I am following this up on a very compelling write up in Wall Street Journal (which was surprising) because they have come out with something substantial after a long time. I will not comment on the “black lives matter” or any of the fanciful trends, but why should the organisations engage with the grandstanding.
They run professional organisations on the subscription money and also the advertising money from the companies. While it has raised several issues about the conflicts of interest in the past- to read about the advertisements being placed strategically next to the article about IMRT, it begs the question- how many does it cost to have this kind of reinforcement for the “leaders”. There have been enough murmurs from the previous generation of senior colleagues about holding the randomised trials for techniques, but they dismissed these ideas as preposterous. So we are in effect treating the entire mass of patients based on presumed dosimetric outcomes without accounting for the effect of radiation on long term outcomes.
Historically, the silencing of the individuals has never been an issue in the “western democracies” who have led the vanguard for free speech. In the recent history, it was the Nazi state that saw Trofim, Lysenko to purge the “Jewish scientists” or suppress any opposition of contrarian though (especially related to genetics).
Here’s from the author (emphasis mine):
In June, the American Physical Society (APS), which represents 55,000 physicists world-wide, endorsed a “strike for black lives” to “shut down STEM” in academia. It closed its office—not to protest police violence or racism, but to “commit to eradicating systemic racism and discrimination, especially in academia, and science,” stating that “physics is not an exception” to the suffocating effects of racism in American life.
While racism in our society is real, no data were given to support this claim of systemic racism in science, and I have argued elsewhere that there are strong reasons to think that this claim is spurious. The APS wasn’t alone. National laboratories and university science departments joined the one-day strike. The pre-eminent science journal Nature, which disseminates what it views as the most important science stories in a daily newsletter, featured an article titled “Ten simple rules for building an anti-racist lab.”
I will not go into more specific instances but there’s a sobering takeaway:
An Italian scientist at the international laboratory CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, had his scheduled seminar on statistical imbalances between the sexes in physics canceled and his position at the laboratory revoked because he suggested that apparent inequities might not be directly due to sexism. A group of linguistics students initiated a public petition asking that the psychologist Steven Pinker be stripped of his position as a Linguistics Society of America Fellow for such offenses as tweeting a New York Times article they disapproved of.
I wonder who’s more intolerant! As the societies are being torn apart because of increasing polarisation and politicisation of the universities/schools and academia, I feel that these issues need to be called out. In one of the tweet storms of a journal club, the only opposition to my statement was that my Twitter account was “anonymous” and therefore, whatever I asserted wasn’t to be taken seriously.
Here’s the conclusion and I completely agree with it:
Whenever science has been corrupted by falling prey to ideology, scientific progress suffers. This was the case in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union—and in the U.S. in the 19th century when racist views dominated biology, and during the McCarthy era, when prominent scientists like Robert Oppenheimer were ostracized for their political views. To stem the slide, scientific leaders, scientific societies and senior academic administrators must publicly stand up not only for free speech in science, but for quality, independent of political doctrine and divorced from the demands of political factions.
I completely agree and it doesn’t matter which side of the political divide you are on. If you have something substantial to say, instead of screaming out your lungs about what I have written, I’d be open for a debate. Organisations should focus on improving accessibility for the same “minorities” that they are focusing on gaining brownie points. Political divide is happening in academia and our professional organisations and the earlier we institute remedial measures to divorce ourselves from the perfidious debates on social media, the better.