During November 2020 we released a survey to try to understand the demography of the UK Polar Network. 106 people responded, and herein we present a brief summary of these results.
Understanding the demography of the UKPN enables us to support members of the UKPN in their scientific endeavours. Collaborations between differing backgrounds and perspectives encourage innovation and lead to better science,. A lack of representation or appropriate support for researchers from minority groups leads to individuals dropping out of the field,,. Conducting this survey has enabled us to work out where to focus our efforts and support of our whole community.
Figure 1: Distribution of Members – A) by age, B) by occupation
Our membership base spans from undergraduate students to senior academics, from field guides to teachers, researchers and retired scientists (Figure 1b). We span an age range from 18 to over 65 (Figure 1a). Approximately half of survey respondents are PhD students in the polar sciences. The UKPN membership base speaks at least 24 different languages on top of English, as shown in the word cloud below.
Figure 2: Languages spoken by UKPN members other than English
The majority of survey respondents are female (Figure 3), and this is likely the case for early career scientists in the UK Polar research community when considering the very female make-up of our committee. Well-known phenomena such as the leaky pipeline, would suggest that these gender ratios do not transfer to the higher levels of the polar science hierarchy or career ladder, but the data we collected did not include enough people at senior levels to confirm or deny this.
Figure 3: Gender composition of the UKPN
22% of survey respondents identify as LGBQ+ (Figure 4), though less than 1% describe themselves as transgender. This is a larger proportion than UK academic STEM community, and governmental estimates of the UK population at large. Queer representation in science is limited but improving, and although 75% of LGBT physical scientists report feeling broadly comfortable in their workplace, there is still more that needs to be done to make Polar Sciences a place where LGBT individuals can thrive, especially given the particular challenges they face from field research in isolated and sometimes hostile locations.
Figure 4: LGB self-identification within the UKPN
Only 6% of the UK Polar science community (as represented by respondents to our survey, Figure 5) come from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds, compared to 16% of the UK STEM community, and between 14 to 18% of the UK population as a whole. Less than 1% of Professors and only around 2% of academics at UK universities are Black,.
Figure 5: Ethnicities within the UKPN
As per the definition of a disability as a “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”, 15% of survey respondents identify as having a disability. Mental health conditions were the most widely reported disability.
Thank you very much to everyone who completed this survey and aided us in better understanding the demography of the UKPN’s members. As a result of this survey we are working on several projects to support UK Polar researchers, to help foster further diversity and inclusivity within our field. Further information of our upcoming schemes and events will follow in the new year, so watch this space
 Nature, 2014. (https://www.nature.com/news/diversity-challenge-1.15930)
 Seag et al, 2020. ( https://doi.org/10.1017/S0032247419000585)
 Ulricksen et al, 2011. (https://doi.org/10.1080/03057267.2010.504549)
 Grogan, 2019. (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0747-4)
 Dutt, 2020. (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0519-z)
 Goulden et al., 2011 (https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716211416925)
 Equality in higher education: students statistical report 2019 (https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/equality-higher-education-statistical-report-2019)
Equality in higher education: staff statistical report 2019 (https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/equality-higher-education-statistical-report-2019)
 Office for National Statistics, 2017. (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/sexuality/bulletins/sexualidentityuk/2017)
 Exploring the Workplace for LGBT Physical Scientists: A report by the Institute of Physics, Royal Astronomical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry, 2019. (https://www.rsc.org/new-perspectives/talent/lgbt-report/)
 Olcott & Downen, 2020 (https://doi.org/10.1029/2020EO148200)
[12 Equality in higher education: students statistical report 2016 (https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/equality-higher-education-statistical-report-2016)
 UK Census, 2011
 Higher Education Staff Statistics 2018/19 (https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/staff/working-in-he)
 Equality Act, 2010. (https://www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010)