PROWESS | 2008 Diversity Seminar
LEE ALLISON was appointed State Geologist and Director of the Arizona Geological Survey by Gov. Janet Napolitano in December, 2005.
Previously, he served in similar positions in Utah (1989-99) and Kansas (1999-2004). From 2004-05, he served as Policy Advisor for Science and Energy to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, as well as chairing the Kansas Energy Council from it’s creation in 2002.
He holds BA (University of California, Riverside), MS (San Diego State University), and PhD (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) degrees in geology. He is active in science policy and public policy, especially related to natural resources and geologic hazards. He has extensive experience in petroleum and geothermal exploration throughout the U.S.
He is co-founder of the national Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS), is active in defending science in the fight over teaching evolution, and is helping build the national cyberinfrastructure for the geosciences.
He received the Public Service Award of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2002 and the Tanya Atwater “Encourage” Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists for promoting the role of women in the profession. He blogs at “Arizona Geology”. The murder mystery “Fault Line” by Sarah Andrews is loosely based on his experiences in Salt Lake City leading up to the 2002 Olympics.
M. Lee Allison
State Geologist and Director, Arizona Geological Survey, Tucson, Arizona
Diversify or Die
There are many reasons to diversify the geological and indeed the entire scientific profession. Let me offer thoughts on a new paradigm that is coming into prominence – if you don’t diversify, your [fill in the blank: company, institution, agency] will lag, fail, and eventually die in competition with those that do successfully nurture and embrace diversity.
Every major corporation, the entire scientific and academic community, and such political institutions as the U.S. Congress have recognized over the past few years that this country is falling behind the rest of the world in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). We are also not producing enough scientists and engineers to meet the nation’s needs. One contributing factor is the changing demographics of the nation, in which the groups that are most increasing in numbers are groups that traditionally not been drawn in large numbers to STEM fields. Industry groups are calling for more technically-savy immigrants to fill their ranks. An alternative is to engage groups that are traditionally under-represented in the sciences, women and minorities. Unless we turn around the science enterprise, our children’s America is going to be “weaker, poorer, and less safe than it is today” according to Newt Gingrich [April 8, 2008, Science Generation – A National Imperative conference].
Those of us who hire geologists have to intervene early in the education and socialization process to get more women and minorities into the science/professional pipeline. We can’t sit by the sidelines simply hoping there will be enough candidates coming out at graduation to meet our needs. The candidate pool needs to be nurtured and expanded before the potential members get to college. The STEM crisis facing us is helping force white, male America realize that diversity is not just a women’s issue or not just a minority issue. It’s a national issue of crisis proportions.
The second changing factor is the increasing recognition in the reigning oligarchy that a heterogeneous work force is a more innovative, dynamic, creative, and in the end, more productive and valuable resource.
Those of us in policy-making and leadership positions have the chance (and the responsibility) to remove the institutional and cultural barriers that often, unintentionally, restrict our hiring and promotion options. While there are many reasons to do this, the one that may make new inroads, is restoring America’s global leadership in science and technology.