New survey on academic diversity shows little progress

Despite efforts over decades to diversify the ranks of university faculty, only 4 percent of chemistry professorships at 50 leading U.S. colleges and universities are held by underrepresented minorities. That key finding and others related to diversity in academia came from a new survey conducted by a program called Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (OXIDE) in partnership with Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Senior Editor Linda Wang and Assistant Managing Editor Sophie Rovner at C&EN report that several factors have contributed to the ongoing low numbers of in academic departments. These include the economic recession and "real and perceived inequities." Although many of the numbers were discouraging, the data showed some potential bright spots. At several institutions, the percentage of assistant professors who were underrepresented minorities, which include people of African-American, Hispanic, Native American and multiracial backgrounds, was reported to be 20 percent or higher.

Moving forward, changing attitudes could build new momentum toward more diverse scientific ranks, say some faculty. Academic leadership at various institutions are now taking steps to attract talent across racial and ethnic lines.

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