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Science examines its human weaknesses

by Nicholas Mazur - Campus Talk Editor
Tue, Apr 24th 2018 06:05 pm

The scientists of the world are tricky things. They are the ones who go out into the world and hunt down the facts for us, the small ones, the big ones, the mysterious ones, and even the ones you didn’t consider. We tend to think of them as these paragons of logic and truth, separate from the rest. However, they are subject to the same humanity that we all are, and they come from all walks of life just like we do.

The LGBTQ community is full of people who are usually associated with fighting for equal rights, but they too are part of that noble gathering of minds that fuel our future, and our collective understanding. However, as you may have guessed, the struggles that LGBTQ members face in the public are prevalent in the science and technology community as well. According to Scientific American, 40 percent of LGBTQ people involved with STEM fields are not out to their coworkers, citing immediately what kind of climate they are in. As much as I want to hold scientists to a higher standard, I cannot help but admit that homophobia sneaks into every nook and cranny that it can find in this world.

With that in mind, scientists from the world of STEM have embarked on a mission to highlight the stories of LGBTQ people within their respective fields. One of the people from the project, environmental scientist Joey Nelson talked to Scientific American about his experiences.

Nelson highlighted his youth and the importance of science as a haven for him, while growing up as a gay man. The endeavour, dubbed the “Queer in STEM Project,” is an effort “to gain a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the experiences of sexual and gender minorities in STEM fields. Are they out? Are they succeeding in their careers? What kind of barriers do they face? What does a welcoming climate look like? What does an unwelcoming climate look like?” according to Nelson.

Nelson was asked more questions about his time in the world of science and his experiences, such as if he ever had a mentor in his career that identified as a member of LGBTQ community. How to make coming out easier for people in these fields was also discussed. Furthermore, he was asked questions about the “Queer in STEM Project,” and why it’s important to conduct. 

“It’s been well documented that diversity means better science,” Nelson said. “This work is [a] better understanding [of] how we can support a component of diversity that is critical to the advancement of science in America. From that nationalistic perspective, I think it's critical for the advancement of science and contributing to diversity.”

As for me, I’m always up for understanding things better. The more knowledge, the better. As for making LGBTQ people more comfortable, well, how could I disagree with that? Science should always be the model for a level playing field. But, unfortunately, that is not the case right now, hence this effort by Nelson and others. However, I’m glad that they are making the effort. In STEM institutions, where facts and thinking are supposed to be at the forefront, we need people who are upholding those principles — giving everyone, no matter what the opportunity, to do so as well.

Science and scientists are not immune from all the other aspects of humanity, but it’s good to see that they don’t have a problem addressing their own problems. After all, what would scientists, builders and people whose jobs are to better themselves be if they did not … you know, better themselves? A body can’t work unless all the cells cooperate in just the right way, with every cell playing its unique and different role. People can’t do their best unless we all work together, and each person is allowed to be their unique self. What’s a more important place to ensure that philosophy thrives than in science?



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