2022 - All Press Releases

International journal of science Nature welcomes guest editors for the first time

A historic special issue on racism in science, the first guest-edited issue in Nature’s more than 150-year history, is published this week as part of commitments made by the journal following the killing of George Floyd and #ShutdownSTEM.

London | New York | Heidelberg, 19 October 2022

The special issue, developed over more than two years, is edited by political scientist Melissa Nobles, scientist and education charity VP Chad Womack, geneticist Ambroise Wonkam and environmentalist and activist Elizabeth Wathuti.

In a signed Editorial to accompany the issue, the guest editors write that, in guiding this special issue, they have shared their expertise and lived experience in the hope and expectation that the institutions of science will accept the necessity of decolonising research, ending racism in science, and working towards restorative justice and reconciliation. “This special issue is our message in a bottle”, they write.

Further special issues are planned that will examine different facets of racism in science to help to build a future in which all people can participate in and benefit from the shared experience that is science. An accompanying Editorial from Nature adds, “This experience has changed us in more ways than we will know — and we are more committed than ever to playing our part in helping to build a future in which science’s shared experience is truly shared by all.”

The issue follows a related recent Editorial from the journal that acknowledged Nature’s contribution to science’s discriminatory legacy. In the Editorial, the journal’s editors promised to work harder to ensure that the research it published does not cause harm, as well as to address systemic issues such as the lack of diversity among the editors.

Dr Magdalena Skipper, Editor in Chief of Nature, concludes, “We are grateful to Ambroise, Chad, Elizabeth and Melissa for the time and care they have devoted to this project; and for their wise guidance at every step. They have inspired us. This unique special issue, and our Editorial that came before it, are part of Nature’s attempt to acknowledge and learn from both our deep and recent past, understand the roots of injustice and work to address them as we aim to make the scientific enterprise open and welcoming to all.  We understand that greater equity and inclusion doesn’t happen without work. In Springer Nature, we are all working to play our part as the research publishing ecosystem becomes more diverse and inclusive: from the topics we cover, to the recruitment of editors, peer reviewers and speakers, as well as in our own teams."

The extensive content in the special issue includes a Comment in which three researchers (one of whom co-authored a research paper referenced by the white supremacist who murdered ten Black people in a store in Buffalo, New York in May) argue that the efforts made so far within the scientific community to counter the latest resurgence of white supremacy are insufficient. They outline changes that are needed in genetics research and communications to help to address this. The special also includes a series of News Features, which profiles five researchers from around the world who describe the racism they and others face today in science. Another feature explores the diversity gap in computer science that has impacts for all of society. 

In the Careers section, a feature describes how leading UK scientific institutions (including Imperial College London, UCL, the Royal Society and the Linnean Society) are grappling with their colonialist pasts and the steps they are taking to address them. This feature marks the first in a series that will explore how different scientific institutions are making disciplines and policies more inclusive.


Notes to Editors

1. This special Nature issue dedicated to racism in science was overseen by four guest editors: 

  • Melissa Nobles is a political scientist, chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, USA, and author of Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics.
  • Elizabeth Wathuti is an environmentalist, climate activist and founder of the Green Generation Initiative in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Chad Womack is a scientist, vice-president of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at the education philanthropic charity UNCF, in Washington DC, USA; and founder of the Ernest E. Just Life Science Initiative and Societ
  • Ambroise Wonkam is a geneticist, professor and director of the McKusick–Nathans Institute and the Department of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

2. The Nature special issue can be read here.

3. An Editorial announcing the involvement of the guest editors was published in June this year. This Editorial was the first Nature has published signed by external authors.

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Maeve Dunne | Communications | Springer Nature