Neuroscience, Science Communication and #ShutdownSTEM
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In the wake of #ShutdownSTEM, follow the links below to read some stellar examples of neuroscience communication from BAME writers. Have examples to share? Please drop them in the comments so we can build the list up.
A protein in your brain behaves like a virus, infecting your cells with memories by Yewande Pearse
Loneliness is an epidemic, and we can turn to technology to fix it by Sophie Okolo
Neuralink 2019: One Step Closer to Downloading Our Consciousness (Maybe) by Jordan Harrod
What amnesiacs tell us about memory: Q&A with Brenda Milner by Rackeb Tesfaye
Scientists sent thoughts from brain to brain with nothing in between by Jordan Harrod
EEG research is racially biased, so undergrad scientists designed new electrodes to fix it by Danielle Nadin
Science has long had a problem with race. This isn’t a hypothesis to be tested. The data is in, and it is conclusive. Plenty has been written about various studies’ obsession with skin shade and hair color, traits that on a practical level are pretty useless for dividing up humans, but which are revisited and researched time and time again. This obsession, one that is “scientifically indefensible”, according to Alan R. Templeton’s review of the topic, has long been a poison in research that as scientists, we must work to uproot and overcome whenever it rears its head.
Employment in academic research is an obvious example. Vitae’s most recent survey of academic principal investigators and research leaders in British institutions showed just 0.4% of respondents identified as black, compared to 3% of the UK population as a whole. Science journalists and communicators have an important role in identifying this inequity when we see it, For too long, communicators been lax about actively calling out this issue. This needs to change.
Our critique of research must not blind us to the systemic racism that exists within our own profession. This kind of racism exists at every level of society (just ask Ben and Jerry’s) and whilst the scale of the task we face in overhauling population-wide attitudes and prejudices is daunting, we can begin by identifying the problems closer to home and committing to do better. This means more than just a one-off sharing of posts, but a consistent, enduring effort to change how we report research.
The British Science Association’s recent survey of science communicators, “A Changing Sector: Where is Science Communication Now?” showed just 1% of respondents identified as black. To combat both subtle, systemic racism (an AI hiring system that only recommends candidates that look like the white candidates the company already employs) and the still-present threat of overt racism (a hiring manager who doesn’t pick candidates with foreign-sounding names), we need to be actively anti-racist in our own work going forward. We need to do more to solve the problem.
~Ruairi J Mackenzie, NNR Editor