Diversity-aware hiring in science


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We propose to take into account the scientific and cultural diversity of people when hiring. Hiring people different from the ones already working in the research group, department, or university can bring new contacts, viewpoints and communities. The new candidates would then not reinforce old connections of the organization, but would add new connections that could be used for collaboration. Overall, when there are several candidates with similar background, we argue that hiring the candidate who is "scientifically further" from the group could be more beneficial then hiring the candidate who is "scientifically closer" to the group.

Abstract

We propose to take into account the scientific and cultural diversity of people when hiring. Hiring people different from the ones already working in the research group, department, or university can bring new contacts, viewpoints and communities. The new candidates would then not reinforce old connections of the organization, but would add new connections that could be used for collaboration.

Overall, when there are several candidates with similar background, we argue that hiring the candidate who is "scientifically further" from the group could be more beneficial then hiring the candidate who is "scientifically closer" to the group.

Central Claim : Diversity-aware hiring in science

 

For a research job opening nowadays people are usually evaluated based on their experience and (mostly) on their publication and publication venues. Evaluation committees are inevitably biased towards people who publish on the topics and in the venues known and trusted by the evaluation committee, because it is hard to judge if someone is good in the area in which evaluation committee members have no expertise.

We propose to take into account the scientific and cultural diversity of people when hiring. Hiring people different from the ones already working in the research group, department, or university can bring new contacts, viewpoints and communities. The new candidates would then not reinforce old connections of the organization, but would add new connections that could be used for collaboration. Of course, all above is valid if the person has the required competence.

To support diversity-aware selection of people we propose several metrics, which can be taken into account by evaluation committee. The metrics are based on scientific and culture traits such as where a person publishes, research interests, experience, patterns of behaviors, beliefs, knowledge, etc.:
  • Overall distance between the candidate and a group of people (research group, department, university)
  • Cultural distance between the candidate and the group
  • Distance between publication venues of the candidate and those of the group
  • Distance in coauthors between the candidate and the group
  • Distance in citations between the candidate and the group
  • Distance between the communities where the candidate belongs and those where members of the group belong
  • Where the candidate stands in their community (top 5%, top 20%) w.r.t. traditional metrics, such as h-ndex, the number of publications
For instance, to compute the difference between a set of cultural/scientific traits of an individual and a group culture, the following metrics can be used:
  • Common culture (culture overlap) is the set of traits that is present in both cultures
  • Culture similarity is the degree to which two cultures are similar, i.e. how much they have in common
  • Culture fit is the ratio between the culture overlap and the number of traits in the other culture
The calculation of the metrics will be supported by the LiquidPub platform which is being developed in the LiquidPub project

We strongly believe that diversity-aware selection can also be applied for granting funds to researchers in a grant competition. 
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  • What about trust ? (1 contribution)
    Reda Yaich, Dec 6 2010 10:58 UTC
    This is a quite interesting idea to explore new horizons for hiring people. However, could you give some examples about how you think you could characterize cultural and scientific distances?

    Moreover, you said: “hard to judge if someone is good in the area in which evaluation committee members have no expertise”. Don’t you think that this diversity, although beneficial, could push down trust within the community?
    • metrics, pushing down trust and selecting (no reply)
      Aliaksandr Birukou, Dec 13 2010 11:11 UTC
      As for the metrics for scientific and cultural differences - I was envisioning simple metrics based on the difference between a set of cultural/scientific traits of an individual and a group culture/scientific record.
      For instance - conferences attended, journals where published, keywords - those of the individual and of the group.

      Regarding the consequences of trust - if I got your comment correctly - this is exactly the point, that people from the committee would not trust diverse people, and we could solve this buy showing "where the person stands in her community" may be.

      Taking into account other comments, I think that the diversity will be only benefitial if the person has all the required competences, but the committee is not knowledgeable in the topic (we are in multi-agent systems, but hire someone in web services) or when there are several candidates with similar background, but one is "scientifically closer" to the group - I'd argue we then need to hire another one, "scientifically further" from the group
  • Is diversity always Good? (1 contribution)
    Cristhian Parra Trepowski, Dec 12 2010 10:48 UTC
    Indeed, taking into account diversity can bring new contacts and open new opportunities of collaboration.

    But what if that is not what we need? If, for example, you are hiring a researcher to work in a very specialized topic (e.g. we services composition for end users), you might want to hire the person who has the better expertise on that particular topic. In that case, is possible that the researcher with the best expertise will be the one who has less diversity and has been more focused on one particular issue.

    Maybe one missing element in the proposal is that of the "Profile" for which we are hiring and a measure of how much diversity can be useful for that profile.
    • when diversity is benefitial (no reply)
      Aliaksandr Birukou, Dec 13 2010 11:12 UTC
      I think that the diversity will be only benefitial if
      1) the person has all the required competences, but the committee is not knowledgeable in the topic (we are in multi-agent systems, but hire someone in web services)
      or
      2) when there are several candidates with similar background, but one is "scientifically closer" to the group - I'd argue we then need to hire another one, "scientifically further" from the group

      Your suggestion about the profile is taken, I was envisioning sth like "set of scientific/culture traits" - publication/conference/journal record of a scientists + may be research areas or communities where she belongs
  • A preliminary step (1 contribution)
    Darren L. Dahly, Dec 12 2010 14:20 UTC
    While I agree that promoting this kind of diversity can have benefits, this is not necessarily the case (as other's have pointed out). I think that you should first investigate the degree to which diversity improves relevant output/impact, and more importantly to identify contexts where the effect is greatest. The advantage you have is that you have already thought of the metrics you would use to quantify diversity. Relating them to output/impact won't be a simple task, but it is a critical one if you want your recomendation to increase diversity to carry any weight.
  • Definition of the culture (no contribution)
    Peep Kungas, Apr 8 2011 19:14 UTC
    The paper proposes some ideas on how to meet the strategic challenges of ensiring that diversity is considering in the hiring process. The challenge of the paper is how to define a coherent set of metrics, which would allow fair evaluation of diversity. The main novelty of the idea is to consider, besides other mentioned well-known metrics, the set of traits that is present in considered cultures. However, the definition of culture and the set of traits needs further refinement to make the idea applicable.