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The Time for Change

Systemic racism is the implementation of systems, procedures, and/or structures that disadvantage minority groups. These systems include, but are certainly not limited to, education, employment, housing, healthcare, politics, and the criminal justice system. Despite what some claim, science is not exempt from systemic racism. Scientists often bring their unconscious (or conscious) biases into their body of work and workplaces; even this year, we witnessed the controversy – and subsequent withdrawal – of Tomas Hudlicky's Angewandte article (1). Scientists of color should not be tasked with the additional burden of addressing microaggressions by senior professionals, remitting blatant acts of racism in the workplace, or steering around structures that encourage career stagnation.

The USA, Europe, and Australia are still grappling with histories entrenched in the oppression of minorities. The gut-wrenching, whirlwind of events during 2020 resulted in an uproar of protests that brought systemic racism – through police brutality and the disparate impact of COVID-19 on minorities – to the forefront. But despite these moments of pain and frustration, a glimpse of hope shone through. People from all walks of life participated in the protests and engaged in social media movements, such as #BlackintheIvory, #ShutDownSTEM, and #ShutDownAcademia, demonstrating the level of support for such actions. We witnessed scientists and scientific organizations – who were once unaware or refused to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism – make statements in support of diversity initiatives and charges to be more inclusive. Institutions in the USA, UK, and the Netherlands have even begun implementing policies to rectify systems that were once created with racist intentions.

These efforts are appreciated – but they are only the initial steps to right previous wrongs. We need more organizations and institutions to become accountable for their actions. There is no quick fix to ending systemic racism, and there is still much to be done. We must call on all organizations to implement anti-racist initiatives and discontinue racist rhetoric and ideology. We must acknowledge and consider how those institutions that financially benefited from disadvantaged minorities can provide reparations. And we must also ensure we promote the equity of all people groups within the field of analytical chemistry – not just focus on gender equality.

In honor of creating a more inclusive and equitable environment in the sciences, The Analytical Scientist provided a platform to vocalize the unique experiences of Black scientists, publicize our suggestions for change, and welcome this much-needed transition to a new era – one free of systemic racism.

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  1. Chemistry World, “Angewandte essay calling diversity in chemistry harmful decried as ‘abhorrent’ and ‘egregious,’” (2020). Available at: bit.ly/3dNME5A

About the Authors

Candice Z. Ulmer

Research Chemist & Associate Service Fellow, Clinical Chemistry Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA


Christina M Jones

Christina is a research chemist at the National Institute for Standards and Technology


Michelle E Reid

Michelle recently finished her postdoctoral fellowship at ETH Zürich, researching the systems-level view of Salmonella pathogenicity and quality assurance in MS

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