Time to look in the mirror

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Science  12 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6496, pp. 1161
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1896

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  • #ShutdownSTEM, the step forward to actions against racial inequity in the sciences.

    Last June 10th, the AAAS took an organizational supportive stance for the grassroots movement #ShutdownSTEM which aims to eradicate anti-Black racism in academia and STEM worldwide. This action called for everyone in the AAAS community and beyond to observe a pause on all scientific activities in solidarity to the statement that Black lives matters. At the present time, systemic racism and rampant implicit bias remain as major challenges within the scientific community that need to be sincerely addressed and effectively eliminated. At the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus, we joined the shutdown of research endeavors and took the day to have an impactful talk about implicit bias and racism with our virtual summer research fellows from the IQ BIO REU summer research experience undergraduate program, an NSF-funded research site designed to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities (URM) in emerging fields at the interface of biology and computer sciences and the BP ENDURE NeuroID program focused in neuroscience research training for undergraduates and funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH.

    Both research training programs joined efforts against the backdrop of the pandemic of COVID-19 to offer a meaningful research experience and professional development initiatives using virtual platforms during nine weeks in the summer. Dr. Juan Ramírez Lugo, REU’s PI and active member of the board of the AAAS Caribbean...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Ending Racism by drawing lessons from historical studies
    • Yixiao Sun, Ph.D., College of Social Development, Fujian Normal University

    Recently, scientists have reopened the debate over biological legitimacy of human races. many scientists believed that race is not only a cultural definition, but also have a biological existence(1).
    From a historical perspective, this idea may need to be reconsidered. study of racial differences based on the establishment of taxonomy by naturalists in early modern era. At first, different races only means different environmental origins of human subgroups. However, naturalists’ classification of human species combined with Enlightenment racial philosophy and American exceptionalism, together they were applied to demonstrate the white supremacy. For instance, American physician Benjamin Rush believed that black color is a skin disease in his article delivered to American Philosophical Society(2).
    Therefore, science played a sophisticated role in the history of racism. On the one hand, scientists attempted to go beyond prejudices of human being in their studies. On the other hand, it is hard to escape from cultural background and ideological preconception which may determine the direction of their scientific practices.
    To end racism, it is necessary to unite natural and social science, especially historical studies. Regular communications in this united community is helpful to get rid of discrimination based on the exclusion of majorities to minorities in social fields.
    [1]Matthew Kopec, “Clines, Cluster, and Clades in the Race Debate”, Philosophy...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Amplify voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) and underrepresented trainees, and empower them to stay in academia

    Black Lives Matter! Hear it, understand it, support it. On June 10th 2020, scientists participated in #shutdownacademia #shutdownSTEM1, specifically, many labs all over the United States and around the world did their part to show the actions academics can do to support and be in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement that is sweeping the globe to breakdown the heartbreaking and consequential problems incited by the broken systemic and personal constructs that perpetuate racism, particularly towards Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as other minorities like the LGBTQ+ community in academia.

    Recently, and in light of the current political climate searching for racial justice, there has been a strong request, per the request of trainees, to develop better and more inclusive mentorship programs specifically targeted to mentor and encourage BIPOC and other underrepresented minorities in academia2. However, it is always brushed under the rug and always an afterthought as scientists get wrapped up in their “publish or perish” mentality. The work that has be done to provide better, intentional mentorship for BIPOC remains to be inadequate, not to mention the leadership roles in academia remain to be primarily straight, white males.

    There is still a lot to do to make the academic space a better place BIPOC and other minorities, including (1) needing to abolish the inherent microaggressions demonstrated towards BIPOC3, (2) increase the v...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Behind the Mirror: Roots of science for racism or for a successful transition to equity and inclusion
    • Walter W Kofler, Prof. em., Sechenov University Moscow, Medical University Innsbruck

    In his editorial “Time to look in the mirror” Thorp requests scientists and those responsible for scientific enterprises in the USA to reflect upon their position towards racism and discrimination. (1) As the weaknesses within university structures as he describes them are contradictory to those to be expected if commonly recognized principles of equality had been implemented. The dilemma shown by Thorp does not only apply to the USA. Inequality and discrimination exist all over the world, indeed also in science. Of course the request is justified to promote equity and inclusion in the scientific establishment. Such a request may suffice for policymakers: They can meet their responsibilities and focus on equity and inclusion if they balance e.g. economic, educational imbalance as well as health risks.
    Such possibilities of universities are significant nevertheless lower ranking: Universities and the scientific community are responsible that scientific reasons concerning inequality and racism if they exist are recognized and eliminated.
    Therefore the point is to uncover scientific reasons that may have been hidden or not realized and that have led to the image the mirror shows us in spite of logical process and basic knowledge. To uncover this a suitable method is necessary. To follow Einstein’s recommendations one has to step “behind” the problems and search for the decisive theory (in Einstein’s view paradigm and associated methods) (2): because “theory define...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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