In an age of social media ’cancel culture’ might be defined as an orchestrated campaign that seeks to silence or end the careers of people whose thoughts or opinions deviate from a new set of political norms. So if this threat exists for anyone expressing an opinion online in 2021, what’s it like for scientists working in academia and publishing findings that might be deemed controversial?
In this edition of Analysis, I assess the impact of modern social justice movements on scientific research and development.
Is fear of personal or professional harm strengthening conformism or eviscerating robust intellectual debate? Can open-mindedness on controversial issues really exist in the scientific community? Or is rigorous public assessment of scientific findings helping to achieve better, more equitable and socially just outcomes?
So many great points I wish could have all been included from the interviewees who have found themselves in the firing line of current public discourse or who question the severity of this phenomenon and its political motives (in order of appearance):
- Steven Pinker, @sapinker; Professor of Psychology at Harvard University
- Brandeis Marshall, @csdoctorsister; Data scientist, Professor of Computer Science at Spelman College, Founder of DataedX
- Emily M Bender, @emilymbender; Professor of Linguistics at the University of Washington
- Pedro Domingos, @pmddomingos; Professor of Computer Science at University of Washington
- Caroline Criado Perez, @CCriadoPerez; Writer and Campaigner
- David Reich; Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School
My thanks to producer Craig Templeton Smith and editor Jasper Corbett.