NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: STEM on strike for Black lives

Nature joins #ShutDownSTEM and we focus on efforts to eliminate anti-Black racism across the scientific community.

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Demonstrators raise their fists outside the State Capitol of Minnesota during a protest over the death of George Floyd

Demonstrators gather in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on 2 June as protests against racism spread across the United States and around the world.Credit: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty

Black Lives Matter

“The enterprise of science has been — and remains — complicit in systemic racism, and it must strive harder to correct those injustices and amplify marginalized voices,” says a Nature editorial. “We recognize that Nature is one of the white institutions that is responsible for bias in research and scholarship.” The editorial lays out the journal’s commitment to establishing a process that will hold us to account on the many changes we need to make. This will include a special issue of the journal, under the guidance of a guest editor, exploring systemic racism in research, research policy and publishing.

Nature | 3 min read

News

Scientists go on strike for Black lives

More than 5,000 scientists, as well as societies, universities and publishers, have downed their usual tools today to focus on dismantling systemic anti-Black racism and oppression. The event is being planned by two ad hoc groups of scientists using hashtags such as #Strike4BlackLives, #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia. The physical-sciences preprint server arXiv and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, along with its main journal, Science, are among the influential institutions committed to the strike — as is Nature.

Nature | 5 min read

Black voices from the ivory tower

With the hashtag #BlackInTheIvory, thousands of academics on Twitter have shared ways in which they have personally faced prejudice in science because of their identity. Communications researchers Joy Melody Woods and Shardé M. Davis, who created the hashtag, tell The Chronicle of Higher Education that they were fed up with university statements in support of Black Lives Matter that weren’t backed up by concrete action.“Systemic racism has been with us, but unfortunately, white academics have not given it the weight and attention that it deserves. Because in order for them to recognize systemic racism, they also have to recognize their white privilege, which has propelled their careers in ways that are not based upon merit,” says Davis. “That’s uncomfortable, but the beautiful thing about this moment is that white folks are being forced to face it. They cannot turn their heads away.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education | 6 min read

Features & opinion

How long must we wait?

“Physicists act like the smartest people on Earth, interjecting themselves into every other academic discipline, and then throw their hands up in ignorance when asked to figure out how to make a minor contribution to justice and equality,” writes astrophysicist Brian Nord. Nord is one of the co-organizers of today’s academic strike for Black lives. He asks everyone to reflect on why innovation or productivity is put forward as the motivation for supporting diversity and inclusion. “Isn’t our humanity enough?”

Particles For Justice open letter | 3 min read

10 actions for white academics

“White people are struggling with what to say or do,” notes educator and writer Jasmine Roberts. “Yet this moment we’re witnessing across the country is not about White feelings. It is about the constant trauma, historic pain, and dehumanization that Black people experience, and frankly, have been experiencing long before the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery.” Roberts calls on white academia to do better and recommends ten tangible actions as a starting point to support Black faculty members, staff and students.

The Faculty blog on Medium | 8 min read

Read more: Concrete Steps for Recruiting, Supporting, and Advancing Underrepresented Minoritized Scientists by a group of psychologists and neuroscientists led by Mina Cikara, Emily Falk and Gregory Samanez-Larkin.

Resources

Black academic survival and wellness event

“As our non-Black colleagues engage with anti-racist activities, we want to create space for all Black people to heal,” writes Academics for Black Survival and Wellness, a group of Black counselling psychologists. Starting on 19 June, they are offering a week of free (but donate-what-you-can) virtual events, resources and personal and professional development for Black academics.

Academics for Black Survival and Wellness | 2 min read

See many more resources for Black academics and STEM professionals on the #ShutDownSTEM resources page.

DO THE READING

The Nature News team recommends some of the stories that inspired and educated us — new and old, from Nature and elsewhere.

“Scientists who imagine that bias lies in others, not themselves, fail to recognize that to live in the world today is to be drip-fed assumptions and prejudices that guide our thoughts and actions,” writes science journalist Angela Saini. “Racism and prejudice are woven into the structures in which we all live and work — and into us.” In her 2019 book Superior, Angela Saini investigated how the history and preservation of dubious science has justified and normalized the idea of hierarchies between ‘racial’ groups. (Nature | 5 min read, from March)

Being inclusive gives research groups a competitive edge. It also happens to be the right thing to do. Three groups that have prioritized diversity in their ranks share the benefits and the challenges. (Nature | 12 min read, from 2018)

Up-and-coming scientists, many of whom come from groups that are under-represented both in DNA databases and in the research workforce, are blazing a new path to prevent the repetition of historical injustices in genome science. (Nature | 13 min read, from 2019)“When the argument is about race, the weapon of choice is science,” notes geneticist and author Adam Rutherford. His book, How to Argue With a Racist, gets stuck into the hard facts that can combat entrenched attitudes. (The Guardian | 10 min read, from January)

In 2015, the murder by a white supremacist of nine Black people in Charleston, South Carolina, led author Claudia Rankine to write the seminal essay ‘The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning’. This week, Rankine reflected again on the precariousness of being Black in the United States. (The New York Times | 25 min listen and 12 min read)

“Virtually every institution with some degree of history in America, be it public, be it private, has a history of extracting wealth and resources out of the African-American community,” said journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates when he last year revisited his influential 2014 essay, ‘The Case for Reparations’. (The Atlantic | 59 min read & The New Yorker | 10 min read)

Springer Nature, the publisher of Nature, has put together a freely available collection of content about some of the issues relevant to the Black Lives Matter movement, such as systemic racism, policing and health disparities.

Quote of the day

“We don’t want more diversity, inclusion, and equity seminars… We need people to be active in reforming the institutions they work within, rather than waiting for a top-down solution.”

Cosmologist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, one of the co-organizers of today’s academic strike for Black lives, calls for academia to take action. (Gizmodo | 5 min read)

#BlackBirdersWeek might be over, but the wonderfulness of the #BlackAFinSTEM hashtag continues.

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by the Nature News team

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