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Examining Neurodiversity and Inclusion in Neuroscience Research Networks: A Case Study of the AIMS-2-TRIALS Autism Research Consortium

Autism Research Consortium September 2, 2023

Examining Neurodiversity and Inclusion in Neuroscience Research Networks: A Case Study of the AIMS-2-TRIALS Autism Research Consortium.

AUTHOR(S)

Teresa Del Bianco 1, Georgia Lockwood Estrin 2, Alexandra Lautarescu 3, Eliza Eaton 4, Bethany Oakley 3, Jerneja Tercon 5, Sarah Douglas 4, Jan Roderik Derk Plas 4, David Belton 4, Mary Doherty 6, Eva Loth 3, and Emily Jones 1
1 Birkbeck University of London
2 University of East London
3 King’s College London
4 University of Cambridge
5 Community Health Centre Domzale
6 Brighton and Sussex Medical School

ABSTRACT

The growing demand of better representation of people from marginalised communities within the scientific workforce has recently started to include neurodiversity, especially in projects and consortia investigating neurodivergence. In line with this aim, this study explores the diversity of the research workforce in the context of a European autism neuroscience research consortium (AIMS-2-TRIALS). By investigating potential power imbalances between researchers of different backgrounds and at different career levels, we aim to investigate the impact of such imbalances on career and mental health. A survey was administered to AIMS-2-TRIALS researchers (including students, early, mid, and advanced career levels), obtaining 124 complete respondents. While autistic researchers were present in this sample (4% formally diagnosed, 19.23% self-identified), they were under-represented in senior and clinical roles. Neuro-identity emerged as the primary predictor of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Also, while researchers in the sample were mostly women (74%), income was consistently lower in women. These findings emphasise the need to consider underrepresentation of intersecting marginalised identities within consortia like AIMS-2-TRIALS, and to redistribute roles and resources. The recognition of mental health and socio-economic challenges faced by neurodivergent and female researchers in this field constitute a barrier to career progression that calls for recognition and intervention.

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