On Wednesday, July 29, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a letter to National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) President Marcia McNutt requesting a committee of distinguished individuals be convened to assess the influence of systemic racism in academia on the careers of individuals belonging to racial and ethnic groups historically underrepresented in the scientific, technical, and medical workforce.
The requested study would review the ways in which systemic racism affects individuals on college and university campuses, research labs and field sites, and at hospitals or medical centers, including impacts on the recruitment, retention, and advancement of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups. The study would examine the extent to which systemic racism has shaped research agendas and limited the scope of topics funded by the federal government. The study would also identify policies, strategies, and practices that have been most successful in preventing and addressing systemic racism in these settings and promising practices for restoring the careers of affected individuals. Finally, the study committee would set forth principles for organizational culture change.
Chairwoman Johnson's amendment to H.R. 7617, the Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2021, provides funding for the study.
“As our nation confronts the racism that has pervaded so much of our public life since its founding, it is incumbent upon each of us to do what we can to address the systems that perpetuate inequities within our own sphere of influence,” said Chairwoman Johnson in the request letter. “One way to broaden participation in these fields is to shine a light on the accomplishments of overlooked pioneers. However, the harder work is ensuring that these talented students from already marginalized groups are not later pushed out of their chosen field due to the difficulty of enduring hostility and having to navigate cumulative disadvantages imposed by a system rife with biases. We must meet this moment in our history with a rigorous and thoughtful analysis of the extent to which the U.S. scientific enterprise perpetuates systemic inequities to the detriment of society as whole, as well as how those inequities are manifested.”