERC and UK Higher Education communities in a campaign to influence positive cultural and behavioural change across UK Polar Science
  • stimulate discussion on all forms of diversity across the UK Polar landscape

Promoting diversity, equality and inclusion in UK polar science – key objectives are to:

  • quantify and analyse the current diversity data for ethnic background, disability and LGBTQ+ orientation within UK Polar Science
  • create an engagement campaign to promote the initiative to university students, polar networks across the UK, specialist community groups; as well as to senior leaders and recruiters within BAS-UKRI-NERC
  • help nurture an inclusive culture by developing tools and resources to enable  our project ‘champions and ‘ambassadors’ to engage with students, colleagues and the UK Polar community

To deliver our ambition we will:

  • Host a series of Polar Horizons talks and webinars for students and earlier career scientists from all backgrounds
  • Involve people from under-represented groups in a Citizen Science Project – Seals from Space
  • Highlight or create resources and guidelines to help recruiters, scientists and managers to engage effectively with people from under-represented groups
  • Utilise media, social media and other online channels to share opportunities, news and diversity stories with under-represented groups
  • Bring in expertise and insight from polar science networks and special interest community groups
  • Share our meeting reports to stimulate ideas and feedback.  For example, read the inaugural Polar Horizons meeting report here.

BAS Marine Biogeographer Huw Griffiths engaging with the students at a Polar Horizons event.

Blog: The only woman in seminars

9 February, 2021 by Amelie Kirchgaessner

British Antarctic Survey scientist Dr Amelié Kirchgaessner shares her journey in polar science for International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021 (11 Feb). My name is Amelié Kirchgaessner, …

Carrying the PRIDE message to the Polar Regions

22 June, 2020 by Huw Griffiths

BAS marine biogeographer Dr Huw Griffiths talks about the importance of diverse role models. He is hopeful that existing and future polar scientists will see that being yourself and being different are no barrier to working in the most extreme environments on Earth, and can be a real asset as a scientist.

Celebrating Polar Pride 2021

18 November, 2021

Today (18 November) British Antarctic Survey (BAS) joins global celebrations to mark LGBTQ+ STEM DAY and Polar Pride Day. Polar Pride is a celebration of the contribution of LGBTQ+ people …

Celebrating International Women’s Day

8 March, 2021

On International Women’s Day (8 March 2021), we mark and celebrate women working at British Antarctic Survey (BAS). We showcase the diversity of roles and specialities of those working in …

Underrepresented groups welcomed to polar science

5 March, 2021

This week over 100 early career researchers and students from underrepresented groups, particularly BAME, LGBTQ+ and the Disabled, took part in Polar Horizons 2021. The Polar Horizons Initiative, funded by …

The first Polar Pride

18 November, 2020

Today (18 November) marks the first Polar Pride – a celebration of the contribution of LGBTQ+ people in the overseas territories including British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia & the …

Pride Day declared on 18 November

27 July, 2020

The Government of the British Antarctic Territory (BAT) and the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) celebrate the contribution of LGBTQ+ people by declaring 18 November …

British Antarctic Survey statement on Black Lives Matter

10 June, 2020

British Antarctic Survey supports and endorses the UKRI statement on Black Lives Matter. We embrace and recognise the importance of taking a stand against racism and strive for diversity and equality of opportunity, and are committed to building inclusive and diverse teams that represent all backgrounds.