dcyphr | Science Has a Racism Problem
Ivan Chan

3rd year Neuroscience major on the preme...

Daniel Amuedo

I am a premedical student at Missouri St...

Sean Small

Hi, I'm a junior majoring in Applied Psy...


Main text

The underrepresentation of Black scientists goes beyond the research team, it applies to the authors, reviewers, and advisory board. It is easy to redirect the blame and point out that any journal is a reflection of the scientific ecosystem. To hide behind statistics. It is an epidemic of denial and it is vital that everybody deny the status quo to fight the overt racism which cripples the lives of Black Americans, including Black scientists. 

Science has a racism problem 

Look at human genetics and its history. It is a field that has been repeatedly used as a rationale to support the inherent inequalities present in “races”. Supporters of Eugenics use the allele we carry as reason to support racial superiority. Race is genetic. 

Look at the exploitation of Black research subjects. The sheer volume of contribution and exploitation from Henrietta Lacks, to the Tuskeegee syphilis study that purposely withheld appropriate treatment to hundreds of Black men. Do not overlook the shared role of race in these violations of medical ethics. 

Look to the extreme disparity in clinical and genetic databases that are mostly composed of white Americans of Eurpoean descent. This lack of knowledge is deadly and can be highlighted by the current pandemic, why black women are five times more likely to die during pregnancy, or why black infants are twice as likely to die as white babies in the US. Black health has never been a priority. 

Science has a racism problem. The scientific discoveries and their usage, the scientific establishment, education and metrics used to define scientific success has racism inherent as well. 

Black Americans face a mountain of challenges built on centuries of systemic structural racism. The gatekeeping system in academia, industry, and scientific organizations was not designed to account and correct for the centuries of compounded oppression and the resulting disadvantage. It is time for renovation. 

We urge community members to enact change. Nobody can stem the tide of racism or rebuild and unjust society, but every action helps. Hiring committees, education, mentors, admissions committees, classmates, researchers, everybody must help. 

The authors of this paper Cell are committed to listening to and amplifying their voices, to educating ourselves, and finding ways to help. We the writers of Cell have the advantage of having this platform and we will put it to work. 

As a start, we are committing to the following actions to increase representation of Black scientists. 

  1. Representation- We will feature and amplify Black and other underrepresented minority authors of Cell papers on social media. If you wish to be highlighted send us an email. 

  2. Education- We pledge to purposefully highlighting Black authors and perspectives in the review and commentary that we commission and publish. 

  3. Diversifying- We pledge to increase the diversity of our advisory board, reviewer pool to better represent of non-white scientists. We are currently trying to improve diversity through outreach, recruiting, and hiring efforts. If you are a black scientist interested in a career get in touch. We are eager to talk. 

  4. Listening- We the editors are willing to talk. We can use this platform to help the Black scientist community. We want to hear them. Please email us if you have concrete ideas for perspectives to help us. We promise to hear you.

This is just the beginning. We are learning, and will make mistakes. Silence is not, and never should have been, an option. 

Science has a racism problem. Scientists are problem solvers. Let’s get to it.