UKPN Survey Results – Summer 2021

The latest iteration of our survey of the demographics of the UK Polar Network was undertaken in June 2021. 146 people responded, an increase of 27% from the winter survey. We present a brief summary of these results below. We continue to regularly collect this data in order to understand our membership base and monitor how the demographic of the UKPN changes over time. 

Bar chart showing the age and gender of survey respondents. Apart from the 31-40 category where men dominate, proportions of men and women in each age bracket are relatively even.
Figure 1: Age and Gender composition of the UKPN
Bar chart showing the job type of UKPN Members. Most survey respondents are in academica; almost half are PhD students.
Figure 2: Distribution of survey respondents by occupation

A variety of careers and career stages are represented within the UKPN, including undergraduate students, field technicians, teachers and research scientists; though approximately half the members are PhD students. This is shown in Figure 2, where the “other” category includes people in industry at a variety of career stages, as well as people in technical, governmental and field support roles.  The age range of members spans from 18 (though younger members are welcome) to people in their 60’s. 12% of UKPN Members surveyed have parental responsibilities. Research highlights the perceived incompatibility between parenthood and an academic career (1,2,3) often as a contributing factor to the “leaky pipeline”(4), with appropriate leave and childcare for crucial for recruitment and retention of potential parents, particularly mothers(5).

Figure 3 shows the proportion of survey respondents identifying as LGBQ+ has risen since our last survey. Increasing queer representation in STEM, through initatives such as LBGT STEMinars, Polar Horizons and Polar Pride day (on the 18th of November), though there are still challenges for LGBT inclusion in the Polar Sciences, especially surrounding field research in isolated and sometimes hostile locations (6, 7).  

2 stacked pie-charts, showing the proportion of  LGB self-identified individuals from this (Summer 2021) and the previous survey (Winter 2020). The proportion of bisexual respondants has increased, and the proportion of heteroseuxals decreased between the two surveys. 
Figure 3: LGBQ+ self-identification within the UKPN
Pie chart showing the ethnicity of survey respondents; ~95% are white, with a small number of Black and Asian individuals.   
Figure 4: Ethnicities of survey respondents

6% of Survey respondents are from a Black or Minority Ethnic group (BAME), the same as from our previous survey but the ethnicities represented differs from last time (Figure 4). This is less than half the proportion of BAME individuals in the UK STEM community (8). Over half of BAME individuals surveyed in a recent student of the UK Polar Science community experienced racism in the workplace (9), with barriers surrounding fieldwork also contributing towards negative experiences of people of colour in our field (10). For resources, or to find out more, check out

Members of UKPN speak at least 35 different languages in addition to English (all except English are shown in the word cloud in Figure 5, with the size of the text proportional to the number of speakers).

12% of survey respondents describe themselves as having a disability, with mental health conditions being the most common, in comparison to 19% of the working aged UK population (11). Inaccessible work spaces and workplace cultures (12,13), as well as the emphasis on physically demanding fieldwork (14,15), present challenges to equality for disabled people within our field and thus perceptions of geoscience as unsuitable for people with disabilities are common (16)

To summarise, the polar science community represented by the UKPN is diverse. We are continuing to work towards making the polar sciences an inclusive and accessible environment where people of all backgrounds can thrive. In order to do this, we have recently partnered with EDiG (equity and diversity in geosciences) and have joined the Diversity in Polar Science initiative.

Word cloud showing the languages spoken by UKPN members other than English. French, German and Spanish are most commonly spoken. 
Figure 5: Languages spoken by UKPN members other than English



(1) Crabb & Ekburg, 2014 (
(2) Gonçalves, 2019 (
(3) Burrough, 2021. (
(4) Dubois-Shaik & Fusulier, 2017 (
(5) Morgan et al., 2021 (
(6) Olcott & Downen, 2020 (
(7) Jackson, 2021 (
(8) Equality in higher education: students statistical report 2016  (
(9) Diversity in UK Polar Science: Race Impact Survey Report (
(10) Viglione, 2020 (
Family Resources Survey 2019-20, 2020 (
(12) Lawrence, 2021 (
(13) Horton & Tucker, 2013 (
(14) Hall et al, 2004 (
(15) Tucker & Horton, 2014 (
(16) Atchinson & Libarkin, 2016 (