UKPN Survey Results – Winter 2020

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


[1] Nature, 2014. (https://www.nature.com/news/diversity-challenge-1.15930)

[2] Seag et al, 2020. ( https://doi.org/10.1017/S0032247419000585)

[3] Ulricksen et al, 2011. (https://doi.org/10.1080/03057267.2010.504549)

[4] Grogan, 2019. (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0747-4)

[5] Dutt, 2020. (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0519-z)

[6] Goulden et al., 2011 (https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716211416925)

[7] Equality in higher education: students statistical report 2019 (https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/equality-higher-education-statistical-report-2019)

[8]Equality in higher education: staff statistical report 2019 (https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/equality-higher-education-statistical-report-2019)

[9] Office for National Statistics, 2017. (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/sexuality/bulletins/sexualidentityuk/2017)

[10] 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/)

[11] 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)

[13] UK Census, 2011

[14] The Guardian, 2020 (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/feb/27/fewer-than-1-of-uk-university-professors-are-black-figures-show)

[15] Higher Education Staff Statistics 2018/19 (https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/staff/working-in-he)

[16] Equality Act, 2010. (https://www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010)

Anti-colonialism & Antarctic research: The insidious nature of the Antarctic Treaty

When we think about being anti-colonial in Polar research, we often defer immediately to the Arctic, owing to its presence of Indigenous peoples. While the colonial origins of Antarctic exploration (of which science was a key part) are reasonably well-known, the ongoing nature of colonialism in Antarctic politics and research is not. Here, I build on the works of some inspiring Antarctic researchers to highlight these lesser-known issues, which we should all be concerned with.

Science has never been separate from colonialism. When explorers in the 1750s from Great Britain and France travelled to Antarctica in the name of science, they were simultaneously working towards goals in which they could lay claim to land. Today, with the signing and celebration of the Antarctic Treaty, colonialism is better hidden but still persistent. As Alejandra Mancilla excellently writes, Antarctica is the one continent where colonial powers are still preserved, a continent that is still largely run by colonial and wishing-to-be colonial powers that claimed wedges of it, or reserved their rights to make a claim in the future under the auspices of the Antarctic Treaty. Today, it is an accepted trope in Antarctic humanities and social sciences that Antarctica is a fundamental part of the colonial project at the global level.

Although Antarctica is often thought of as a global commons, the reality is that most countries are not signatories of the Antarctic Treaty. Although the Antarctic Treaty’s membership has grown, amongst signatories 53 signatories only 29 states have the power to vote and therefore shape Antarctica’s legal framework. This led Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mohammed bin Mahathir, to denounce the Antarctic Treaty as, “an agreement between a select group of countries [which failed to] reflect the true feelings of the members of the United Nations or their just claims”.  Indeed, the Antarctic Treaty is largely composed of “who was there first,” thus rewarding prior attempts at occupation. Similarly, new members are forced to replicate colonising behaviours of earlier parties through the establishing scientific bases to prove that scientific research activity is being conducted.

As researchers, particularly those outside of the social sciences, we like to view research and science as objective practices when they are in fact deeply political. While membership of the Antarctic Treaty is theoretically open to all, having decision-making power is predicated on the ability to conduct substantial research activity. This position was not negotiated amongst states, but rather imposed by original, self-appointed signatories. As such, a huge group of states are left voteless when it comes to Antarctic affairs. It is therefore no surprise that many have viewed the rhetoric of universal science as a cover-up to ensure that only some (“developed”) states are the only ones to actively partake in Antarctic politics. By no means do I suggest that science is ‘bad’ in Antarctica, but, following arguments made by Mancilla, having it as the basis for privileged decision-making rights is problematic.

This is a substantial body of Antarctic research, and perhaps one of the key concerns amongst social scientists and humanities researchers in Antarctica, yet this perspective is seldom represented. One thing we can do is engage with alternative narratives and viewpoints  about Antarctica and its seas, something that Charne Lavery and Meg Samuelson discuss here. However, it is an important first step to acknowledge these power structures as an issue, to acknowledge that we are embedded in them (whether we like it or not!), before we can know how to contest them.

Resources

Batten, R. 2014. How the Antarctic reframes the context of class and Empire. Imperial and Global Forum < https://imperialglobalexeter.com/2014/08/20/how-the-antarctic-reframes-the-context-of-class-and-empire/>

Hemmings, A. D. ‘Security beyond Claims’, in Alan D. Hemmings, Donald R. Rothwell and Karen N. Scott (eds), Antarctic Security in the Twenty-First Century: Legal and Policy Perspectives (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012), 70–94, at 77

Lavery, C., 2019. Antarctica and Africa: Narrating alternate futures. Polar Record.

Mancilla, A. (2020). Decolonising Antarctica. In: Philosophies of Polar Law. < https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9780429461149/chapters/10.4324/9780429461149-3>

Meet the Committee 2020-2021

We are very excited to introduce our team of 26 volunteers who form the UK Polar Network Committee 2020-2021!

Our first committee meeting is schedulled next week and we are looking forward to getting to know each other and setting up expectations and plans for the year.

For more details and individual pages of committee members, have a look at the committee page of the website.

If you want to join the committee, don’t feel like you have to wait for a year, just get in touch with us and we will discuss the possibiliites!

Anna Gebruk: Co-President & APECS council
 
Maxine King: Co-President  
Holly Jenkins: Vice-President  
Anuszka Mosurska: Secretary & Social Media Officer  
Vicky Fowler: Treasurer & ARCTIS Organiser  
Robynne Nowicki: Head of Education and Outreach  
Kate Stockings: Head of Education and Outreach  
Saule Akhmetkaliyeva: Head of UK-Russia collaboration & APECS council  
Ben Boyes: ARCTIS Organiser  
Chloe Nunn: Festivals Coordinator  
Eva Prendergast: Festivals Coordinator  
Lucie Cassarino: UKAHT Representative   
Fiona Old: Antarctic Flags Coordinator   
Jennifer Arthur: Antarctic Flags Coordinator  
Maribel García-Ibáñez: Social Media Officer  
Angus Naylor: Social Media Officer  
Madeline Anderson: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Officer   
Victoria Dutch: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Officer  
Floortje Van Den Heuvel: Pint of Science Organiser  
Shridhar Jawak: APECS Observer for the Antarctic Bursary  
Chelsey Baker: Member-At-Large  
Anna Belcher: Member-At-Large  
Katie King: Member-At-Large

Polar Software Workshop and Hackathon

Training the next generation of polar scientists in software sustainability

Organised in collaboration with the UK Polar Network and the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) UCL, more than 20 early career polar scientists were given the opportunity to improve their software skills during an interactive workshop. As with many scientific disciplines within polar sciences we have our software heroes with the opensouce code stored in github… and we have those who would never dream of sharing their code. There are, however, many who would like to fit into the first category and to be more open but are concerned about sharing their code. It was this group that we aimed to help, as well as those who would like to learn better practices in writing and developing their software.

The UCL Earth Sciences deinonychus ready to welcome participants to the workshop.

Several SSI fellows provided invaluable help on the day, not only through delivering their own sessions but also staying around and helping participants through the other practical sessions. Adam Jackson kicked off the day with an introduction to open science and sustainable software, and David Perez-Suarez and Yo Yehudi ran hugely successful workshops on testing and open scientific code through github respectively.

SSI Fellow Adam Jackson kicks off the day with an introduction to open science and sustainable software.

In addition to this training we had two speakers from industry who demonstrated that their software skills have transferred to careers outside of academia: Ruari Rhodes (Hiscox) spoke to us and Sam Thomas (Zopa) shared some of his wisdom from his previous work in academia. We were also fortunate enough to have an interlude from the coding from UCL’s Professor Chris Rapley who shared his extensive knowledge on climate change communication, setting us up nicely for the following day’s hackday.

Workshop particpants get to grip with David Perez-Suarez’s testing session.

The UK’s First Polar Hackathon?

Following the training workshop, many of the participants returned to participate in (as far as we are aware!) the UK’s first polar science hackathon. We were joined by participants from Airbus and other departments from UCL (physics and geography) to work on a variety of problems, including machine learning, shipping routes through the Arctic and extreme events in Greenland.

Projects were judged by popular vote, with a focus on open science, collaboration within the team, as well as results found during the day. Prizes for the hackathon were generously provided by Indorse.

A welcome pizza break from coding during the hackathon.

We will share results of this workshop with the international earth sciences community at December’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. We would like to thank the Software Sustainability Institute for providing funding for this workshop through my fellowship fund as well as the Association for Early Career Polar Scientists for additional travel support and endorse for sponsoring our Hackday. 
 
The resources from the workshop are available here: 
 
Adam Jackson (UCL)- Open science and sustainable software presentation source files
 
David Perez-Suarez (UCL)- Testing, Testing, One, Two… slides repository 
 
Ruari Rhodes (Hiscox)- Multi-lingual workflow and spatial data resources 
 
Yo Yehudi (InterMine, University of Cambridge)- Open Scientific Code using Git and GitHub materials slides 
 
Chris Rapley (UCL)- Climate Change- Delivering Value slides

UKPN and APECS Russia Present ARCTIS2019

Association of Polar Early Career Scientists in Russia (APECS Russia) and UK Polar Network together with Kola Science Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences invite you to attend an interdisciplinary field course in the Russian Arctic – “Arctic Interdisciplinary Studies – ARCTIS”.

 

ARCTIS will cover main domains of disciplines: Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Terrestrial, Marine and Social & Humanities.

 

The main goal of ARCTIS is to facilitate bilateral and interdisciplinary cooperation of early career scientists from the United Kingdom and Russia on Arctic natural and social studies. The course will be designed to create a fruitful and interactive platform to share ideas, exchange knowledge and gain new skills and experiences by developing collaborative science project concepts as a result of the meeting.

 

The field course will take place in Apatity, Kirovsk and Murmansk, Murmansk region, Russia.

 

To apply for the field course, click here.

 

Application deadline: 22nd November 2018

Notification of acceptance: 30th November 2018

ARCTIS Field Course: 18th – 22nd February 2019

 

ARCTIS2019_eng

(if you hover over the pdf below there are multiple pages to scroll through for more info!)

Software Workshop

  • Do you write any code?
  • Have you ever come back to your code from 6 months ago and had no idea why it doesn’t work any more (or what it even does)??
  • Does your code mysteriously stop working overnight even though you’re sure you didn’t change anything?
  • Do you ever wish you could get back your lovely code from last week that worked just fine before you changed it?
  • Do you use (or will you use) any kind of software in your research at all?
 

If you answer yes to any of the above then this workshop is for you!* We are holding a free day long workshop at UCL on September 18th on polar software which will cover everything from version control and writing better code to specific software used in polar research. We have a range of brilliant speakers from academia, as well as some who have taken the software skills they have learnt from academia into industry.

Apply here now! Limited help with travel costs are available. Registration is free, deadline is August 31st. If you’re not already convinced (and you really should be) there’s free lunch too 🙂

This workshop is for all early career polar researchers no matter your level of experience, masters, PhD and beyond and has been partially funded by the Software Sustainability Institute.

We also encourage participants to stay for our polar sciences hack day on September 19th– we will be joining with students from other disciplines (e.g. physics, computer sciences) to come along and work on some polar problems for a day so even if you don’t think you’re great at coding here is your chance to get some help from those who are, and put into practice the skills you learn during the workshop.

Any questions? Email Sammie Buzzard at s.buzzard@ucl.ac.uk

Homeward Bound expedition

By Maddie Brasier.

I’ve been a member of the UKPN for 5 years now, I joined the committee as the education and outreach officer in 2013 and have since helped organise and lead outreach activities across the UK. The network and its meetings have been a great source of peer networks throughout my PhD and I was most grateful to receive a UKPN donation toward my Homeward Bound Expedition to Antarctica this year.

Homeward Bound is an international leadership initiative for women in science, the programme is delivered over a 12-month period training the participants in science communication, leadership, personal strategy and visibility, culminating with a three-week expedition to Antarctica. A total of 78 women from 14 different counties and different STEM fields took part in the expedition which visited Antarctica in February-March 2018.

During the expedition I could network with the other Homeward Bound participants, gaining contacts around the globe and insight into different scientific disciplines including conservation, policy, education and sustainable technologies. This was an amazing experience and opportunity. Science working groups within the 2018 cohort are now planning initiatives to help improve the gender gap in science, reduce our impact on the planet and raise awareness of climate change.

Antarctica was chosen as the backdrop of Homeward Bound because of its isolation and vulnerability. Training in this environment, removed from everyday life and communications, where our impact of climate change is so visibile, underlines the growing need for international collaboration to help future generations live more sustainably. During the expedition we visited 4 different research bases; Carlini (Argentina), Great Wall (China), Palmer (USA) and Rothera (UK) as well as sites of historical importance; Port Lockroy and Base Y (British) and other locations of biological interest.

As many UKPN members will be aware, visiting the polar regions is a unique and very moving experience. Being able to visit so many bases is also very rare. Having studied Antarctic biology for the last 6 years during my masters and PhD, I was really excited to see Antarctic science in action and learn more about operations in the field. These insights will feed back into future outreach work, helping to inspire young peoples into STEM subjects.

Once again I am really grateful for the support of the UKPN and as I move onto the next stage of my career (I finished my PhD 3 weeks before my expedition), I hope to take these newly acquired skills into my future work. The Homeward Bound program is a 10 year initiative and for any UKPN members or followers thinking of applying, I am more than happy to discuss my experience of the programme and help with applications.

If you wish to contact Maddie please email her at mjbrasier90@gmail.com

The UKPN donation came from an education and outreach grant from the British Antarctic Territory department of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office

More information on the Homeward Bound expedition can be found here

UK-Russia Arctic Early Career Researcher Workshop

On 1-2 March the 1st UK-Russia Arctic Early Career Researcher Workshop will be hosted at Moscow State University hosted by the Faculty of Geography and Marine Research Center. The event is organised by the NERC Arctic Office and the UK Science and Innovation Network in Russia, in partnership with the UK Polar Network and the National Committee of the Association of Early Career Polar Researchers in Russia.

The event is aimed at building practical connections between early career researchers from the United Kingdom and Russia, with the aim of promoting international scientific cooperation and identifying avenues for future joint UK-Russia Arctic research.

The programme of the workshop features a series of presentations from participants, discussions in break-out groups and visits.

The event will be held under the UK-Russia Year of Science and Education 2017.