Rather than posts from either our regular bloggers or guests, this week The Scholarly Kitchen is stepping off the stage to instead spotlight research and researchers writing about systemic racism from around the globe and from multiple disciplinary perspectives. As the blog of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP), the mission of The Scholarly Kitchen is to highlight information and insights from the dynamic world of scholarly communications: research and scholarship sits at the center. We have linked to open content or reproduced where licenses allow.

Next week we will post reflections and readings about our industry. Please also read last week’s statement from the SSP Board of Directors and Co-Chairs of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, “Reaffirming our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

spotlight shining on darkened stage

Monday we featured a February 2020 issue of The BMJ on racism and medicine.

Yesterday we featured a 2017 article, “Libraries on the Frontlines.”

Today we are spotlighting an article in Gizmodo, “Why are There So Few Black Physicists?” 

This article summarizes a report from the American Institute of Physics, “The Time is Now:  Systemic Changes to Increase African Americans with Bachelors Degrees in Physics and Astronomy.” Based on a two-year study, the executive summary of the report stated:  “The briefest summary of the TEAM-UP report is this: the persistent underrepresentation of African Americans in physics and astronomy is due to (1) the lack of a supportive environment for these students in many departments, and (2) to the enormous financial challenges facing them and the programs that have consistently demonstrated the best practices in supporting their success. Solving these problems requires addressing systemic and cultural issues, and creating a large-scale change management framework.”

The article quotes Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Assistant Professor in the physics department and women’s studies at the University of New Hampshire, who stressed that: “‘Diversity and inclusion’ is a popular talking point, but as HBCUs’ physics departments have been left to struggle, so have black physics students. I hope that the community will recognize this trend as the crisis that it is, and I hope close attention will be paid to the recommendations regarding HBCUs, which have historically been there for black scholars when other institutions refused to acknowledge our humanity.”

Professor Prescod-Weinstein is among a group organized as Particles for Justice, calling today for a Strike for Black Lives, for STEM academics and others “to hit pause, to give Black academics a break and to give others an opportunity to reflect on their own complicity in anti-Black racism in academia and their local and global communities.”  

The hashtag for the strike is #Strike4BlackLives. Via several hashtags black scholars and writers are sharing their experiences of racism in academia and beyond. Black graduate students and faculty are tweeting with #BlackintheIvory and #BlackinIvory; publishing advances and contracts are being shared via #PublishingPaidMe.


4 Thoughts on "We Step Aside: Why Are There So Few Black Physicists?"

The very fact that the sun has set on the east coast (US) and no one has commented on today’s post says a lot about why there are so few Black physicists.

I’m glad you commented on the lack of comments. I’ve had some email and DM exchanges about this week’s series from people who hadn’t read in these fields or seen them as linked.

I was also disheartened (and frustrated) not to see any comments on this. I sadly am not surprised to see that lack of a supportive environment is one of the factors why black students do not stay engaged in (or enter into) the field. I have encountered situations of overt (and covert) racism toward POC from STEM journal editors. Some situations are easier to speak up in than others, and I know that because I was working when these happened that I did not address the situation as head on as I should have. Perhaps the SK could consider active ways to have discussions about race and how to address the lack of racial diversity in our field.

I suspect that at least part of the answer lies in early education just as it did for me as a female wanting to study science and not be pushed into secretarial college! This was in the 1950s when physics was not considered a suitable subject for girls even if a teacher could be found.

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