Muslim and Protestant scientists are more likely than other U.S. scientists to experience religious discrimination, according to new research from Rice University and West Virginia University (WVU). The study also shows that for some scientists, religious identity may fuel perceptions of discrimination.
“Perceptions of Religious Discrimination Among U.S. Scientists” will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. The study examined a survey of 879 biologists and 903 physicists at schools classified as U.S. research institutions by the National Research Council. The survey was conducted for a research project known as Religion Among Scientists in International Context.
Authors Christopher Scheitle, an assistant professor of sociology at WVU, and Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, director of the Religion and Public Life Program at Rice and principal investigator for the larger project that produced the survey, found that 15 percent of scientists reported experiencing religious discrimination in their work.
The researchers also found that Muslim scientists were the most likely to experience religious discrimination, with 63.6 percent of those surveyed reporting at least a perception of discrimination on the job. Protestant scientists reported the second-highest percentage of perceived religious discrimination at 40.4 percent. “Sociologists have evidence that U.S. Muslims are experiencing discrimination more broadly in U.S. society, but some of the dynamics our study picked up may be unique to the academy, such as the higher perception of discrimination among Protestant scientists,” Scheitle said.
After documenting self-reported religious discrimination among biologists and physicists, the researchers statistically controlled for religious practice (attending religious services, praying, etc.) among these individuals. After adjusting for religious practices, beliefs and demographics, there were no differences in perceived religious discrimination between religious and nonreligious physicists.
The research was part of Religion Among Scientists in International Context, a multi-nation study aimed at understanding how scientists view religion, ethics and gender. Data collection was funded by a major grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, as well as smaller grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program.
The researchers plan to continue to examine issues of religious discrimination and violence. They have recently received an NSF grant that will support a national survey to measure the general public’s experiences with and perceptions of religious discrimination and victimization.
Source: Rice University News & Media