Rooting Out Diversity Gaps: Empowering Underrepresented Communities

In recent years, diversity has rightfully taken center stage in many discussions across various fields. Science and science communication is not an exception.

Diversity is recognized and emphasized as critical in achieving the “best accessible version of truth.” Emphasizing diversity, whether in terms of race, gender, sexuality, economic class, and more, not only helps us avoid the introduction of various biases into our research and reporting but also contributes to a better and more accurate understanding of the world we live in and strive to comprehend and report on.

This emphasis on diversity is mirrored in the world of science journalism. Scientific media globally places importance on maintaining diversity, both in the topics they cover and the people in the science world. Reporters must be mindful that individuals who have had less representation in research, such as women, sexual and racial minorities, immigrants, etc., are given equal voice and coverage. This ensures a more comprehensive and accurate portrayal of our diverse world.

Another significant aspect is the presence of diversity within editorial teams. Critics argue that overly focusing on diversity contradicts the professional nature of the journalistic, neutral, and balanced nature of journalism work. However, acknowledging and including diverse perspectives in editorial teams enhanced the precision and depth of our reports. Each person carries a unique story, history, and perspective shaped by their experiences over time in their community.

Naturally, individuals who have lived within communities in a society with different privileges or injustices have noticeable differences in their perspectives. These differences can lead to a more accurate media portrayal and better connections with the audience. However, it’s crucial to be cautious of excessive emphasis on diversity, ensuring it doesn’t lead to excluding coverage of particular topics for individuals outside the scope of those minority groups. Such a practice could harm the idea of diversity itself.

While the importance of diversity has grown significantly, the current state of reinforcing diversity in editorial teams and science media faces challenges that need more attention. The primary focus often revolves around hiring individuals from minority communities. However, individuals from these minority groups may undergo a process of assimilation into existing structures and sometimes appear at the narrow boundary between social activism and media representation. In some cases, they may be utilized as a media’s public relations tools to hide its structural lack of diversity behind a few faces.

Actual effectiveness in diversity occurs when it is addressed at its roots. Instead of injecting diversity into an entity during the final stages of growth of an individual, it is crucial to invest in it from the beginning, at its source and origin.

This holds true both nationally and internationally in the field of science media.

Empowering a traditionally marginalized community to work as an influential force alongside colleagues with social advantages requires investment in their strengthening during their growth period. In other words, if we want the professional voice of a minority in our organization, it requires empowering that community to make it robust.

The journey towards a diverse and inclusive media landscape involves more than surface-level changes. It necessitates investing in the foundational elements of diversity, ensuring that every individual’s unique perspective is acknowledged, valued, and empowered within the storytelling process.

This issue has received attention at the local and national levels in some countries, but this story has a less noticeable second part.

Science is a global endeavour that can answer some of the world’s questions and address global issues. The fact that science knows no boundaries is evident in phenomena like climate change, where an event in one corner of the world affects the entire planet.

On the other hand, a significant portion of people’s cultural and historical experiences in this world lie outside the West and, more broadly, the Global North. Reporting on science cannot claim diversity if our focus is solely on covering diversity within the scientific structures of Global Northern societies.

On a global scale, we need media professionals with high professional capabilities to come from different parts of the world, bringing an understanding of their own culture, heritage, and diverse experiences, individually and historically. They can share untold stories without falling into extremism or becoming politically active, providing a fresh perspective on the narratives of others.

This endeavour is particularly crucial in the Global South and requires investment. We aim to produce accurate reports and tell stories about a diverse world encompassing a rainbow of cultures, ethnicities, genders, languages, and customs. In that case, the solution is strengthening individuals we often label as minorities or marginalized in the Global North.

Therefore, influential scientific and media institutions must pay special attention to these regions, especially places facing the danger of media victimization due to social conditions. In many cases, this doesn’t require a substantial investment. The first step is producing educational resources, professional courses, and online programs for residents of the world in various languages.

Today, what we witness, for example, in Iran and Afghanistan, is a remarkable decline in science media. In Iran, the current situation is incomparable to that of a decade ago, and according to Siavash Safarianpour, a seasoned Iranian science journalist and TV producer, science journalism is on the brink of extinction.

The Persian-speaking world, encompassing roughly 110 million people across Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and other regions, represents a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, scientific thought, and linguistic diversity. If science journalism truly seeks to embrace a global perspective, the Persian language and its associated knowledge base must be considered. Yet, the potential contributions of Persian-speaking science communicators are often hindered by limited resources and access to professional education.

Addressing this disparity requires a concerted global effort. Relying solely on institutions within specific minority groups to foster diversity can inadvertently introduce positive biases towards that minority while overlooking others. To overcome this challenge, international organizations dedicated to upholding professional principles and promoting diversity can play a pivotal role.

The first step lies in establishing international collaborations that cultivate a sense of belonging for science journalists worldwide, particularly those from the Global South. Prioritizing societies facing political, economic, and social barriers to organizing local collaborations is essential. By providing access to educational resources, professional courses, and online programs in various languages, we can empower individuals often labelled as minorities or marginalized to excel in science communication.

The Persian-speaking world holds immense potential to enrich the global science journalism landscape. Investing in education, fostering international partnerships, and creating inclusive platforms can unlock the voices and perspectives of Persian-speaking scientists and communicators, ensuring their valuable contributions are recognized and amplified globally.

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