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Ongoing Projects

Religion, Inequality, and Science Education (RISE)

  • Does religion (especially Evangelicalism and Catholicism) keep minorities out of science?
  • Do different racial minority groups within Christian traditions differ in their support for science?
  • How does understanding of the connections between faith and science in communities that are well represented in science (Asian Americans) compare to those that are not (Black Americans and Latinos)?
  • What influence, if any, does faith have, and what role, if any, does race play in minority communities' support for science and training in the sciences?
  • What are the ways that scientists and minority faith communities could join together to facilitate greater entrance into science training and careers?

With funding from Rice University, Elaine Howard Ecklund (PI) is exploring these and other questions through a series of focus groups, participant observations, and in-depth interviews at three congregations located in Houston, TX. One is predominantly African American, one Latino, and one Korean American. These three groups are relevant to the present study in that all three are highly religious and the former two have been identified as historically underrepresented in the sciences in the United States. By placing these three racial groups in dialogue, our study will provide crucial insight into how pastors from traditionally conservative denominations and traditions might differ along racial lines in regards to their perceptions of science education, science professions, health care, and the necessity of faith communities promoting physical health. The focus groups will also illuminate the unique issues facing each of these groups. Our results will conclude by providing possible future directions for research exploring the role of religious leaders in facilitating access to science and promoting physical and mental health in Christian communities in particular.

Religion among Scientists in International Contexts (RASIC)

  • Are academic scientists as hostile to religion as popular accounts depict?female scientist
  • How do scientists’ religious beliefs and practices influence:
    • Their decisions to pursue careers in science?
    • Their research agendas?
    • Their daily interactions with students?
    • Their ethical decisions and discussions?
    • The ways they apply science in different spheres of public life?

Never before have scholars explored these and related questions in international contexts. Funded by a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, RASIC is the first-ever cross-national study of religion and spirituality among scientists. Led by RPLP director Elaine Howard Ecklund (PI) and co-PIs Kirstin Matthews, Baker Institute Scholar and science policy specialist, and Steve Lewis, Baker Institute Scholar and Asia specialist, the study will begin with a survey of 10,000 biologists and physicists at different points in their careers at top universities and research institutes in the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey, Italy, France, India, Hong Kong, and Taiwan—nations that have very different approaches to the relationship between religious and state institutions, different levels of religiosity, and different commitments to scientific infrastructure—and be followed by qualitative interviews with 600 of these scientists. The project promises to improve public policy efforts to increase productive dialogue between scientists and religious communities by uncovering similarities and differences in how they perceive the proper relationship between science, religion, and spirituality.