Global statements on diversity: Karen Cloete

Scientists around the world answer the same three questions...

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In your opinion, which scientific questions will set the trends in the coming decade, and which science problems would you like to tackle?
Over the past decade, the landscape of traditional science and publishing has changed dramatically. With the public trust in science dissipating, scientists need to refocus their attention on conducting multi-team inter/multidisciplinary translational research in collaboration with not only scientists, but also policy/regulatory advisors, industry, and communication specialists (science journalists). I am particularly interested in exploring marine pollution in highly anthropogenically-impacted coastal areas using marine bivalves and accelerator-based chemical techniques as part of a larger project focused on developing a sustainable ocean economy in collaboration with various stakeholders. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, economies worldwide have suffered devastating setbacks,  emphasizing the importance of exploring alternative and also sustainable economies of which the ocean bodes a prime example and opportunity.

How do you experience diverse leadership, diversity in your lab, publication and peer-review, promotion and career progression, in your host country? What are the impediments for creating inclusive, equitable research labs, departments and practices?
One of the greatest joys of working in science is the opportunity to collaborate with scientists representing diverse interests and backgrounds. Diversity and inclusivity in the lab can give birth to powerful creative ideas that can transform a laboratory into a powerhouse of research outputs. However, to achieve such a global environment that respects cultural and gender diversity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and religious background, strong leadership and the availability of open communication and support channels are imperative. Also, non-biased recruitment and employment strategies mindful of inclusivity and diversity should be promoted and implemented; outreach activities (i.e. telling your personal story) should be developed and executed; scholarships geared towards mentoring and developing scientists from diverse backgrounds (i.e. refugee scientists) should be made available; and most importantly, research leaders should attend courses and workshops aimed at molding managers
capable of effectively leading a global laboratory enterprise.


What is your message to the next generation of scientists, and what are your tips for their success?
One of the reasons I decided to pursue science was to use research and mentoring as an educational tool to positively impact the lives of others. A career pathway in science can be strenuous and stressful at times, but if you are well-prepared, you will be able to successfully surmount any challenge. As a young fellow, you should attend as many workshops (i.e. research methodology, research presentation, grant application) and conferences (local and international) as possible, join a young academy or science community, network effectively, and learn to “sell” your science not only from an academic viewpoint, but also a societal perspective. Finding a good supervisor, mentor, and lab environment that is respectful of diversity and inclusivity is critical to your personal and career growth. Your work should tackle multi/interdisciplinary and innovative or translational topics, whilst collaboration with industry should preferably be encouraged. Most importantly, thriving in your career environment requires taking special care of your health and mental state. Lastly, find your passion, be resilient and steadfast, and work hard to transform your dreams into reality!

Karen Jacqueline Cloete

TWAS-UNESCO research associate, University of the West Indies

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