Though science aims to be unbiased and objective, the backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of who is doing and informing the research impact the questions asked, analysis done, and who benefits from the outcomes. Cultural ideas about people influence how scientists view animal species. The make-up of research teams impacts whose stories are worth investigating, what kinds of questions get financially supported, and even who is represented in the research studies. For example, facial recognition software and metadata of photos taken at protests have been shown to have a higher rate of false positive matches for Asian and African-American faces over white faces, sometimes by a factor of 10 or even 100, in part due to training the algorithm on primary white faces. Structural racism is pervasive in precision medicine, and it deeply influences how scientists and physicians develop health guidelines. How and why such technologies, which engrain racism in our everyday lives, were developed and selected over others are questions that are framed by social history in America and elsewhere. Increasing diversity in science and samples/participants in a study can improve our research and applications of everything from artificial intelligence and machine learning to biobanks and precision medicine to archaeology and geology. Even in psychological science, in which racial biases are often put under intense scrutiny, structural racism shapes who and what gets published. We’re experts in the ways that racism and lack of diversity hurts Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and perpetuates inequalities – let’s discuss!
As mentioned in a previous announcement post, the moderators of /r/science have worked in collaboration with the moderators of /r/blackpeopletwitter and /r/blackladies to create this series of discussion panels focused on race in America. These panels will be led by subject area specialists including scientists, researchers, and policy professionals so that we can engage with multiple expert perspectives on those important topics. A list of the panels, guests, and dates can be found here.
Our guests will be answering under the account u/Race_in_tech. With us today are:
André Brock: André Brock is an associate professor of media studies at Georgia Tech. He studies the rhetoric of technology, Black technoculture, and Black cybercultures; his scholarship examines Black and white representations in social media, videogames, weblogs, and other digital media
Whitney Battle-Baptiste: Whitney Battle-Baptiste is a Professor of Anthropology and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A historical archaeologist of African and Cherokee descent, she has done fieldwork at Colonial Williamsburg, the Hermitage, the W. E. B DuBois Homesite, and other sites. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin, and conducts research on plantations in the U.S. Southeast, the materiality of contemporary African American popular culture, and Black Feminist theory and its implications for archaeology.
Shirley Malcom: I am senior advisor and director of SEA Change at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where I have worked for over 40 years to improve the quality and increase access to education and careers in STEMM. An ecologist by training, I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. My life has been shaped by two important sociopolitical movements: America’s post-Sputnik attention to and emphasis on science, including education and careers, and growing up in the epicenter of the civil rights movement.
Steven O. Roberts: I am an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, which is where I direct the Social Concepts Lab. My research team seeks to identify and dismantle the psychological biases that maintain and reinforce racism. We work with adults and young children.
Rachel E. Bernard: Hi! I’m Dr. Rachel Bernard and I am a geologist who studies the material properties of the Earth’s lower crust and mantle. I received my undergraduate degree in geological engineering from Princeton in 2009, worked for two years on onshore and offshore oil and gas rigs, worked for another two years at the National Science Foundation, and then completed a PhD at the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. I am currently a visiting Assistant Professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
Lisa Rice: Lisa Rice is the President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), the nation’s only national civil rights agency solely dedicated to eliminating all forms of housing discrimination. Lisa has led her team in using civil rights principles to bring fairness and equity into technologies used in the housing and lending sectors. She serves on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Civil Society Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence and FinRegLab’s Machine Learning Advisory Board. Follow Lisa on Twitter u/ItsLisaRice