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Neurodiverse academics call for better inclusion in research

Academics are calling for better inclusivity in higher education, to combat harmful assumptions about neurodivergent people including those with autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia.

The group says there is a dilemma of representation in neurodiversity research, as neurodivergent individuals are often considered objects of study rather than active contributors. 

The academics are part of FORRT, the Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training, which seeks to build a more diverse community of researchers. The collective encourages open scholarship practices by providing support and training to those wanting to involve more under-represented individuals in academia. 

A mission statement, published in British Psychological Society’s Cognitive Psychology Bulletin, argues neurodivergent perspectives are often overlooked and misunderstood within behavioural and cognitive sciences. 

One of the co-authors, Dr Steven Kapp, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Portsmouth, is autistic and researches autism and neurodiversity. He said: 

“Neurodiversity needs to be part of academia’s systemic efforts for diversity, equality, and inclusion. Neurodivergences intersect with race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, class, and other disabilities.

“That’s why we’re calling for more open and participatory research on neurodiversity, as it can lead to a more representative science.”

The paper recommends incorporating the views of neurodivergent individuals into the whole research cycle, using participatory research practices. This would allow them to be active rather than passive collaborators.

Associate Professor, Tamara Kalandadze from Østfold University College in Norway, added: 

“Open scholarship and participatory research practices can be coupled to allow neurodivergent people to focus on specific parts of a research project according to their individual strengths and interests and be formally acknowledged as contributors.

“As a group of both neurodivergent and neurotypical academics ourselves, we have experienced this Big Team Science approach as enabling our views to be integrated and our voices to be heard.”

Dr Kapp added: 

“Not all people conform to what is widely considered ‘the norm’, and these neurodivergent individuals shouldn’t be excluded as a result. We’re confident the practices and systematic changes outlined in our work can lead to more representative and open science.”