Science & Technology

For a day, thousands of scientists halt work to protest racism

The aim was to stop business-as-usual for a day and initiate long-term action plan — protesting, educating themselves on issues faced by Black academics 

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Thursday 11 June 2020
Thousands from the scientific community — biologists, astronomers, particle physicists, seismologists — hit pause for a day on June 10, 2020, to spearhead a STEM “Strike for Black Lives” against racial bias in the research community. Photo: Twitter

Thousands from the scientific community — biologists, astronomers, particle physicists, seismologists — hit pause for a day on June 10, 2020, to spearhead a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) “Strike for Black Lives” against racial bias in the research community.

Ensuing protest against police brutality and killing of George Floyd in the United States served as a catalyst for the strike.

The strike, initiated by forums Shut Down STEM and Particles for Justice, grew on social media under the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM, #Strike4BlackLives and #ShutDownAcademia. The strike, though silent, saw a few academicians marching against racism.

The aim was to stop business-as-usual for the day and initiate a long-term action plan: protesting, educating themselves on issues that Black academics face, organise protests, contact their local representatives, and make action plans for how they’ll work to change science and academia beyond just a single day’s strike. The point, on the whole, was to draft plans based on work done by Black leaders on how they’ll dismantle the deep-rooted racism.

The strike was a call against systematic discrimination, under-representation as well as pseudoscience justifying racism, the forums clarified.   

Particles for Justice, in a statement, wrote:

We recognise that our academic institutions and research collaborations — despite big talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion — have ultimately failed Black people. Demands for justice have been met with gradualism and tokenism, as well as diversity and inclusion initiatives that — while sometimes well-intentioned — have had little meaningful impact on the lived experiences of Black students, staff, researchers, and faculty.

Shutdown STEM called for a need for action and accountability: “It is not enough to say that you stand in solidarity. We need you to be accountable. We need your actions.”

Apart from education and action, it called for healing to fight off the toxic space that racism spawns.

Renowned journals such as Nature halted publication for the day. A physics pre-print server arXiv discouraged researchers to submit manuscripts on June 10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Twitter account remained dormant on June 10. 

The Canadian Association of Physicists, American Association for the Advancement of Science and groups such as Dark Energy Survey also participated in the strike.

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