September 1, 2020

Rebuttal: Science IS political because 

  • Scientists are people; their biases, political beliefs, value systems, and lived experiences continue to exist within STEM workplaces.

  • Scientific and medical research are funded in large part by government agencies and impact society by informing social, environmental, and public health policies. The implementation of these policies is largely controlled by politicians and government agencies. As has become increasingly clear in recent years, public perception and support of science is divided along partisan lines [1] and national research budgets vary depending on the political party that is in power. Further underscoring the relationship between science and policy, many of the largest issues facing our society that scientists are actively researching - such as climate change and COVID-19 - disproportionately impact communities of color that have long been on the receiving end of racist social policies that perpetuate these inequities.

  • Research doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Science (and pseudoscience) have long been used to justify racism and stereotypes. Harmful practices like the use of biological race in medicine [2], still persist today and scientific ideas related to genetic testing and population genetics have been co-opted and misrepresented by white supremacist communities to advance their racist agendas [34]. In a separate scientific context, artificial intelligence technology - initially presumed to be unbiased - has been shown to perpetuate discrimination and racial inequities [56] because machine learning models are often trained on biased datasets that lead to, for example, worse performance of facial recognition software for Black faces compared to white faces [7].

Action items for our community

  • Read more: “Responses to 10 Common Criticisms of Anti-Racism Action in STEM” 

  • Educate yourself about social issues related to research and medicine.

  • Take an active role communicating your science to the general public.

  • Value and support the science policy, social justice in STEM, and science communication activism efforts of your colleagues and trainees.