BGA initial report on community representation and diversity within UK geophysics

15th May 2021

The British Geophysical Association (BGA) is a Joint Association of the Geological Society of London (GSL) and the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) that aims to promote the subject of geophysics, and to strengthen the relationship between geology and geophysics in the UK. As such, engagement with all members of the geophysics community is integral to our purpose, and we recognise that the Earth Sciences in general are one of the least diverse STEM subjects. This report is our preliminary assessment of current community engagement with the academic research activities of the BGA, but also with geophysics as an academic subject. The data within this report comes from incomplete sources and so there are gaps in our knowledge that should be addressed in the future. Nevertheless, it provides an initial, albeit crude, perspective of the past and current level of community representation, diversity and inclusion within UK geophysics. We also provide some information on the range of research fields falling within BGA-endorsed activities.

The full report is available here.

HESA data for 2013-2019 show a declining intake of undergraduates and postgraduates on Geophysics courses from 2015. Detailed information on ethnicity and gender is not known; however, the data show a low representation of Black and Minority Ethnic groups, which we expect to feed into a low representation in the UK Geophysics research community. Going forward, the BGA aims to gather more detailed ethnicity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) information from our community to better target engagement efforts.  

The Bullerwell Lecture is the BGA’s most prestigious annual award and has been presented since 1981. Gender data for the award indicate that, while historically recipients have been predominantly male, more recently progress towards a more equitable gender balance has been made over the last decade. There does however remain a large imbalance between white and non-white recipients. The Postgraduate Research in Progress (PGRiP) Conference is an annual, postgraduate-run event held at a different host institution each year. Conference records from 2008-2019 indicate that female attendee numbers have never exceeded male attendees. This disparity is reflected in the presenter numbers, with only the 2012 conference having a greater proportion of female-led talks and posters. The prizes awarded for best poster and talk during the conference have historically been dominated by males and white ethnicities. Similarly, available data about the composition of the BGA committee shows a traditional dominance of males, which has not significantly improved over time.

This report has been produced with the aim of informing both the BGA and the wider Geophysics community and is concluded with a set of recommendations for both parties. The BGA Committee pledges to improve the inclusivity of the BGA by:

  • Appointing an EDI Officer
  • Improving accessibility to the annual PGRiP conference
  • Implementing unconscious bias training for judging panels and applying EDI best practices to the assessment of any prizes and awards
  • Actively promoting the work of under-represented members of our community and of minority-focussed peer support groups within Geophysics
  • A more inclusive approach to advertising BGA committee roles and their election.

As a community, we must work to improve the uptake and retention of Geophysics courses at university level, through greater investment in school-level outreach programmes to attract students from all educational backgrounds, and targeted support for undergraduate students. The BGA will look to work with the GSL, RAS, and other groups to consider how to improve the accessibility of geophysics. This might be facilitated by BGA reps joining relevant committees and working groups

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