Composite image showing Chad Womack, Elizabeth Wathuti, Ambroise Wonkam and Melissa Nobles

Clockwise from top left: Chad Womack, Elizabeth Wathuti, Ambroise Wonkam and Melissa Nobles.Credit: bottom left: Gretchen Ertl; bottom right: University of Cape Town

Science is “a shared experience, subject both to the best of what creativity and imagination have to offer and to humankind’s worst excesses”. So wrote the guest editors of this special issue of Nature — Melissa Nobles, Chad Womack, Ambroise Wonkam and Elizabeth Wathuti — in a June editorial announcing their involvement (M. Nobles et al. Nature 606, 225–227; 2022).

Among those worst excesses is racism. For centuries, science has built a legacy of excluding people of colour and those from other historically marginalized groups from the scientific enterprise. This legacy extends to research used to underpin discriminatory thinking, and outputs that ignore and further disadvantage marginalized people.

Nature has had a role in creating this racist legacy (Nature 609, 875–876; 2022). But after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020, Nature committed to becoming an agent of change, and helping to end discriminatory practices and systemic racism.

This special issue is part of that commitment, and the first in this journal’s history to be guest edited. We are grateful to our guest editors for accepting our invitation to edit this special issue; for the time and care they have devoted to this project; and for their wise guidance at every step. They have inspired us.

We would also like to thank all those who contributed to this issue, including our two early editorial advisers, Craig Wilder, a historian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and Fauzia Ahmad, a sociologist at Goldsmiths, University of London (Nature 582, 488; 2020). Their guidance was instrumental in shaping our June 2020 editorial (Nature 582, 147; 2020).

This issue can only scratch the surface of such a vast topic, and will be followed by others that examine different facets of racism in science. This experience has changed us in more ways than we can know — and we are more committed than ever to playing our part in helping to build a future in which science’s shared experience is truly shared by all.