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Scientists go on strike to address racism in academia and STEM

Top journals say they’ll delay publication as part of the #Strike4BlackLives.
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Demonstrators hold a Black Lives Matter banner during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in front of the at Grand Army Plaza in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S. June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

Top STEM scientists, publications and organizations are on strike today. They’re pausing to give Black academics a break and to encourage others to reflect on racism in academia, as well as in local and global communities. The strike is meant to be a call-to-action, and according to New Scientist, at least 5,000 academics from universities around the world have joined.

Among those striking, Nature says it will delay online publication of this week's issue by one day. It says it will use the time to listen, read, reflect and learn about racism in STEM. Nature will also begin planning ways to address anti-Black racism in academia.

In the physics community, arXiv says it will not mail its regularly scheduled announcement this evening, and submissions that would have been announced today will be announced on Wednesday.

“I want a day where I don’t have to worry that I’ve missed an important paper on the arXiv because I am stressed out while my non-Black colleagues happily keep going. The strike is not just about gathering people together to begin to take action, but it is also about a day of rest for the people most affected by this heated moment,” wrote Chandra Prescod-Weinstein, a University of New Hampshire physics professor and co-organizer of the strike.

The strike organizers note that the STEM community plays a role in society by conducting research that is turned into media releases, books and legislation, which can reinforce anti-Black narratives. STEM professionals also create technology, like facial and voice recognition, and several examples show racial bias in those technologies.

“As members of the global academic and STEM communities, we have an enormous ethical obligation to stop doing ‘business as usual,’” the organizers wrote.

There is one exception to the strike. The organizers say this is aimed at the broad research community, not those working directly on COVID-19 research. “If your daily activities are directly helping us end this global crisis, we send our sincerest gratitude. The rest of us, we need to get to work,” they wrote.

The strike is being promoted on social media with hashtags #ShutDownAcademia, #ShutDownSTEM and #Strike4BlackLives.

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