Algerian biologist Hayat Mahdjoub used to feel her struggles to produce scientific papers were “her fault,” but now she’s using her experiences as a female scientist from the Global South to analyse those same barriers through a study of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Mahdjoub, a research scientist at the University of Guelma, Algeria says people from underrepresented groups and especially women from the Global South are struggling in academia, across many fields.
“I encountered barriers during my research career and I assumed that my lack of scientific productivity was 100% my fault,” she says, “But I started to understand that there are many reasons why I am not as productive as a researcher from the Global North, including the lack of various resources, lack of funding, English as a foreign language, and low opportunity for knowledge exchange.”
Mahdjoub says that her the interest in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) started following her experiences, resulting in a paper called “An intersectionality lens is needed to establish a global view of equity, diversity and inclusion.”
“I aim to present a global view of equity diversity and inclusion that highlights the barriers and struggles of scientists from the global south; helps identify the privileges of certain groups; and facilitates the establishment of solutions for equal opportunities,” she says.
Mahdjoub and Rassim Kalifa (the corresponding author), developed the KLOB framework, which structures barriers to academic success into four components: knowledge exchange (K), language (L), obligations (O), and biases (B).
In the paper, the researcher say this framework helps scientists to think about the cumulative effect of multiple barriers that individuals from different backgrounds encounter to succeed in academic activities such as scientific publishing, which they explain is the biggest currency of success in the current academic system.
“This motivated me to share my perspective and speak up about inequities in academic leadership,” she says, ” The biggest challenge in this project is to speak up and highlight privileges that some people have over others, allowing them to succeed in science.”
In February 2022, Mahdjoub also published a paper about the environmental impacts of “experimental” viral videos, where unconventional methods of hunting or fishing, for example with soda and candy, are filmed and garner massive audiences.
Algeria to the World
Mahdjoub grew up in Guelma, a small town in Northeast Algeria.
“When I was a child, I used to watch wildlife documentaries with my father which increased my curiosity about nature and wildlife,” she says.
Mahdjoub says her journey began when she was an undergraduate student and decided to pursue Ecology as a major despite knowing that this area of study was not appealing especially to women because it generally involves going to unsafe, remote areas.
“What attracted me to ecology was the positive experience of discovering biodiversity in the wild and the passion that some of the graduate mentors transferred to me through their teaching and guidance,” she says.
Mahdjoub explains that the world is facing serious environmental issues that require inclusive and global perspectives.
“The integration of the scientific views and opinions from the Global South is valuable to increase the diversity of perspectives in ecology for better understanding and solving of these environmental issues that need urgent actions,” she says.
Mahdjoub says people from the Global South have a better understanding of their environments and biodiversity, which in turn bring valuable and necessary solutions.
“I think that the perspective of researchers from North Africa is not well represented in ecology,” she says, “As a North African woman in science, I can present an interesting view that could be complementary to other international opinions.”
Mahdjoub’s frequent collaborator and fellow Algerian biologist is Rassim Khelifa who studies dragonflies.
Khelifa, a quantitative ecology postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Biodiversity Research Centre, studies the diet of these flying predatory insects to see if they can be used on farms to control insect pests.