Digital Geographies Research group of the Royal Geographical Society Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Statement (August 2021)
Summary: The Digital Geographies Research Group is focused on addressing issues of equality, diversity, and inclusion through our research practices and approaches, and in the practices and membership of the group. As a research group focused on digital technologies and cultures, the DGRG particularly understands EDI in relation to digitally-enabled or constrained mobilities, abilities, and capacities, and seeks to make use of, but also be critical of, the potential of the digital to improve inclusion (for example, with free online events and digital resources), but also exacerbate issues of equality and diversity (for example, the risks posed to marginal groups and identities by algorithmic technologies).
Our guiding principles: The DGRG of the RGS is inclusive of marginalised and vulnerable communities and diverse identities, experiences and backgrounds, and we begin with the principle that there is a lot of work to be done in our societies and our institutions in terms of injustice, entrenched inequality of opportunity, and embedded prejudice. We believe it is the obligation of the DGRG leadership committee to work to provide an inclusive and equitable environment which encompasses a range of personal circumstances and raced, cultural, gendered, sexual, and socioeconomic class identities. This ethos underpins the everyday running of the research group, as well as our contributions to the development of robust and responsive policies, programs, and services to support students and colleagues in developing a more accessible and inclusive community across the RGS.
As a group (in research, in meetings, and in events) we have been especially focused on established EDI issues around race and ethnicity, gender equality, the rights of people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ rights. We have also extended this to the inclusion of members who are the first in their families to go to university, and addressing the career barriers that colleagues with caring responsibilities or those on insecure contracts experience. We would like to further expand these specific framings of EDI to also include differential mobilities, questions of sustainability and climate justice, and precarity (for example, of employment, housing, or migrant status).
We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and we seek to support change towards more racial justice in our societies. We acknowledge the colonial history of geography as a discipline, and we also acknowledge the under-representation of those from formerly (and currently) colonised nations including members from the Global South, unceded territories, Indigenous lands, and First Nations peoples. As a digitally-focused research group, we are especially alert to the role of the digital divide in geographical and socio-economic inequalities; issues of digitally-facilitated accessibility in relation to disability, and the way that digital technologies might afford – but also constrict – the wider participation of a diverse membership.
Our research: The DGRG aims to foster an environment in which diverse perspectives, knowledges and experiences are valued within the research culture of the group, and are also embedded within the types of research undertaken, and reflected in the topics that are highlighted across the research of our community. This environment will be shaped via the committee’s selection of keynotes and research themes for conferences and other events; the awarding of the dissertation prize; within our mentorship structures, and in the collaborations made possible by the research group. This does not mean that all of our research, awards, and events will be explicitly focused on EDI-related topics, but that our basic principles will always be central to the committee’s considerations; that we will ensure equality of research topics and approaches that are fostered and highlighted (for example, on the website or in our annual conference sessions), and that we are actively inclusive of diverse researchers and research areas (for example, in our sponsorship of sessions at the RGS annual conference).
How to hold us accountable? Some of our principles are best followed with research in particular areas, while others (especially around exclusion, representation, or precarity) are best addressed by ensuring that we have a broadly representative membership. As a small research group, we cannot always enact major change, but we will always aim for membership and leadership that is as reflective of the identities and backgrounds of the wider population as possible. Our goal is to use our influence as a research group within the RGS infrastructure to diversify leadership and representation across the RGS. We will continue to be welcoming to new members in an inclusive way that is alert to intersectional and diverse ways of living and being, and will partner with other RGS research groups to ensure that we are known and accessible to digital geographies researchers beyond our immediate research networks.
Our EDI sub-committee will ensure that we are accountable to our principles, that members are able to raise issues around equality, diversity, and inclusion (broadly understood), and assist in developing new principles and modes of accountability as and where issues are raised. We will also continue to provide free resources, opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and general research support for all members in our group, with a current focus on: supporting members with caring responsibilities during Covid-19; researchers from the Global South; and precarious or marginal students and researchers. We will continue to re-evaluate our goals and achievements around EDI, and will strive to address issues that arise, and improve the DGRG’s inclusivity.
We know we have a long way to go, and we welcome those who would like to serve on our committee, or provide feedback to us so that we can continue to provide an inclusive environment and work towards developing a more equitable and diverse research group.