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Researching diversity

Diverse teams produce better work results

Diverse teams produce better work results
Image Credit: Matthias Heyde

A systematic strategy for cultivating diversity and diversity research is one of the key goals of the Berlin University Alliance. The network of excellence works toward this goal through active efforts from many different angles. These efforts include supporting four junior research groups, which began scholarly research in 2023 to explore what visible forms diversity takes within Berlin’s research and academic landscape, how information on diversity is collected, and how diversity can be supported.

“Fixing the System: Analyses in the Context of the History of Science”

Research group head: Dr. Sarah Bellows-Blakely, Margherita von Brentano Center for Gender Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

This research group is studying the history of various overall political conditions as they relate to gender and diversity. The researchers are analyzing how a number of epistemologies became established and political proposals for gender, diversity, and related areas became institutionalized while this was not the case for others.
Their aim is to understand how holistic insights into discrimination have been marginalized both in science and academia and at the national and international governance levels. Why have institutions instead adopted concepts in which gender is analyzed in a vacuum – independently of race, class, nationality, religion, sexuality, and other factors? The junior research group is exploring these issues based on case studies, one of which deals with the history of the United Nations women’s movement and another with the history of institutional policy measures to combat sexual harassment and violence at Berlin’s universities. This research is relevant to the ongoing discussion of how concepts relating to gender and diversity have arisen and how they could be designed to be more effective and fairer in the future.

Multiple Barriers on the Path to Scientific Excellence: Empirical Approaches to Solutions

Research group leader: Prof. Mirjam Fischer, Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

People with disabilities, members of ethnic minorities, and women are frequent targets of discrimination in society. These groups are also underrepresented in academia, and they are not equally represented in many processes. The higher the career level, the bigger the imbalance. To break with this pattern, various perspectives need to be included as a natural and self-evident part of knowledge production at universities. This junior research group is studying how members of minorities are represented at the various levels of the hierarchy at the partners that make up the BUA and what solutions could foster greater diversity. Alongside researchers’ careers and mental health, their attitudes toward diversity, objectivity, and meritocracy in science and scholarship are covered. The experiences of marginalized researchers with discrimination are also being taken into account.

Fix the Institution, Not the Excluded!

Research group head: Dr. Aline Oloff, Center for Interdisciplinary Women’s and Gender Studies, Technische Universität Berlin

How can diversity policies and anti-discrimination work at universities be designed to be critical of discrimination, collaborative, and knowledge-based? That is the question for this junior research group, which is studying how experiences of discrimination and the perspectives of marginalized groups can be made into a starting point for the inclusive and democratic development of universities. Starting with a detailed snapshot of where things currently stand, the researchers are identifying the advising structures that already exist within the partners in the BUA, how the knowledge built there is safeguarded and used, and how effective measures to combat discrimination can be crafted on that basis. The goal is to build lasting anti-discrimination structures and processes at higher education institutions with research-based concepts and the involvement of stakeholders from across civil society.

Development and evaluation of an intervention to improve inclusion of underrepresented groups to increase diversity and gender equality in research, teaching, and health care in university medicine and the life sciences

Research group leader: Dr. med. Pichit Buspavanich, specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy, Charité – Universitätsmedizin

Diversity is more than just an ethical obligation. It also holds valuable potential for science and medical research. Differences in experiences and perspectives can unlock new insights in medicine and point to potential solutions for complex issues. What challenges and needs are faced by people with differences in background and identity who are members of marginalized groups? This junior research group aims to explore this question in order to ultimately be able to address specific needs of all people on a more targeted basis in carrying out diversity-sensitive interventions.