A BBC research unveiled last week highlighted salary disparities between white academics and their counterparts from ethnic minority groups. The findings were based on responses from universities in the high-profile Russell Group; the BBC had sent requests to all 24 Russell Group universities, of which 22 responded. The findings showed disparities not only among academics from different ethnic groups, but also between men and women researchers.
At the 22 universities, the data showed, black and Arab academics earn an average 26% less than white colleagues. The average salaries were found to be:
* £52,000 for white academics
* £38,000 for black academics
* £37,000 for academics from an Arab background
Female academics fare even worse, with an ethnicity pay gap on top of the gender pay gap. BBC said the data shows the gender pay gap is more pronounced for ethnic minority women at Russell Group universities where white male staff are on average salaries of £55,000.
On average, compared with white men:
* White women got 15% less
* Asian women got 22% less
* Black women got 39% less
Across the Russell Group universities that responded, the BBC found that there are:
* 49,000+ white academic staff
* 3,000 Chinese and East Asian
* 3,000 Indian and South Asian
* 600+ black and only 250 from Arab backgrounds
In a report on its findings, the BBC said there are just 26 black women professors in the UK. The report quoted one of them, Prof Akwugo Emejulu of Warwick University, as saying she attained her current position in the sociology department despite experiencing “racist and sexist bullying” throughout her career. “One of the reasons for the gap is that black women in particular tend to be on temporary teaching-only contracts that trap them in low waged work with few opportunities to move on to permanent positions,” Prof Emejulu told the BBC.
Disclosing ethnicity is not mandatory and about one in six academic staff had refused to declare their ethnicity to their employers so their data is not included, the BBC report said. —Source: BBC
Tip for Reading List: Are bioplastics climate-friendly?
Bioplastics, or plant-based plastics, are often promoted as a climate-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics. A recent study from the University of Bonn and published in published in the journal Environmental Research Letters (iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aaeafb/meta) suggests that shifting to bioplastics could have less positive effects than expected, and that increased consumption of bioplastics is likely to generate increased greenhouse gas emissions from cropland expansion on a global scale.
Plastics are usually made from petroleum. The carbon embodied is suddenly released into the atmosphere by degradation or burning, contributing to global warming. Bioplastics, on the other hand, are in principle climate-neutral. Plants get carbon dioxide from the air through their leaves; producing bioplastics therefore consumes carbon dioxide, which compensates for the amount that is later released. Overall, their net greenhouse gas balance is assumed to be zero.
The new study suggests that with the current level of technology, this issue is probably not as clear as often assumed. In a statement on the University of Bonn website, researcher Dr Neus Escobar explained: “The production of bioplastics in large amounts would change land use globally. This could potentially lead to an increase in the conversion of forest areas to arable land. However, forests absorb considerably more carbon dioxide than maize or sugar cane annually.” Dr Escobar and her colleagues have simulated the effects of an increased demand for bioplastics in major producing countries. They ran two different scenarios: a tax on conventional plastics compared with a subsidy on bioplastics. The area of land used for agriculture increases in the tax scenario, while the forest area decreases by 0.17%. This translates into enormous quantities of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere. Dr Escobar explained: “This is considered to occur as a one-time effect. Nevertheless, according to our calculations, it will take more than 20 years for it to be offset by the savings achieved by fossil substitution.” —Source: University of Bonn