• Thousands of scientists stopped work on June 10 to protest systemic racism in STEM
  • Several prominent journals and institutions also joined the protest
  • The protest is not just for awareness, but is a call for action against racism

Thousands of scientists from institutions across the world signed an online pledge to stop research on Wednesday (June 10) to protest against the systemic racism in STEM. The call of action, as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, was not merely to create more awareness on diversity and inclusion, but also to end racism in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

On Wednesday, 5,874 scientists signed the pledge to stop work for a day following weeks of demonstrations in the United States and other parts of the world protesting the death of George Floyd.

"In the wake of the most recent murders of Black people in the US, it is clear that white and other non-Black people have to step up and do the work to eradicate anti-Black racism," the website Shut Down STEM said in a statement. "As members of the global academic and STEM communities, we have an enormous ethical obligation to stop doing 'business as usual.' No matter where we physically live, we impact and are impacted by this moment in history."

The June 10 strike gave all the academics time to rest, act or think about the concrete ways in which they can help end the systemic racism in STEM, both locally and globally.

According to a 2018 report by the Pew Research Center, 70% of the STEM workforce are comprised of white people, while only 9% of the workers are black and only 7% are Hispanic. White and Asian workers also have a higher median income than black and Hispanic workers.

This call to action was not just a matter of engaging in diversity and inclusion initiatives that, according to the website Particles for Justice, made little meaningful impact. More than an anti-racism protest to end white supremacy, which the website called a "matter of urgency," the strike was a call for the community to commit to taking actions that eliminate racism.

"Importantly, we are not calling for more diversity and inclusion talks and seminars. We are not asking people to sit through another training about implicit bias," the Particles for Justice website stated. "We are calling for every member of the community to commit to taking actions that will change the material circumstances of how Black lives are lived -- to work toward ending the white supremacy that not only snuffs out Black physicist dreams but destroys whole Black lives."

Using the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM, #ShutDownAcademia and #Strike4BlackLives on Twitter, some of those who participated in the strike shared their support while others even shared how the community could help with the issue.

Several scientific institutions and journals including Nature, Physical Review Letters, Science and pre-print server ArXiv also joined the strike Wednesday.

The strike was aimed at members of the research community who were not directly involved in helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If your daily activities are directly helping us end this global crisis, we send our sincerest gratitude," the Shut Down STEM website says. "The rest of us, we need to get to work."

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