With the decline of science journalism and just good science writing in traditional media altogether, someone hatched the idea to pluck out the best science writing online and put it into a printed book. In 2006, a community of science bloggers, many from the SEED sponsored collective known as ScienceBlogs put words to action and the first anthology of blog posts showcasing the quality and diversity of writing on science blogs was created and it was named Open Laboratory: The Best Writing on Science Blogs.
I submitted two essays and one was selected by a panel of judges for Open Laboratory 2009, an anthology of the best science blogging for the year. Only 50 posts were selected per year and I am told it was a very competitive selection process, with an unprecedented 760 entries submitted this year. Whew, that was some very, very stiff competition and the selected works are amazing in range and topical diversity. I am indeed head-over-heels excited to have been selected, thanks Scicurious (edition editor), Bora (anthology editor), and Open Lab judges (referees). The submissions will be sent off to the publishers and available to buy. The 2006, 2007, and 2008 editions are available to purchase, and the 2009 version will be available later this spring.
There has been a long and understandably uneasy relationship between the Black Community and Science. Being regarded as less-than-human by other groups has put many of our fore-parents in harm’s way. I could speak volumes about unethical medical research and heartless medical providers; acknowledging the pain of the past is important. However, in order to move forward me must also accept that “this is a new day”, as Obama declared. It is time to restore Science – the offspring of Education and Intellectualism – to its rightful place in the African-American community.
The rightful place of science in our society and in the African-American community is within us. Science rightfully belongs to us, the people. It is not some mysterious activity done by others. In fact, many of the greatest scientists of all time came are also African-American: Dr. Charles H. Turner – Zoologist, Dr. Edward Bouchet – Physicist & the first Black American to earn a Ph.D., George Washington Carver – Agriculture Scientist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicist & Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Mae Jemison – Physician & NASA Astronaut, Dr. Ian Smith - Physician, Dr. Shirley Jackson – Nuclear Physicist & President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dr. James Gates - Physicist, Dr. Shirley Malcolm – Ecologist & Head, Education and Human Resources of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Dr. Maydianne Andrade – Behavioral Ecologist.
In order to restore science to its rightful place, we must first acknowledge what science is. Science is a pursuit of knowledge. It drives us to question, to critique, to hypothesize, to measure, to evaluate, to interpret, and to propose solutions to the most pressing needs of our communities. It is an exercise of intellect, discipline and curiosity that compels us to want to understand our world and to make it better. Science is simply information about our world, our environment, and our health.
Science is the handiest of tools in our arsenal against discrimination, poverty, hunger, socio-economic disparity and environmental injustice. People’s lives are impacted by information, and failing to comprehend information can be very detrimental. Many have paid the price of ignorance and misinformation. I have personally witnessed the heartbreaking consequences of scientific illiteracy within the African-American community, such as individuals deciding to forgo life-saving medical procedures, not following a doctor’s health advice, or moving into environmentally hazardous buildings. Many people have confused superstition as fact and shared false information about health or medical issues. We come to depend heavily on the advice of well-spoken, sometimes well-meaning celebrities and nationally-syndicated radio personalities. They share information that they believe to be true, but they are often under-informed.
Restoring science to its rightful place requires a dedication for every single citizen to become scientifically literate, to understand science, and use it to enhance our lives. Moreover, this restoration must include people who have been under-served and under-represented in science for too long. One way to achieve this is to integrate science into our everyday lives. One barrier to this is the fact that many of our social circles do not include scientists or doctors so we have no one to call when questions arise. Imagine how much more informed we would be if more people had access these experts. How much better would our lives be if science were a part of the decisions we made about our health, our children, and our environment?