Equality, Diversity and Euclid

So here I am, back in my hotel, after the second pleasant wine and food reception of the week – this time hosted by the University of Helsinki. I have to leave early tomorrow morning to get back to Maynooth so I’m not among those going for dinner afterwards.

It’s been a very satisfying meeting, in terms of scientific content, organization and even the weather which has been warm and sunny throughout.

That said I feel obliged to mention one less than satisfactory episode which happened this afternoon. Euclid is a very large consortium working on a complex mission. That requires certain management structures to be put in place, including how to deal with the many scientific publications that will hopefully result from the Euclid mission to be as fair as possible to everyone working on the various projects as well as ensuring the scientific quality of resulting papers.

This afternoon a very distinguished senior member of the Euclid Consortium presented an overview of the publication policy on behalf of the Editorial Board which included this slide:

Not knowing all the names I didn’t think twice about the various panels until at the end of the talk a member of the audience pointed out that none of the individuals named are female.

I wasn’t alone in being surprised that such a situation had arisen, especially since Euclid has a Diversity Committee. But what made matters worse was the apparently dismissive response of the speaker, which caused a sharp intake of breath around the auditorium, and left many with the impression that the Consortium needs to look at whether unconscious or other bias might have been involved in the selection of these members. The impression given may have been inadvertent but appearances matter, and I know I’m not the only person who was troubled by what went on this afternoon. I sincerely hope the Diversity Committee looks into this issue as soon as possible.

UPDATE: 21st June 2019. I understand that this issue has been looked into in depth by the Euclid Consortium and active measures are being taken to improve the gender balance in future, which is a very positive outcome.

9 Responses to “Equality, Diversity and Euclid”

  1. Do you have a higher-resolution version of the slide?

    And what was the remark?

  2. What, is the publication policy, in brief?

  3. Should the fraction of women in various committees and so on be the same as that of the members of the consortium?

    What about other criteria? Fraction of homosexuals? Fraction of blonds?

    • Fraction of short people? This is no joke. Many studies have shown that tall people are over-represented in positions of power, even if such positions have nothing to do with physique. There is a large bias against short people, and most people are not even aware of it.

    • telescoper Says:

      Nobody is arguing for quotas. The important thing is to have appointment processes that are as free from bias (whether conscious or unconscious) as possible. There might be a reasonable explanation as to why there are no women on these important committees, but the speaker did not give it.

  4. I’m a bit confused. Was the sharp intake of breath when he presented the slide, but you didn’t realize why until later?

    • Daniel Mortlock Says:

      While I didn’t notice any sharp intake of breath myself, the shocking (or perhaps not so shocking) part of the exchange was the speaker’s response to the question. This was basically to state the process by which these appointments had been made, which in several cases boiled down to “I decided this was the best person for the position.”

      I think this would only really be a useful answer to the particular question if you consider both yourself and the system free of (unconscious) biases regarding gender. Looking around the extremely male room, this is clearly not true of the Euclid Consortium. (The room was also very white; I can’t comment on height.)

  5. The Euclid Consortium Diversity Committee is aware of this incident and is conducting an investigation. As we have done several times in the recent past, if we conclude that violations of the EC Code of Conduct have occurred we will specify this in a formal communication to the Euclid Consortium Board. We take the diversity of EC leadership positions and the equality of opportunity throughout the collaboration extremely seriously.

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