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Color of Science: Rethinking Inclusion and Diversity

The organisers of the Color of Science initiative discuss the project, its outcomes, and what the future holds.
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Photo: Ville Olaskari

The Color of Science initiative brings together unique perspectives on inclusion and science to raise awareness about the importance of showcasing the extraordinary voices of diverse researchers of color and from indiginous communities. The team consists of Nitin Sawhney, Karin Fröhlich, and Talayeh Aledavood from the Department of Computer Science in the School of Science, Andrea Botero Cabera from the Department of Design in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, and Caterina Soldano from the Department of Electronics and Nanoengineering in the School of Electrical Engineering.

‘We wanted to explore the issue of inclusion and identity and how they critically engage science,’ explained Professor Sawhney, ‘I had originally thought of in-person workshops but once the lockdown began we had to come up with new ways of conducting this work.’ Professor Sawhney approached other interested researchers from across Aalto to build a team ‘What interested me was the idea of recognizing people of color in science, how their unique experiences and perspectives can be made more visible in academia and elsewhere.’ said Dr Frölich, one of the group's founder members.

With support from the School of Science Diversity and Inclusion fund, the Color of Science team organised three events this past spring. The first was a screening and panel discussion of award-winning documentary Coded Bias, which explores the issues of racial and social bias in artificial intelligence. The second was Collaboration in and with the Global South, where academics from the Global South and North shared their experiences of projects, both teaching and research. The third event was Sámi Perspectives on Indigenous Knowledges, Technology and Governance which was a panel discussion with researchers working at the intersection of Sámi culture and technology. All three events were live-streamed online and the recordings are available to watch.

‘One of our successes was being able to reach such a varied audience,’ said Professor Soldano. ‘Our panel events ranged from academic, to government to real-world experiences, and being online meant that these voices could be heard by audiences outside of Aalto as well.’ Dr Botero Cabera agreed ‘We have not previously discussed these themes as a university, bringing together such a range of critical topics and diverse speakers into our events was new for our audiences.’ Professor Sawhney continued, ‘This project was a great example of what's possible if you bring an interesting group of people with different backgrounds together to think about reframing issues to do with inclusion and identity, so in this microcosm of ours there was all this diversity in disciplines and experience, which made this so very compelling.’

The series continues in the autumn, ‘A next step for us is that after these rich conversations we are left with many open questions on the role of inclusion and diversity in science; we need to explore how these can be manifested in interesting new ways at Aalto and elsewhere,’ said Dr Frölich.

The last panel Generating inclusive transdisciplinary knowledge(s) at the threshold of arts, science & society: Critical perspectives by researchers and practitioners, is programmed for the 23rd of November at 5pm. It will be a live event in Dipoli (Otakaari 24, Espoo), and also stremed online, in conjunction with the symposium symposium In search of Radical Education/Knowledges..

Together with guest panelists Sumita Sharma, Leonardo Custódio and Jaz Hee-jeong Choi the Color of Science team will be discussing how to generate inclusive transdisciplinary knowledge(s) at the threshold of arts, science and society.

Text: The Color of Science team

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Color of Science

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Watch the previous events

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Watch Coded Bias panel discussion – Aalto University 25 March 2021 with director Shalini Kantayya

Prof. Nitin Sawhney leads a conversation with filmmaker Shalini Kantayya, to highlight the themes and issues emerging from the film, along with AI ethics experts Meredith Broussard, Amber Sinha, Jenni Hakkarainen and Sid Rao

Color of Science
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Watch Collaboration in and with the Global South

Prof. Caterina Soldano leads a conversation with Prof. Isabella Concina, Dr. Sumita Sharma and Dr. Karin Frölich on the challenges and opportunities of collaboration and cooperation in and with the Global South.

Color of Science
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Watch Sámi Perspectives on Indigenous Knowledges, Technology and Governance

In this session, we were joined by three accomplished Sámi researchers who will share aspects of their own research topics, activism and interests as they interrogate the relationship of indigenous knowledges, technologies and governance.

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