Office of Inclusion and Diversity

Recruit, Retain, Reaffirm

Diversity Drives Quality in Science

For some of you, this title may be a surprise, and for others it is not. For the latter group, it is likely that you have experienced in your own life, the occasion when collective wisdom has produced the best decision. This is not a consideration for “group think” as a path to decision making, but rather a process that provides the opportunity for all perspectives to be heard, respected, and incorporated into a final decision or product. This principle can be found nurturing the roots of an inclusive organization and one that thrives fully on the expressions of all its members. These principles form the foundation for mission of the new Office of Inclusion and Diversity, based at the Perelman School of Medicine.

As a research-intensive institution, science is one the core drivers that fuels academic excellence.  The relationship that the University of Pennsylvania has to science dates back to its founder Benjamin Franklin, when even without the sophisticated tools of today’s investigative methods, he was able to unravel the mysteries as varied as electricity, the jet stream, and near vision.  The complexity of scientific discovery has increased exponentially in the last 200 years, and thus such complexity requires diversity of input.

Two recent papers underscore the value of diversity in contributing to the quality of the scientific product.  Campbell and coworkers[1] noted the value of gender heterogeneity at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, observing that gender diverse teams resulted in publications that received 34% more citations compared to gender homogeneous groups.  This observation runs counter to some previous studies that suggest that gender diversity does not have a positive impact.[2]  However, it does show promise that as women achieve levels in leadership in research teams, there is evidence that diversity makes a difference.  Freeman and Huang[3] examined the question of whether or not scientific articles co-authored by investigators of multiple ethnicities have greater impact compared to articles published by less diverse groups.  Interestingly, after examining 1.5 million scientific papers published in the United States from 1985 to 2008, the authors noted a correlation between multi-ethnic teams and greater scientific impact.  Thus, this recent evidence supports the value proposition for inclusion and diversity, specific in this case in scientific discovery.  It also supports the mission of the Office of Inclusion and Diversity:  To strengthen the quality of education, produce innovative research and healthcare delivery by fostering a vibrant inclusive environment and fully embracing diversity.

[1]  Campbell LG, Mehtani s, Dozier ME, Rinehart J (2013) Gender-Heterogeneous Working Groups Produce Higher Quality Science. PLoS One 6(10): e79147. Doi: 10:137/journal.pone.0079147

[2]  Bowers CA, Pharmer JA, Salas E (2000) When member homogeneity is needed in work teams - A meta-analysis. Small Group Research 31: 305–327

[3]  Freeman, RB and Huang W. Collaborating with People Like Me: Ethnic co-authorship within the US., Accessed: 4/2/2014

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