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A new inclusion model for the physics community

The IOP is designing, developing, and testing a new inclusion model in collaboration with the physics community. The new model will go beyond gender equality and look at equality, diversity and inclusion more widely to encompass the broader range of challenges now facing the physics community within higher education.


Background

For the last 30 years, the IOP has been undertaking research, advocacy, programmes, and interventions to understand and improve the equality, diversity, and inclusive culture in physics.

Project Juno 

Back in 2003, IOP undertook a study of university physics departments around the UK and Ireland over a two-year period (from 2003-2005), in order to understand the challenges facing departments at the time. The issue cited most often was the lack of recruitment, retention and progression of women, an issue also prevalent in the broader world of physics. As a result of this research, Project Juno was created.
Find out more about Project Juno
Find out more about the site visit study

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The new inclusion model

In February 2021, the IOP worked with a consultancy to identify and address the current challenges to achieving more diverse and inclusive physics departments, laboratories, and national facilities. 

This was planned across three phases:

  • Phase 1 - completed in partnership with a consultancy (Inclusivity Report April ‘21) 
  • Phase 2 - undertaken internally by IOP staff using inclusivity report, further research and findings
  • Phase 3 - developed a strategic roadmap and detailed implementation plan for the delivery of the project

In delivering this, the IOP have engaged with the existing Juno panel and invited members to contribute to the development of the scheme, scoring and criteria. In recognising that not all challenges can be addressed through an inclusion model, the IOP are also undertaking further research alongside to create a portfolio of approaches to help tackle the barriers for underrepresented groups in physics.

Themes

Implementing the agreed approach, we identified four key themes that highlight the barriers and challenges. They are as follows:

  1. Physics is not seen as diverse (and is not diverse)
  2. Career and progression opportunities can be unclear and harder for underrepresented groups to access
  3. The culture of physics workplaces can be hostile and limit the voices of some
  4. Traditional academic constructs and buildings limit inclusion

The interviews and documentation review were primarily focused on the physics community, with the majority providing experiences and reflections specific to academia. As such, many of our themes can primarily be evidenced in this context. However, the hypotheses based on our previous research and other work within businesses is that some of these themes are more or less likely to be seen within industry than others.

  1. Physics is not seen as diverse

    Similar themes are observed in physics communities in industry, reflecting systemic issues such as the lack of diversity in those initially studying physics. However, a number of leading organisations in industry are taking active steps to address and tackle this, including in respect of role models.
  2. Career and progression opportunities can be unclear and harder for underrepresented groups to access

    In many industry contexts, progression within an organisation may be clearer (although the wider observations on the lack of awareness of broader career opportunities for physicists will still apply). Although challenges with speed and experiences of progression for different groups is also observed in industry; this is likely to be exacerbated in academia by specific constructs (for example in providing flexibility to carers).
  3. The culture of physics workplaces can be hostile and limit the voices of some

    We have not completed the analysis required to fully assess this area. However, based on the observations and examples provided by interviewees we would hypothesise that this issue is likely to be worse in academic contexts, although it is not clear if this is systemic across academia, or specific to physics departments. This may be worthy of further investigation.
  4. Traditional academic constructs and buildings limit inclusion

    This theme relates specifically to the challenges created by certain academic constructs (e.g. funding, inaccessible buildings, etc). Although our interviews were limited to the physics communities, some of the wider evidence observed related to other academic departments and so we would suggest some issues are likely in place across departments (for example the impact of short-term contracts on some individuals).

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Governance

The Inclusion Model Project Board: is led by IOPs Deputy Chief Executive and EDI Executive Lead Rachel Youngman and includes the relevant staff from the EDI team, Comms, Technical and Degree Accreditation. 

The Steering Group consists of external members who have been involved at the IOP either through membership, being part of the Juno panel, additional expertise or those who have lived experience. 

  • Professor Nicola Wilkin, University of Birmingham, Chair of the Steering Group, Former Juno Panel Chair
  • Rachel Youngman, Institute of Physics, Deputy Chief Executive
  • Dr Clara Barker, University of Oxford, IOP Member and LGBT+ Lead
  • Benyam Dejen, National Physical Laboratory, Research Scientist, The Blackett Lab Family Member
  • Professor Brian Fulton, University of York, Former Juno Panel Chair
  • Professor Helen Gleeson, University of Leeds, I&D Representative to Council, Chair of Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund Panel
  • Sophie Martin, University College London, PhD Student, The Blackett Lab Family Member
  • Dr Matt Mears, University of Sheffield, Juno Panel Member and LGBT+ Lead
  • Dr Tofail Syed, University of Limerick, Associate Professor and Head of Department of Physics
  • Dr Sarah Williams, University of Cambridge, Women in Physics Member

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Project plan and implementation

The project plan consists of the following stages: mobilise, assess, design, and develop, test, pre-launch, and launch. There will be regular comms throughout the process and regular meetings with the Steering Group and Project Board.

The Steering Group will have workshops to help bring together ideas and suggestions for the project.

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FAQs

Why are you doing this?

To better reflect the challenges and needs of today’s society and the maturity of our EDI understanding.

What research has the IOP done to reach the decision of creating the inclusion model?

What will the new principles be based on?

The principles have not been confirmed yet, but we will be conducting workshops with our Steering Group to create the principles for the inclusion model.

What will this cover?

The inclusion model will aim to cover different aspects of diversity in physics (i.e. race and ethnicity, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, etc) and it will aim to be more inclusive of the diversity in physics.

Is this for the UK and Ireland?

Yes, this will cover the UK and Ireland.

Will the inclusion model align with Athena Swan?

We understand the value and benefit of the reciprocal agreement between Project Juno and Athena SWAN. We are working with the Steering Group and Advance HE to ensure that the new inclusion model is designed with our current award holders in mind and will help to reduce the application burden.

What will happen to Juno?

The Juno scheme will be retired and superseded by the new inclusion model.

What do I do if my Juno award is up for renewal?

We encourage the department to continue to work towards the Juno framework whilst the new inclusion model is designed and implemented. The work done towards further embedding the Juno principles will be a solid foundation from which the department can apply to the new inclusion model once it is launched. The IOP EDI team will keep you informed as the new inclusion model work progresses and will communicate the finalised deadlines in a timely manner. For individual cases, please contact [email protected].

What are the timelines for the launch of the inclusion model?

We aim to launch the new scheme in Q1 2024.

Will you or have you got evidence to show that Juno was a success?

We plan to undertake a review of the Juno scheme to assess the impact of the last 15 years. We know from anecdotal evidence and applications that Juno has had a positive impact on Juno departments. We can also see from HESA data that the number of female professors has doubled in the time of the scheme’s existence. We also undertook a review of the Juno scheme previously. Find out more about the Project Juno independent evaluation.

Has the IOP engaged with other charters (i.e. the Race Equality Charter)?

Yes, we have been meeting and working with other charters including Athena SWAN and REC. We have also met with business charters to get a broader understanding which can be used towards the design of the inclusion model.

Does this mean more paperwork?

We are aiming to reduce the paperwork and bureaucracy of applying to the scheme, to have a lighter touch approach.

Will we have to pay to apply to the new scheme?

No, there will be no cost.

Will this be feasible for smaller institutions?

We aim to design a scheme that will be accessible for all department sizes, locations, and departmental structure.

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More information

Email [email protected] to find out more and to discuss this project.

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