Dear SAMS family and friends,
Thank you to all who wrote to us about support for the anti-racism movement, encouraging us to explore what more we can do to best support students, staff, collaborators and stakeholders working with us in marine science who identify as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME).
I trust we all agree that racism is abhorrent and wrong. Sadly, however, racism is still prevalent throughout our society. This will change only if we acknowledge its existence, listen to and express solidarity with those experiencing it, reflect on its many facets in our culture, and, most importantly, work together to bring about equality and justice for BAME students and staff in our community.
In our upcoming corporate strategy, we are explicitly committed to diversity in all aspects. I believe that diversity contributes greatly to achieving the excellence and innovation that are the foundations of our shared mission to promote healthy oceans through marine science. One important contribution to achieving diversity is for all of us to address our unconscious biases. We therefore last year made equality, diversity and unconscious bias training a requirement for all staff.
Being based on the rural west coast of Scotland means we live in a beautiful environment and active community, but it is one of the least ethnically diverse regions of the United Kingdom. While our corporate culture at SAMS has an international outlook, with staff and students coming from different cultural backgrounds and collaborating widely across the world, we recognise that we have too few researchers and managers from BAME backgrounds in the SAMS family.
But we have been making strides to improve this situation. One such initiative is our Masters programme in Aquaculture, Environment and Society (ACES). Of the 70 students that have either completed or are currently enrolled on this Erasmus-Mundus scholarship-funded programme, 40 have been from BAME communities from all over the world. This diversity, which is a structurally designed component of the course, builds truly diverse, life-long networks and professional friendships that we hope will bring positive change to the global aquaculture industry. The ACES students are a recognised source of dynamism and new ideas at SAMS and enhance the racial and cultural diversity of our student population. We are exploring additional ways to embed BAME issues in our education provision with our partners in the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Research funding streams such as Erasmus Mundus (EU) as well as the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund enable us to collaborate widely. The GCRF-funded GlobalSeaweedSTAR project alone employs 17 staff from BAME communities with another seven to be employed if a follow-on proposal is successful.
We have recently announced a full review of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Policy, to ensure it addresses current concerns and demands for reform. Any shortcomings that are identified will be addressed. Beyond this formal review we will continue to listen and talk, to make sure those of BAME identity feel valued and supported at SAMS. Please communicate any improvements we can make in your work area to me or any member of the Executive Group.
We are fully committed to equality in all that we do and proactively seek opportunities to improve the diversity of our student body and workforce.
Professor Nicholas JP Owens