Black scientists left out of the loop in top institutions

Shreya Dube discusses the long-standing racial inequality in scientific institutions

Shreya Dube
19th October 2020
It is fair to say that academia is not always a level playing field. So what is it like being black in the ivory tower of academia? Dear reader, let us investigate. 

Traditionally, there have been (and continue to be) disparities between black academics and their white counterparts in areas such as publication, hiring and funding. For example, studies on funding in the National Institute of Health (NIH) showed that black people are 10-13% less likely to achieve funding than white Principal Investigator (PI) candidates. There is also a startling resurgence of science being twisted to support dubious claims in relation to white supremacy in the fields of genetics. It is the responsibility of scientific bodies to condemn these malignant communities.

Of 4.3 million pounds granted by UKRI for research, none was paid out to black academics

More recently, the current COVID-19 situation has been met with further controversy. The UK Research and Innovation government agency (UKRI) was in hot water after procuring 4.3 million pounds for research around COVID-19 and ethnicity, and none of that grant funding was paid out to black academics. This led to a letter being penned by a group of black female academics, venting their outrage and pointing out the hypocrisy of UKRI, who previously expressed their concern over lack of participation by BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) individuals in COVID-19 studies. To add salt to the wound, scientific research finds that BAME people are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

#blackinchem and #blackinbio have trended on Twitter

Another astonishing feat of the black academic community can be found on Twitter. Through the grief, rage and inspiration surrounding the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year, discrimination in academia was spoken about candidly. Organisations such as 'Black In Neuro' was fully set up and funded, achieving mainstream recognition and holding conferences featuring black-led scientific projects. This also gave way to other black communities such as #blackinchem #blackinbio trending on Twitter.

Image Credit: Peter Burka via Flickr

Something that is encouraging to see, is the awareness and action in the face of this inequality to amplify BIPOC voices. Academic institutions are starting to be encouraged to form equality, diversity and inclusivity boards to ensure that minorities are protected, raised and represented in teaching and learning. 

This topic can have valuable discourse to last for eons. I’d like to leave you with one final thought, a book. 'The Mismeasure of Man,' authored by Stephen Jay Gould, explores the unjust past and claims of science in relation to race, and has a very pertinent message, “Determinist arguments for ranking people ... have recorded little more than social prejudice”.

So dear reader, let’s make our academic space a welcoming and equitable one, for collaboration and awareness are the cornerstones of discovery and success.

Featured Image: Pxfuel

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