Collegiality pays and biodiversity struggles


A young Sumatran orangutan looks out of a cage.

A young Sumatran orangutan looks out of a cage.

Animals such as this orangutan in Indonesia are endangered because of illegal deforestation.Credit: Jami Tarris/Future Publishing via Getty

Funding battles stymie plan to protect global biodiversity

Scientists are frustrated with slow progress towards a new deal to protect the natural world. Government officials from around the globe met in Geneva, Switzerland, on 14–29 March to find common ground on a draft of the deal, known as the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, but discussions stalled.

The framework so far sets out 4 broad goals, including slowing species extinction, and 21 mostly quantitative targets, such as protecting at least 30% of the world’s land and seas. It is part of an international treaty known as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and aims to address the global biodiversity crisis, which could see one million plant and animal species go extinct in the next few decades.

Many who were at the meeting say that disagreements over funding for biodiversity conservation were the main hold-up in negotiations. For example, the draft deal proposed that US$10 billion of funding per year should flow from developed nations to low- and middle-income countries to help them to implement the biodiversity framework. But many think this is not enough.

Negotiators say they will now have to meet again before a highly anticipated UN biodiversity summit later this year, where the deal was to be signed.

‘Collegiality’ influences researchers’ promotion prospects

Universities in North America often consider how well researchers interact with each other when making decisions about who gets promoted, a study has found, even though these factors are not formally acknowledged in review guidelines.

A researcher’s performance is usually assessed according to three pillars: research, teaching and service. But in recent years, there has been a push from some academics to add another pillar: collegiality. Many say that the concepts of cooperation, collaboration and respect, which broadly fall under the definition of collegiality, are important to the functioning of laboratories and research teams.

DeDe Dawson, an academic librarian at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and colleagues analysed more than 860 review, promotion and tenure documents from different departments at 129 universities in the United States and Canada to get a sense of how often collegiality is taken into account.

The study, published on 6 April (D. Dawson et al. PLoS ONE 17, e0265506; 2022), found that the concept of collegiality was widespread: the word ‘collegiality’ and related terms, such as ‘citizenship’ or ‘professionalism’, appeared 507 times in 213 of the documents, suggesting that it was often taken into account in evaluations. But just 85 documents included a definition of the term, and fewer still explained how it was measured or used in assessments.

ACADEMIA’S FOURTH PILLAR. Chart showing ‘collegiality’ and related terms was most common at research-intensive institutions.

ACADEMIA’S FOURTH PILLAR. Chart showing ‘collegiality’ and related terms was most common at research-intensive institutions.

Source: D. Dawson et al. PLoS ONE 17, e0265506 (2022)

Collegiality was mentioned most often in research-intensive institutions (see ‘Academia’s fourth pillar’). The authors say that this could be because the behaviour involved is valued in research groups.

Dawson and her colleagues warn that relying on collegiality in performance reviews without adequate guidance could introduce bias, as those in charge fill in the blanks with their own definitions.

“We need to make sure that we don’t use collegiality to exclude others that may communicate or interact differently,” says Sujay Kaushal, a geologist at the University of Maryland in College Park, who has previously studied collegiality.

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