Against all biases: Do we really need more diversity in research and innovation?

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There are reasons for achieving greater diversity in science. Diversity in the widest sense, including gender, ethnic and social background diversity. This is not simply a matter of justice, which by itself should represent a sufficient argument for defending diversity. Actually, it goes beyond such an “ideal” into the accomplishment of “practical” purposes. Prerequisites that are crucial for advancing knowledge and generating socio-economic advantages.

Scientific progress depends on openness. The openness that allows deeper examination of evidence against, or in favor, of a hypothesis. The openness needed to verify and reproduce results. A condition that is essential to understanding a problem and finding possible solutions without having to revert to notions of faith or ideological loyalties. Openness is strengthened by a diversity of ideas, and at the same time openness encourages new perspectives that are worth investigating.

Scientists, as well as all types of innovators, benefit from context awareness. This refers to understanding the background underlying a specific problem. This is also related to empathy: our capacity to be sensitive to the needs and experiences of others.  Based on such awareness, scientists and innovators can come up with new applications that are both novel and relevant to humanity. These abilities are less likely to be developed in highly homogeneous or uniform organizations.

Scientific research and innovation are cooperative enterprises. Discovering and exploiting new knowledge typically involves interactions among people of diverse socio-economic backgrounds and cultures. Challenges of local and global significance, such as those concerning human health and the environment, demand the combination of resources and expertise that cannot always be linked to a single institution or geographical region. Moreover, intellectual and economic outputs may target varied stakeholders worldwide. Therefore, improving diversity is a necessary step towards properly framing complex questions and identifying what is needed to reach a solution.

Do we understand this problem? Is this the right technique? Should we move in this direction? These are questions that researchers address on a daily basis. To answer them, scientists pursue their own perspectives and methods, while simultaneously considering competing approaches and explanations. Thus, finding “truth” entails a persistent effort to reject partial views influenced by individual assumptions, historical circumstances or particular organizational settings.

To better understand the world and bring greater benefits to people, researchers must fight preconceptions that are imposed by the narrowness of their own knowledge and experiences. The restraints forged from our ignorance. However, to effectively struggle against such biases, we need more diverse research environments and leaderships, not less.

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