New research published in the journal Frontiers in Communication points to an incredible irony: the claim that science is neutral, objective and even “colorblind” while concurrently upholding and perpetuating racism and white supremacy culture in STEM. The article calls out racism in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) institutions and systems and calls on science communicators to lead the way in dismantling it.
Dr. Karlisa Callwood of the Bahamas-based Perry Institute for Marine Science led the team of international researchers and educators who wrote the paper. “We are urging science communicators around the world to use their platforms, power and voices to dismantle white supremacy culture within STEM,” said Dr. Callwood, who directs the Bahamas-based science organization’s community conservation, education and action program. “To do this, science communicators must improve access to training and elevate and amplify the voices of underrepresented scientists.”
STEM institutions and systems, designed by White scientists, uplift White scholars in STEM all while harming minoritized scholars. This is visible through the historical and continued underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx researchers, scholars, and science communicators, through hiring and funding decisions, pay and promotions, what is being studied, the types of stories that are told, and the communities and audiences that are prioritized for communication and outreach. For example, National Institute of Health (NIH) grant applications with White principal investigators are 1.7 times more likely to be funded than those with Black investigators.
“Since White scientists maintain power-holding and decision-making roles, racism and white supremacy culture often goes unacknowledged in STEM and the cycle continues,” explained Dr. Callwood, who also volunteers as a steering committee member at Museums and Race. “In order to begin working to dismantle racism in STEM institutions and in science communication fields, its presence must first be acknowledged. By naming it, we can see it and we can change it.”
The Perry Institute is a non-profit science organization that has been leading ocean research, conservation and education in The Bahamas for more than 50 years.
Science communication (SciComm) works to make complex science, research and scholarly works accessible to a broader audience through education, outreach, and engagement. Although SciCommers have previously played a critical role in shifting the culture of science to make it more widely accessible, SciComm has simultaneously perpetuated WSC by disproportionately training and elevating White scientists and their research.
This article calls on SciCommers to use their platform, power, and voices to dismantle WSC in SciComm and ultimately extend this work further throughout the many other branches of STEM.
The authors argue for the creation of new models, frameworks and cultural change within SciComm. They identify four key themes for immediate action: 1) Authentic Interrogation, Acknowledgement, and Accountability, 2) Representation, 3) Culturally Responsive Practice, and 4) Inclusion. As Verna Meyers once said, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”. This looks like improving access to training for Black, Indigengous and Latinx individuals and amplifying the voices of underrepresented scientists.
The authors also include a framework to help guide authentic, culturally competent and inclusive SciComm. The framework was developed by crossing three traits of inclusive science communication (Intentionality, Reciprocity, Reflexivity) with six spheres of influence. Within each intersection lie questions that are intended to guide personal actions, interactions, trainings and workshops.
Inclusive and authentic SciComm is just the first step when it comes to dismantling racism and WSC in all of science and society, but it is a critical first step.
A final note from the authors: “We welcome collaboration and feedback on this work in progress: we see this work as ongoing, iterative, interactive, and open-source”. Please contact Dr. Karlisa Callwood at the Perry Institute for Marine Science with any questions, comments, ideas, or contributions (email@example.com).
The full article can be found here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2022.787750/full
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