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Inspiring Scientists: Diversity in British Science

Inspiring Scientists records the life stories of ten British scientists with minority ethnic heritage and covers issues such as being a minority in science, influences in their childhoods and the fun and importance of science both to themselves and to the wider community.

Commissioned by the Royal Society, National Life Stories at the British Library undertook an oral history project interviewing scientists from a variety of educational and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Interviewees range from PhD students to Professors and the focus on science is wide, covering academia, big industry and individual entrepreneurship with scientists working across a range of scientific disciplines from food science to space science.

Key findings

  • The scientists interviewed for the project described little or no evidence of direct or indirect racism in the British scientific workplaces they worked in.
  • Many of the interviewees did not regard science as an obvious, ‘normal’ or easy career choice for someone of their ethnic background. 
  • In the case of the female interviewees, it is difficult to separate the effects of ethnicity and gender in accounts of being in a minority in scientific workplaces.
  • Particular kinds of mentoring may encourage minority ethnic scientists to remain in and progress in scientific careers.

Read further details about the project and findings from the interviews in the project report (PDF).

Audio and video

Watch video clips from the interviews below. The full audio interviews, which range from 6 to 10.5 hours per interviewee, are available on the British Library Sounds website.

In addition to the Inspiring Scientists project we asked the British Library to pull out material on diversity in British science, captured from their project ‘An Oral History of British Science’. The additional package of clips and images focuses on four themes: Gender, Ethnicity (Jewish migrant scientists), Disability and Socio-economic background/varied routes into science.

Being a minority in science

Fun and importance of science

Scientists' childhoods

Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Charlotte Armah

Harry Bhadeshia

Sanjeev Gupta

Mah Hussain-Gambles

Professor Saiful Islam

Jassel Majevadia

Donald Palmer

Mark Richards

Jo Shien Ng

Additional clips