The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is committing £1.5 million ($2 million) to create a race and ethnicity unit to tackle racism in UK chemistry. The RSC announced the initiative as part of the publication of Missing Elements: Racial and ethnic inequalities in the chemical sciences.
The report draws on interviews and focus groups as well as statistical analyses to describe racial and ethnic inequalities in both academia and industry in the UK. It finds that Black, Asian, and multiracial chemists in the UK, as well as those from other marginalized racial and ethnic groups, are underrepresented at senior levels in academia. Data from the 2019–20 financial year showed that principal investigators (PIs) from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups received 10% less funding than White PIs. Robert Mokaya, the UK’s only Black chemistry professor, says in an RSC press release that “Missing Elements is a watershed moment—it is also a wake-up call if ever there was one, but more importantly it’s a call to action.”
The report identifies six interacting themes that affect retention and progression of chemists from marginalized ethnic and racial groups, including lack of relatable role models, limited mentorship opportunities, and structural and cultural barriers. The RSC pledges to combat such issues. “The time for talking is past—we must confront these issues head on, explicitly calling out racism in science for what it is. We cannot make this change alone and we must work with partners inside and outside of science, sharing what we learn, highlighting barriers that threaten progress, finding ways to overcome them and sharing across the whole science community,” RSC CEO Helen Pain says in the press release.