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Science Advice: How to Navigate a Field Struggling with Diversity?

jenny.mcarthur13 June 2019

Dr Leonie Tanczer and Dr Jenny McArthur, lecturers for UCL STEaPP’s elective module on Science Advice for Policy, reflect on the contradictions of drawing from a Eurocentric discipline when teaching at London’s global university.

Science advice, the process by which governments take account of science, technology, and engineering expertise in decision making, favours the well-networked and influential few – the great and the good, as they like to say in the United Kingdom. At its core, science advice is about expertise, knowledge, and power. Advisors are often affiliated with prestigious universities, sit at the table with ministers and industry stakeholders, and count leading scientific experts as friends. Given these dynamics, if there is one discipline that should be at the forefront of critical reflection on its own biases and consideration of non-conforming voices, it should be Science Advice.

It’s becoming impossible to ignore the fact that many university syllabi, reading lists, and faculties have a diversity problem. Representation of scholars from the Global South is lacking. Academia isn’t inclusive when it comes to social categories such as gender and class. And too many disciplines perpetuate Western norms and expectations for public policy. If you don’t believe us, see here, here and here. Critiques from inside higher education raise questions over the way that universities reproduce colonial power relations, advanced by the movement to decolonise the curriculum. (more…)