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Culture, history and society

Black Lives Matter and why change is needed now – IOP statement

Sustainable and systemic change is needed, says IOP - and it will take the whole physics community working together.


The appalling death of George Floyd in Minnesota on 25 May and the social injustice it has so vividly illustrated has quite rightly been condemned across the world.  

We are deeply saddened that people from the Black community, including our own colleagues and friends, have felt so much pain and often from their own personal experiences. This is a moment in society’s history that we sincerely hope will start to build lasting change.

We must take a stand as an employer and in our work with and for the physics community. As we do this work, we send our support to other societies in the UK, Ireland and around the world, including our colleagues and good friends at the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics and the Optical Society (OSA).

Before making a statement, we have wanted to make sure we are responsible and effective as a leadership team in supporting our team and the work we all do. This has involved a period of reflection. Like many people, we know that sustainable and systemic change is needed, and that takes time and proper planning. 

On Wednesday there is a call for the STEM community to stop their normal work. You can find information at #ShutDownSTEM.  As a staff team, we will be responding by not holding meetings on Wednesday afternoon.  We will use that time to reflect on the role that we can take as individuals and as an organisation so ideas can continue to be discussed that will remove barriers to studying physics and discrimination in recognition and career advancement.

Our Council made sure that IOP’s strategy – Unlocking the Future – has diversity and inclusion within every part of our work. As an organisation we must now work to achieve systemic change on a level not done by IOP before. 

Later this year, we will be launching IOP’s first ever influencing campaign, which will have at its core, the removal of barriers that deny so many young people including those from the Black community the opportunity to study physics. No one should be denied opportunities to continue with their studying and career because of the colour of their skin. Our campaign will challenge barriers in our communities, schools, the media and social media.

Two years ago, our former President, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, donated £2 million to a scholarship programme that includes women from black and minority ethnic communities, so they can continue their studies and research. We will shortly be announcing the first recipients. 

Dame Jocelyn’s generosity is a reminder to all of us that everyone can be part of an inclusive and supportive physics community. That potential is equally possible whatever your background. So, we must all strive to break down the barriers and to create systemic change. That is the work we will be doing together. 

As a team we are committed to removing barriers. We know that this will take time, it will take partnerships and it will take a whole physics community working together. But we are confident that together we can make a significant change. 

Paul Hardaker, CEO

Rachel Youngman Deputy Chief Executive

Phil Evans, Director of Programmes

Tony McBride, Director of Policy and Public Affairs