Diversity and inclusion

The Australian Academy of Science aims to be a national leader in diversity and inclusion in Australia’s science sector.

The Academy is committed to supporting and celebrating science within the Fellowship and in all our activities. To genuinely achieve this commitment we recognise that diversity and inclusion must be embedded in everything we do.

Furthermore, as a national academy we have a responsibility to model, promote and influence best practice in diversity and inclusion in the science sector in Australia.

We are working with Australia’s science sector to identify and implement opportunities for diversity and inclusion, and openly discuss and regularly report on our progress.

Key diversity and inclusion initiatives of the Academy and areas of focus include:

Providing strategic advice

  • Our Equity and Diversity Reference Group (EDRG) is an advisory body to the Academy’s Council providing recommendations to improve diversity—for example, of gender, ethnicity, age, geographical distribution and scientific disciplines—and to uphold the principles of inclusion, equal opportunity, fairness and transparency in Academy policies and procedures.
  • We have evidence-informed decision making at our core. The Fellowship and Council annually receive a diversity report to track progress and inform decisions.

Encouraging diverse nominees for Fellowship and awards

  • We have appointed more than 20 ‘Champions of Diversity’ within the Fellowship to be ambassadors in each scientific discipline across the country, tasked with identifying diversity candidates and proposers to put forward nominations for Fellowship and awards.
  • We routinely reach out to Vice-Chancellors, Deputy Vice-Chancellors Research, and heads of medical research institutes and publicly funded research agencies to encourage them to suggest diversity candidates from their organisations for nomination to the Fellowship of the Academy.
  • We encourage all Academy Fellows to actively engage in the process of identifying diversity candidates for Fellowship.

More about the election of Fellows to the Academy

Videos encouraging diversity candidates

You are welcome to share and embed our videos encouraging the nomination of diversity candidates for Fellowship and awards.

Strengthening the STEM pipeline

  • We partner with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering to roll out the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot. Forty-five institutions including universities, publicly funded research agencies and medical research institutes are participating in the pilot by applying for an Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award, demonstrating a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff. This process takes around two years including preparation, training and collating evidence. SAGE is one of the Academy’s programs to improve gender equity.
  • The Academy supports an active, vibrant and influential early- and mid-career researcher culture in Australia by supporting the EMCR Forum and its activities.

Fair, transparent and equitable processes

  • We publish the Fellowship nomination and election processes on our website.  
  • We have implemented changes that allow more female candidates for Fellowship to be recommended to Council by the Sectional Committees. Previously each sectional committee could recommend to Council two candidates for consideration; this number can now rise to three if at least one candidate is female.
  • We have adopted a Code of Conduct which clearly outlines conduct expectations, the values of the Academy and procedures for handling misconduct. The code is based on best practice and is binding for Fellows, staff and participants in all Academy activities.
  • We offer childcare and carer’s assistance for delegates at our annual flagship event, Science at the Shine Dome.

Mitigating bias

  • We provide unconscious bias training for Sectional Committee members and Council members who are actively involved in assessing candidate applications for Fellowship.
  • We make unconscious bias training available to all staff.
  • We are working to make this training available to all committees involved in assessing awards administered by the Academy.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

We are committed to advance reconciliation, create opportunities to work respectfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, support their contribution to scientific activities and increase understandings of Indigenous knowledge.

Under our Reconciliation Action Plan, we currently:

  • Award an annual travelling research award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scientists.
  • Encourage our Council members and staff to undertake cultural awareness training as provided by the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

Further activities that align with the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan are under development.

Capacity-building initiatives

  • We have developed the Women in STEM Decadal Plan in collaboration with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. The plan provides a 10-year roadmap for achieving sustained increases in women’s STEM participation and retention from school through to careers. The plan was launched in April 2019.
  • We are developing STEM Women, a dynamic, curated online directory of Australian women working in STEM across industry and academia. The directory will be launched in 2019 and promoted to media outlets, STEM conference organisers and government and industry bodies to improve access to women in STEM available to provide expert commentary, speak at events, and serve on boards and committees.

Working towards gender balance of Fellowship and Committees

  • Australia is losing women from the science sector. Women comprise more than half of science PhD graduates and early-career researchers, but just 17% of senior academics in Australian universities and research institutes. The loss of so many women scientists is a significant waste of expertise, talent and investment, and this impacts our nation’s scientific performance and productivity. The Academy is playing a role in helping Australia urgently address barriers to gender equity.
  • The gender imbalance of the Fellowship is an important issue for the Academy. Females comprise 14% of all living Fellows, and we have worked hard over the past five years to address this issue. Our actions to improve diversity are succeeding—over the past five years, 35% of the 105 Fellows elected to the Academy were female.
  • Overall membership of our 22 National Committees for Science is 40% female, and includes EMCRs.
  • Overall membership of our Sectional Committees is 30% female.

Grants and awards

  • We are continually seeking to increase diversity of nominees for all our grants and awards.
  • We are improving gender equity in the awards program by:
    • improving advertising mechanisms to encourage a diverse pool of applicants through social media
    • reviewing changes to applications processes to explicitly collect gender information, normalise career breaks and improve ‘relative to opportunity’ assessments
    • removing bias from committee membership processes to increase diversity on selection committees.

School education

  • By working with teachers in primary and high schools through our three national education programs, the teaching and learning of science and mathematics is enriched and extended for girls and boys across Australia.

Continual improvement

  • We recognise that the task of achieving equity and diversity is ongoing. We are committed to making ongoing improvements to our processes and practices and to encourage others to do the same.
  • We accept that many of our initiatives and measures focus on achieving gender equity and recognise more needs to be done to improve diversity beyond gender.

© 2019 Australian Academy of Science