Arquivo da tag: Descolonização da ciência

Science must overcome its racist legacy: Nature’s guest editors speak (Nature)

We are leading Nature on a journey to help decolonize research and forge a path towards restorative justice and reconciliation.

Melissa Nobles, Chad Womack, Ambroise Wonkam & Elizabeth Wathuti

EDITORIAL, 08 June 2022

Four photos of people, clockwise from top left: Chad Womack, Elizabeth Wathuti, Ambroise Wonkam, Melissa Nobles.
Clockwise from top left: Chad Womack, Elizabeth Wathuti, Ambroise Wonkam and Melissa Nobles.Credit: Bottom left: Gretchen Ertl; bottom right: University of Cape Town

Science is a human endeavour that is fuelled by curiosity and a drive to better understand and shape our natural and material world. Science is also a shared experience, subject both to the best of what creativity and imagination have to offer and to humankind’s worst excesses. For centuries, European governments supported the enslavement of African populations and the subjugation of Indigenous people around the world. During that period, a scientific enterprise emerged that reinforced racist beliefs and cultures. Apartheid, colonization, forced labour, imperialism and slavery have left an indelible mark on science.

Although valiant and painful freedom struggles eventually led to decolonization, the impacts of those original racist beliefs continue to reverberate and have been reified in the institutional policies and attitudes that govern the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of individuals’ participation in the modern, global scientific enterprise. In our opinion, racist beliefs have contributed to a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion, and the marginalization of Indigenous and African diasporic communities in science on a national and global scale.

Science and racism share a history because scientists, science’s institutions and influential supporters of science either directly or indirectly supported core racist beliefs: the idea that race is a determinant of human traits and capacities (such as the ability to build civilizations); and the idea that racial differences make white people superior. Although the most egregious forms of racism are unlawful, racism persists in science and affects diverse communities worldwide. Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement into science, Nature was among those institutions that pledged to listen, learn and change. In an Editorial, it said, “The enterprise of science has been — and remains — complicit in systemic racism, and it must strive harder to correct those injustices and amplify marginalized voices.”1

Nature invited us to serve as guest editors — notably, to advise on the production of a series of special issues on racism in science, the first of which is due to be published later this year. We accepted the invitation, although recognized the enormity of the challenge. How to define terms such as race, racism and scientific culture? How to construct a coherent framework of analysis: one that enables us to examine how racist beliefs in European colonial and post-colonial societies affect today’s scientists in countries that were once colonized; and how racism affects scientists of African, Asian, Central and South American and Indigenous heritage who are citizens and residents of former colonial powers?

We are committed to pursuing honest dialogue and giving a voice to those most affected by racism in science. But we also seek to provide readers with hope and optimism. Accordingly, our aim is to showcase some of the many examples of successful scientists who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, to highlight best practices and ‘lift-up’ programmes, and to feature initiatives that empower full participation and scientific leadership of African, Indigenous and diasporic communities around the world.

Articles will explore some key events and discoveries, drawn from both the scholarly literature and from lived experiences. Content will seek to understand the systemic nature of racism in science — including the institutions of academia, government, the private sector and the culture of science — that can lead either to an illusion of colour blindness (beneath which unconscious bias occurs) or to deliberate practices that are defiantly in opposition to inclusion. The articles will use the tools of journalism in all relevant media formats, as well as expert comment and analysis, primary research publishing and engagement, and will have a strong visual component.

Protesters attend the Black Austin Rally and march for Black Lives at Houston Tillotson University. Austin, Texas in 2020.
Protestors attend a march for Black Lives Matter in Austin, Texas, in June 2020.Credit: Mario Cantu/CSM/Sipa US/Alamy

This opening Editorial — the first Nature has published signed by external authors — is a contribution to what will be a long, sometimes difficult, but essential and ultimately rewarding process for the journal and its readers, and, we hope, for its publisher, too. The journey to recognizing and removing racism will take time, because meaningful change does not happen quickly. It will be difficult, because it will require powerful institutions to accept that they need to be accountable to those with less power. It will be rewarding because it will enrich science. It is essential because it is about truth, justice and reconciliation — tenets on which all societies must be founded. As scientists, we know that where there are problems in the historical record, scientific rigour and scientific integrity demand that they be acknowledged, and, if necessary, corrected.

Look at the record

So how do we know that science has advanced racist ideas? We know because it is detailed in the published scholarly record. Some 350 years ago, François Bernier, a French physician employed in the court of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, attempted to create a hierarchy of people by their skin colour, religion and geography2.

Such ideas came into their own when colonization was at its peak in the 1800s and early 1900s. In 1883, Francis Galton, an English statistician, coined the term eugenics for the study of human improvement through genetics and selective breeding. Galton also constructed a racial hierarchy, in which white people were considered superior. He wrote that “the average intellectual standard of the negro race is some two grades below our own (the Anglo Saxon)”3.

Although Charles Darwin opposed slavery and proposed that humans have a common ancestor, he also advocated a hierarchy of races, with white people higher than others. In The Descent of Man, Darwin describes what he calls the gradations between “the highest men of the highest races and the lowest savages”4. He uses the word ‘savages’ to describe Black and Indigenous people.

In our own times, James Watson, a Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, voiced the opinion that Black people are less intelligent than white people. In 1994, the psychologist Richard Herrnstein and the political scientist Charles Murray claimed that genetics was the main determinant of intelligence and social mobility in American society, and that those genetics caused African Americans and European Americans to have different IQ scores5.

Left: Cover of an essay from Arthur de Gobineau, Right: Cover of UNESCO Courier 1950.
Cover of an essay by the nineteenth-century French diplomat and social theorist Arthur de Gobineau justifying white supremacy (left). Scientists publish a statement through the UN affirming that race is a social construct and not a biological phenomenon (right).Credit: Left, Daehan (CC BY-SA 4.0); right, UNESCO Courier 1950

By 1950, the consensus among scientific leaders was that race is a social construct and not a biological phenomenon. Scientists affirmed this in a statement published that year by the United Nations science and education agency UNESCO (see This has since been reaffirmed by subsequent findings showing there is no genetic basis for race, because humans share 99.9% similarity and have a single origin, in Africa6,7. There is more genetic variation within ‘races’ than between them.

Researching race and science matters, not only because these ideas influenced science, but because they became attractive to decision-makers, with horrific effects. People in power who advocated or participated in colonization and/or slavery used science, scientists and scientific institutions to rationalize and justify these practices.

Take Thomas Jefferson, the third US president, who drafted the Declaration of Independence of 1776. Jefferson is widely considered to be among the founders of liberalism and the idea of meritocracy. The declaration includes some of the most well-rehearsed words in the English language: that “all men are created equal”. And yet Jefferson, who was both a scientist and a slave owner, also thought that people of African descent were inferior to white people.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the French diplomat and social theorist Arthur de Gobineau wrote an essay justifying white supremacy8. De Gobineau thought that “all civilizations derive from the white race [and] none can exist without its help”. He argued that civilizations eventually collapse when different peoples mix. To advance his theory, he classified people according to their skin colour and social backgrounds. White aristocrats were given the highest category, Black people the lowest. De Gobineau’s ideas subsequently influenced the development of Nazi ideology, as did Galton’s — eugenics gained support among many world leaders, and contributed to slavery, apartheid and colonization, and the related genocide.

Addie Lee Anderson, age 87, in 2006 at her home in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Addie Lee Anderson was involuntarily sterilized in 1950 by the Eugenics Board of North Carolina. She is pictured here in 2006 at the age of 87.Credit: Sara D. Davis/TNS/ZUMA Press

In the early decades of the twentieth century, many US states passed eugenic sterilization laws. For example, North Carolina enacted such a law in 1929; by 1973, approximately 7,600 individuals had undergone involuntary sterilization in the state. The laws initially targeted white men who had been incarcerated for mental-health disorders, mental disabilities or crimes, but were later used to target Black women who received welfare benefits. It is estimated that between 1950 and 1966, Black women in North Carolina were sterilized at 3 times the rate of white women, and at 12 times the rate of white men9.

Deconstruct, debate and decolonize

Even today, colonization is sometimes defended on the grounds that it brought science to once-colonized countries. Such arguments have two highly problematic foundations: that Europe’s knowledge was (or is) superior to that of all others, and that non-European cultures contributed little or nothing to the scientific and scholarly record.

These views are evident in the case of Thomas Babington Macaulay, a historian and colonial administrator in India during the British Empire, who famously wrote in 1835 that “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”10. These were not idle words. Macaulay used these and similar arguments to justify stopping funding for teaching India’s national languages, such as Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian — which, he said, taught “false history”, “false astronomy” and “false medicine” — in favour of teaching English language and science. Some might question what is wrong with more English and science teaching, but the context matters. Macaulay’s intention (in his own words) was not so much to advance scholarship, but to educate a class of person who would help Britain to continue its Imperial rule.

Portrait of Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), English writer and politician.
Thomas Babington Macaulay, an influential British politician in colonial times, thought that to teach in Arabic and Sanscrit would be to teach “false history”, “false astronomy” and “false medicine”.Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty

The erasure of Indigenous scholarship in this way has had incalculably damaging effects on formerly colonized countries. It has meant that future generations in Africa, Asia and the Americas would be unfamiliar with an unbroken history of their nations’ contributions to knowledge, even after decolonization. At present, much of the work to uncover non-Western scholarship is taking place in the universities and research centres of high-income countries. That is far from satisfactory, because it exacerbates the power imbalance in research, particularly in collaborative research projects between high-income and low- and middle-income countries. Although there is much talk of ‘local ownership’, the reality is that researchers in high-income countries hold much more sway in setting and implementing research agendas, leading to documented cases of abuses of power.

The effects of historical racism and power imbalances have also found their way into the research funding and publishing systems of high-income countries11. The National Institutes of Health, the United States’ main funder of biomedical science, recognizes that there is structural racism in biomedical research. The funder is implementing solutions that are starting to narrow gaps. But not all funding institutions in high-income countries are studying or acknowledging structural or systemic racism in their funding systems or scholarly communities.

Restore, rebuild and reconcile

A wave of anti-racism statements followed Floyd’s murder in 2020. Research funders and universities, publishers and individual journals such as Nature all published statements in support of eliminating racism from science. Two years on, the journey from words to action has been slow and, in some respects, barely measurable.

Nature’s upcoming special issues, its invitation to work with us as guest editors and its ongoing coverage of racism in science are necessary steps to inform, encourage debate and, ultimately, seek solutions-based approaches that propose ways to restore truth, repair trust and seek justice.

We must have hope that the future will be better than the past, because every alternative is worse. But solutions must also acknowledge the reasons why solutions are necessary. Racism has led to injustices against millions of people, through slavery and colonization, through apartheid and through continuing prejudice today. The point of learning about and analysing racism in science must be to ensure that it is never repeated.

Nature 606, 225-227 (2022)


Editor’s note: Melissa Nobles, Chad Womack, Ambroise Wonkam and Elizabeth Wathuti are currently working with Nature as guest editors to guide the creation of several special issues of the journal dedicated to racism in science. To the best of our knowledge, this Editorial is the first in Nature to be signed by guest editors. We are proud of this, and look forward to working with them on these special issues and beyond.

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the authors’ organizations or their governing bodies.


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    Reformation in the Church of Science (The New Atlantis)

    How the truth monopoly was broken up

    Andrea Saltelli and Daniel Sarewitz

    Spring 2022

    We are suffering through a pandemic of lies — or so we hear from leading voices in media, politics, and academia. Our culture is infected by a disease that has many names: fake news, post-truth, misinformation, disinformation, mal-information, anti-science. The affliction, we are told, is a perversion of the proper role of knowledge in a healthy information society.

    What is to be done? To restore truth, we need strategies to “get the facts straight.” For example, we need better “science communication,” “independent fact-checking,” and a relentless commitment to exposing and countering falsehoods. This is why the Washington Post fastidiously counted 30,573 “false or misleading claims” by President Trump during his four years in office. Facebook, meanwhile, partners with eighty organizations worldwide to help it flag falsehoods and inform users of the facts. And some disinformation experts recently suggested in the New York Times that the Biden administration should appoint a “reality czar,” a central authority tasked with countering conspiracy theories about Covid and election fraud, who “could become the tip of the spear for the federal government’s response to the reality crisis.”

    Such efforts reflect the view that untruth is a plague on our information society, one that can and must be cured. If we pay enough responsible, objective attention to distinguishing what is true from what is not, and thus excise misinformation from the body politic, people can be kept safe from falsehood. Put another way, it is an implicitly Edenic belief in the original purity of the information society, a state we have lapsed from but can yet return to, by the grace of fact-checkers.

    We beg to differ. Fake news is not a perversion of the information society but a logical outgrowth of it, a symptom of the decades-long devolution of the traditional authority for governing knowledge and communicating information. That authority has long been held by a small number of institutions. When that kind of monopoly is no longer possible, truth itself must become contested.

    This is treacherous terrain. The urge to insist on the integrity of the old order is widespread: Truth is truth, lies are lies, and established authorities must see to it that nobody blurs the two. But we also know from history that what seemed to be stable regimes of truth may collapse, and be replaced. If that is what is happening now, then the challenge is to manage the transition, not to cling to the old order as it dissolves around us.

    Truth, New and Improved

    The emergence of widespread challenges to the control of information by mainstream social institutions developed in three phases.

    First, new technologies of mass communication in the twentieth century — radio, television, and significant improvements in printing, further empowered by new social science methods — enabled the rise of mass-market advertising, which quickly became an essential tool for success in the marketplace. Philosophers like Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno were bewildered by a world where, thanks to these new forms of communication, unabashed lies in the interest of selling products could become not just an art but an industry.

    The rise of mass marketing created the cultural substrate for the so-called post-truth world we live in now. It normalized the application of hyperbole, superlatives, and untestable claims of superiority to the rhetoric of everyday commerce. What started out as merely a way to sell new and improved soap powder and automobiles amounts today to a rhetorical infrastructure of hype that infects every corner of culture: the way people promote their careers, universities their reputations, governments their programs, and scientists the importance of their latest findings. Whether we’re listening to a food corporation claim that its oatmeal will keep your heart healthy or a university press office herald a new study that will upend everything we know, radical skepticism would seem to be the rational stance for information consumers.

    Politics, Scientized

    In a second, partly overlapping phase in the twentieth century, science underwent a massive expansion of its role into the domain of public affairs, and thus into highly contestable subject matters. Spurred by a wealth of new instruments for measuring the world and techniques for analyzing the resulting data, policies on agriculture, health, education, poverty, national security, the environment and much more became subject to new types of scientific investigation. As never before, science became part of the language of policymaking, and scientists became advocates for particular policies.

    The dissolving boundary between science and politics was on full display by 1958, when the chemist Linus Pauling and physicist Edward Teller debated the risks of nuclear weapons testing on a U.S. television broadcast, a spectacle that mixed scientific claims about fallout risks with theories of international affairs and assertions of personal moral conviction. The debate presaged a radical transformation of science and its social role. Where science was once a rarefied, elite practice largely isolated from society, scientific experts were now mobilized in increasing numbers to form and inform politics and policymaking. Of course, society had long been shaped, sometimes profoundly, by scientific advances. But in the second half of the twentieth century, science programs started to take on a rapidly expanding portfolio of politically divisive issues: determining the cancer-causing potential of food additives, pesticides, and tobacco; devising strategies for the U.S. government in its nuclear arms race against the Soviet Union; informing guidelines for diet, nutrition, and education; predicting future energy supplies, food supplies, and population growth; designing urban renewal programs; choosing nuclear waste disposal sites; and on and on.

    Philosopher-mathematicians Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz recognized in 1993 that a new kind of science was emerging, which they termed “post-normal science.” This kind of science was inherently contestable, both because it dealt with the irreducible uncertainties of complex and messy problems at the intersection of nature and society, and because it was being used for making decisions that were themselves value-laden and contested. Questions that may sound straightforward, such as “Should women in their forties get regular mammograms?” or “Will genetically modified crops and livestock make food more affordable?” or “Do the benefits of decarbonizing our energy production outweigh the costs?” became the focus of intractable and never-ending scientific and political disputes.

    This situation remained reasonably manageable through the 1990s, because science communication was still largely controlled by powerful institutions: governments, corporations, and universities. Even if these institutions were sometimes fiercely at odds, all had a shared interest in maintaining the idea of a unitary science that provided universal truths upon which rational action should be based. Debates between experts may have raged — often without end — but one could still defend the claim that the search for truth was a coherent activity carried out by special experts working in pertinent social institutions, and that the truths emerging from their work would be recognizable and agreed-upon when finally they were determined. Few questioned the fundamental notion that science was necessary and authoritative for determining good policy choices across a wide array of social concerns. The imperative remained to find facts that could inform action — a basic tenet of Enlightenment rationality.

    Science, Democratized

    The rise of the Internet and social media marks the third phase of the story, and it has now rendered thoroughly implausible any institutional monopoly on factual claims. As we are continuing to see with Covid, the public has instantly available to it a nearly inexhaustible supply of competing and contradictory claims, made by credentialed experts associated with august institutions, about everything from mask efficacy to appropriate social distancing and school closure policies. And many of the targeted consumers of these claims are already conditioned to be highly skeptical of the information they receive from mainstream media.

    Today’s information environment certainly invites mischievous seeding of known lies into public discourse. But bad actors are not the most important part of the story. Institutions can no longer maintain their old stance of authoritative certainty about information — the stance they need to justify their actions, or to establish a convincing dividing line between true news and fake news. Claims of disinterest by experts acting on behalf of these institutions are no longer plausible. People are free to decide what information, and in which experts, they want to believe. The Covid lab-leak hypothesis was fake news until that news itself became fake. Fact-checking organizations are themselves now subject to accusations of bias: Recently, Facebook flagged as “false” a story in the esteemed British Medical Journal about a shoddy Covid vaccine trial, and the editors of the journal in turn called Facebook’s fact-checking “inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.”

    No political system exists without its share of lies, obfuscation, and fake news, as Plato and Machiavelli taught. Yet even those thinkers would be puzzled by the immense power of modern technologies to generate stories. Ideas have become a battlefield, and we are all getting lost in the fog of the truth wars. When everything seems like it can be plausible to someone, the term “fake news” loses its meaning.


    The celebrated expedient that an aristocracy has the right and the mission to offer “noble lies” to the citizens for their own good thus looks increasingly impotent. In October 2020, U.S. National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, a veritable aristocrat of the scientific establishment, sought to delegitimize the recently released Great Barrington Declaration. Crafted by a group he referred to as “fringe epidemiologists” (they were from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford), the declaration questioned the mainstream lockdown approach to the pandemic, including school and business closures. “There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down,” Collins wrote in an email to fellow aristocrat Anthony Fauci.

    But we now live in a moment where suppressing that kind of dissent has become impossible. By May 2021, that “fringe” became part of a new think tank, the Brownstone Institute, founded in reaction to what they describe as “the global crisis created by policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.” From this perspective, policies advanced by Collins and Fauci amounted to “a failed experiment in full social and economic control” reflecting “a willingness on the part of the public and officials to relinquish freedom and fundamental human rights in the name of managing a public health crisis.” The Brownstone Institute’s website is a veritable one-stop Internet shopping haven for anyone looking for well-credentialed expert opinions that counter more mainstream expert opinions on Covid.

    Similarly, claims that the science around climate change is “settled,” and that therefore the world must collectively work to decarbonize the global energy system by 2050, have engendered a counter-industry of dissenting experts, organizations, and websites.

    At this point, one might be forgiven for speculating that the public is being fed such a heavy diet of Covid and climate change precisely because these are problems that have been framed politically as amenable to a scientific treatment. But it seems that the more the authorities insist on the factiness of facts, the more suspect these become to larger and larger portions of the populace.

    A Scientific Reformation

    The introduction of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century triggered a revolution in which the Church lost its monopoly on truth. Millions of books were printed in just a few decades after Gutenberg’s innovation. Some people held the printing press responsible for stoking collective economic manias and speculative bubbles. It allowed the widespread distribution of astrological almanacs in Europe, which fed popular hysteria around prophesies of impending doom. And it allowed dissemination of the Malleus Maleficarum, an influential treatise on demonology that contributed to rising persecution of witches.

    Though the printing press allowed sanctioned ideas to spread like never before, it also allowed the spread of serious but hitherto suppressed ideas that threatened the legitimacy of the Church. A range of alternative philosophical, moral, and ideological perspectives on Christianity became newly accessible to ever-growing audiences. So did exposés of institutional corruption, such as the practice of indulgences — a market for buying one’s way out of purgatory that earned the Church vast amounts of money. Martin Luther, in particular, understood and exploited the power of the printing press in pursuing his attacks on the Church — one recent historical account, Andrew Pettegree’s book Brand Luther, portrays him as the first mass-market communicator.

    “Beginning of the Reformation”: Martin Luther directs the posting of his Ninety-five Theses, protesting the practice of the sale of indulgences, to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.
    W. Baron von Löwenstern, 1830 / Library of Congress

    To a religious observer living through the beginning of the Reformation, the proliferation of printed material must have appeared unsettling and dangerous: the end of an era, and the beginning of a threatening period of heterodoxy, heresies, and confusion. A person exposed to the rapid, unchecked dispersion of printed matter in the fifteenth century might have called many such publications fake news. Today many would say that it was the Reformation itself that did away with fake news, with the false orthodoxies of a corrupted Church, opening up a competition over ideas that became the foundation of the modern world. Whatever the case, this new world was neither neat nor peaceful, with the religious wars resulting from the Church’s loss of authority over truth continuing until the mid-seventeenth century.

    Like the printing press in the fifteenth century, the Internet in the twenty-first has radically transformed and disrupted conventional modes of communication, destroyed the existing structure of authority over truth claims, and opened the door to a period of intense and tumultuous change.

    Those who lament the death of truth should instead acknowledge the end of a monopoly system. Science was the pillar of modernity, the new privileged lens to interpret the real world and show a pathway to collective good. Science was not just an ideal but the basis for a regime, a monopoly system. Within this regime, truth was legitimized in particular private and public institutions, especially government agencies, universities, and corporations; it was interpreted and communicated by particular leaders of the scientific community, such as government science advisors, Nobel Prize winners, and the heads of learned societies; it was translated for and delivered to the laity in a wide variety of public and political contexts; it was presumed to point directly toward right action; and it was fetishized by a culture that saw it as single and unitary, something that was delivered by science and could be divorced from the contexts in which it emerged.

    Such unitary truths included above all the insistence that the advance of science and technology would guarantee progress and prosperity for everyone — not unlike how the Church’s salvific authority could guarantee a negotiated process for reducing one’s punishment for sins. To achieve this modern paradise, certain subsidiary truths lent support. One, for example, held that economic rationality would illuminate the path to universal betterment, driven by the principle of comparative advantage and the harmony of globalized free markets. Another subsidiary truth expressed the social cost of carbon emissions with absolute precision to the dollar per ton, with the accompanying requirement that humans must control the global climate to the tenth of a degree Celsius. These ideas are self-evidently political, requiring monopolistic control of truth to implement their imputed agendas.

    An easy prophesy here is that wars over scientific truth will intensify, as did wars over religious truth after the printing press. Those wars ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, followed, eventually, by the creation of a radically new system of governance, the nation-state, and the collapse of the central authority of the Catholic Church. Will the loss of science’s monopoly over truth lead to political chaos and even bloodshed? The answer largely depends upon the resilience of democratic institutions, and their ability to resist the authoritarian drift that seems to be a consequence of crises such as Covid and climate change, to which simple solutions, and simple truths, do not pertain.

    Both the Church and the Protestants enthusiastically adopted the printing press. The Church tried to control it through an index of forbidden books. Protestant print shops adopted a more liberal cultural orientation, one that allowed for competition among diverse ideas about how to express and pursue faith. Today we see a similar dynamic. Mainstream, elite science institutions use the Internet to try to preserve their monopoly over which truths get followed where, but the Internet’s bottom-up, distributed architecture appears to give a decisive advantage to dissenters and their diverse ideologies and perspectives.

    Holding on to the idea that science always draws clear boundaries between the true and the false will continue to appeal strongly to many sincere and concerned people. But if, as in the fifteenth century, we are now indeed experiencing a tumultuous transition to a new world of communication, what we may need is a different cultural orientation toward science and technology. The character of this new orientation is only now beginning to emerge, but it will above all have to accommodate the over-abundance of competing truths in human affairs, and create new opportunities for people to forge collective meaning as they seek to manage the complex crises of our day.

    Marcelo Leite: Virada Psicodélica – Artigo aponta injustiça psicodélica contra saber indígena (Folha de S.Paulo)

    Marcelo Leite

    7 de março de 2022

    A cena tem algo de surreal: pesquisador europeu com o corpo tomado por grafismos indígenas tem na cabeça um gorro com dezenas de eletrodos para eletroencefalografia (EEG). Um membro do povo Huni Kuin sopra rapé na narina do branco, que traz nas costas mochila com aparelhos portáteis para registrar suas ondas cerebrais.

    A Expedition Neuron aconteceu em abril de 2019, em Santa Rosa do Purus (AC). No programa, uma tentativa de diminuir o fosso entre saberes tradicionais sobre uso da ayahuasca e a consagração do chá pelo chamado renascimento psicodélico para a ciência.

    O resultado mais palpável da iniciativa, até aqui, apareceu num controverso texto sobre ética, e não dados, de pesquisa.

    O título do artigo no periódico Transcultural Psychiatry prometia: “Superando Injustiças Epistêmicas no Estudo Biomédico da Ayahuasca – No Rumo de Regulamentação Ética e Sustentável”. Desde a publicação, em 6 de janeiro, o texto gerou mais calor que luz –mesmo porque tem sido criticado fora das vistas do público, não às claras.

    Os autores Eduardo Ekman Schenberg, do Instituto Phaneros, e Konstantin Gerber, da PUC-SP, questionam a autoridade da ciência com base na dificuldade de empregar placebo em experimentos com psicodélicos, na ênfase dada a aspectos moleculares e no mal avaliado peso do contexto (setting) para a segurança do uso, quesito em que cientistas teriam muito a aprender com indígenas.

    Entre os alvos das críticas figuram pesquisas empreendidas na última década pelos grupos de Jaime Hallak na USP de Ribeirão Preto e de Dráulio de Araújo no Instituto do Cérebro da UFRN, em particular sobre efeito da ayahuasca na depressão. Procurados, cientistas e colaboradores desses grupos não responderam ou preferiram não se pronunciar.

    O potencial antidepressivo da dimetiltriptamina (DMT), principal composto psicoativo do chá, está no foco também de pesquisadores de outros países. Mas outras substâncias psicodélicas, como MDMA e psilocibina, estão mais próximas de obter reconhecimento de reguladores como medicamentos psiquiátricos.

    Dado o efeito óbvio de substâncias como a ayahuasca na mente e no comportamento da pessoa, argumentam Schenberg e Gerber, o sistema duplo-cego (padrão ouro de ensaios biomédicos) ficaria inviabilizado: tanto o voluntário quanto o experimentador quase sempre sabem se o primeiro tomou um composto ativo ou não. Isso aniquilaria o valor supremo atribuído a estudos desse tipo no campo psicodélico e na biomedicina em geral.

    Outro ponto criticado por eles está na descontextualização e no reducionismo de experimentos realizados em hospitais ou laboratórios, com o paciente cercado de aparelhos e submetido a doses fixadas em miligramas por quilo de peso. A precisão é ilusória, afirmam, com base no erro de um artigo que cita concentração de 0,8 mg/ml de DMT e depois fala em 0,08 mg/ml.

    A sanitização cultural do setting, por seu lado, faria pouco caso dos elementos contextuais (floresta, cânticos, cosmologia, rapé, danças, xamãs) que para povos como os Huni Kuin são indissociáveis do que a ayahuasca tem a oferecer e ensinar. Ao ignorá-los, cientistas estariam desprezando tudo o que os indígenas sabem sobre uso seguro e coletivo da substância.

    Mais ainda, estariam ao mesmo tempo se apropriando e desrespeitando esse conhecimento tradicional. Uma atitude mais ética de pesquisadores implicaria reconhecer essa contribuição, desenvolver protocolos de pesquisa com participação indígena, registrar coautoria em publicações científicas, reconhecer propriedade intelectual e repartir eventuais lucros com tratamentos e patentes.

    “A complementaridade entre antropologia, psicanálise e psiquiatria é um dos desafios da etnopsiquiatria”, escrevem Schenberg e Gerber. “A iniciativa de levar ciência biomédica à floresta pode ser criticada como uma tentativa de medicalizar o xamanismo, mas também pode constituir uma possibilidade de diálogo intercultural centrado na inovação e na resolução de ‘redes de problemas’.”

    “É particularmente notável que a biomedicina se aventure agora em conceitos como ‘conexão’ e ‘identificação com a natureza’ [nature-relatedness] como efeito de psicodélicos, mais uma vez, portanto, se aproximando de conclusões epistêmicas derivadas de práticas xamânicas. O desafio final seria, assim, entender a relação entre bem-estar da comunidade e ecologia e como isso pode ser traduzido num conceito ocidental de saúde integrada.”

    As reações dos poucos a criticar abertamente o texto e suas ideias grandiosas podem ser resumidas num velho dito maldoso da academia: há coisas boas e novas no artigo, mas as coisas boas não são novas e as coisas novas não são boas. Levar EEG para a floresta do Acre, por exemplo, não resolveria todos os problemas.

    Schenberg é o elo de ligação entre o artigo na Transcultural Psychiatry e a Expedition Neuron, pois integrou a incursão ao Acre em 2019 e colabora nesse estudo de EEG com o pesquisador Tomas Palenicek, do Instituto Nacional de Saúde Mental da República Checa. Eis um vídeo de apresentação, em inglês:

    “Estamos engajados, Konstantin e eu, em projeto inovador com os Huni Kuin e pesquisadores europeus, buscando construir uma parceria epistemicamente justa, há mais de três anos”, respondeu Schenberg quando questionado sobre o cumprimento, pelo estudo com EEG, das exigências éticas apresentadas no artigo.

    Na apresentação da Expedition Neuron, ele afirma: “Nessa primeira expedição curta e exploratória [de 2019], confirmamos que há interesse mútuo de cientistas e uma cultura indígena tradicional da Amazônia em explorar conjuntamente a natureza da consciência e como sua cura tradicional funciona, incluindo –pela primeira vez– registros de atividade cerebral num cenário que muitos considerariam demasiado desafiador tecnicamente”.

    “Consideramos de supremo valor investigar conjuntamente como os rituais e medicinas dos Huni Kuin afetam a cognição humana, as emoções e os vínculos de grupo e analisar a base neural desses estados alterados de consciência, incluindo possivelmente experiências místicas na floresta.”

    Schenberg e seus colaboradores planejam nova expedição aos Huni Kuin para promover registros de EEG múltiplos e simultâneos com até sete indígenas durante cerimônias com ayahuasca. A ideia é testar a “possibilidade muito intrigante” de sincronia entre cérebros:

    “Interpretada pelos Huni Kuin e outros povos ameríndios como um tipo de portal para o mundo espiritual, a ayahuasca é conhecida por fortalecer intensa e rapidamente vínculos comunitários e sentimentos de empatia e proximidade com os outros.”

    Os propósitos de Schenberg e Gerber não convenceram a antropóloga brasileira Bia Labate, diretora do Instituto Chacruna em São Francisco (EUA). “Indígenas não parecem ter sido consultados para a produção do texto, não há vozes nativas, não são coautores, e não temos propostas específicas do que seria uma pesquisa verdadeiramente interétnica e intercultural.”

    Para a antropóloga, ainda que a Expedition Neuron tenha conseguido autorização para a pesquisa, algo positivo, não configura “epistemologia alternativa à abordagem cientificista e etnocêntrica”. Uma pesquisa interétnica, em sua maneira de ver, implicaria promover uma etnografia que levasse a sério a noção indígena de que plantas são espíritos, têm agência própria, e que o mundo natural também é cultural, tem subjetividade, intencionalidade.

    “Todos sabemos que a bebida ayahuasca não é a mesma coisa que ayahuasca freeze dried [liofilizada]; que o contexto importa; que os rituais e coletivos que participam fazem diferença. Coisas iguais ou análogas já haviam sido apontadas pela literatura antropológica, cujas referências foram deixadas de lado pelos autores.”

    Labate também discorda de que os estudos com ayahuasca no Brasil negligenciem o reconhecimento de quem chegou antes a ela: “Do ponto de vista global, é justamente uma marca e um diferencial da pesquisa científica brasileira o fato de que houve, sim, diálogo com participantes das religiões ayahuasqueiras. Estes também são sujeitos legítimos de pesquisa, e não apenas os povos originários”.

    Schenberg e Palenicek participaram em 2020 de um encontro com outra antropóloga, a franco-colombiana Emilia Sanabria, líder no projeto Encontros de Cura, do Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa Científica da França (CNRS). Ao lado do indígena Leopardo Yawa Bane, o trio debateu o estudo com EEG no painel virtual “Levando o Laboratório até a Ayahuasca”, da Conferência Interdisciplinar sobre Pesquisa Psicodélica (ICPR). Há vídeo disponível, em inglês:

    Sanabria, que fala português e conhece os Huni Kuin, chegou a ser convidada por Schenberg para integrar a expedição, mas declinou, por avaliar que não se resolveria a “incomensurabilidade epistemológica” entre o pensamento indígena e o que a biomedicina quer provar. Entende que a discussão proposta na Transcultural Psychiatry é importante, apesar de complexa e não exatamente nova.

    Em entrevista ao blog, afirmou que o artigo parece reinventar a roda, ao desconsiderar um longo debate sobre a assimilação de plantas e práticas tradicionais (como a medicina chinesa) pela ciência ocidental: “Não citam a reflexão anterior. É bom que ponham a discussão na mesa, mas há bibliografia de mais de um século”.

    A antropóloga declarou ver problema na postura do artigo, ao apresentar-se como salvador dos nativos. “Não tem interlocutor indígena citado como autor”, pondera, corroborando a crítica de Labate, como se os povos originários precisassem ser representados por não índios. “A gente te dá um espacinho aqui no nosso mundo.”

    A questão central de uma colaboração respeitosa, para Sanabria, é haver prioridade e utilidade no estudo também para os Huni Kuin, e não só para os cientistas.

    Ao apresentar esse questionamento no painel, recebeu respostas genéricas de Schenberg e Palenicek, não direta e concretamente benéficas para os Huni Kuin –por exemplo, que a ciência pode ajudar na rejeição de patentes sobre ayahuasca.

    Na visão da antropóloga, “é linda a ideia de levar o laboratório para condições naturalistas”, mas não fica claro como aquela maquinaria toda se enquadraria na lógica indígena. No fundo, trata-se de um argumento simétrico ao brandido pelos autores do artigo contra a pesquisa psicodélica em ambiente hospitalar: num caso se descontextualiza a experiência psicodélica total, socializada; no outro, é a descontextualização tecnológica que viaja e invade a aldeia.

    Sanabria vê um dilema quase insolúvel, para povos indígenas, na pactuação de protocolos de pesquisa com a renascida ciência psicodélica. O que em 2014 parecia para muitos uma nova maneira de fazer ciência, com outros referenciais de avaliação e prova, sofreu uma “virada capitalista” desde 2018 e terminou dominado pela lógica bioquímica e de propriedade intelectual.

    “Os povos indígenas não podem cair fora porque perdem seus direitos. Mas também não podem entrar [nessa lógica], porque aí perdem sua perspectiva identitária.”

    “Molecularizar na floresta ou no laboratório dá no mesmo”, diz Sanabria. “Não vejo como reparação de qualquer injustiça epistêmica. Não vejo diferença radical entre essa pesquisa e o estudo da Fernanda [Palhano-Fontes]”, referindo-se à crítica “agressiva” de Schenberg e Gerber ao teste clínico de ayahuasca para depressão no Instituto do Cérebro da UFRN, extensiva aos trabalhos da USP de Ribeirão Preto.

    A dupla destacou, por exemplo, o fato de autores do estudo da UFRN indicarem no artigo de 2019 que 4 dos 29 voluntários no experimento ficaram pelo menos uma semana internados no Hospital Universitário Onofre Lopes, em Natal. Lançaram, com isso, a suspeita de que a segurança na administração de ayahuasca tivesse sido inadequadamente tratada.

    “Nenhum desses estudos tentou formalmente comparar a segurança no ambiente de laboratório com qualquer um dos contextos culturais em que ayahuasca é comumente usada”, pontificaram Schenberg e Gerber. “Porém, segundo nosso melhor conhecimento, nunca se relatou que 14% das pessoas participantes de um ritual de ayahuasca tenham requerido uma semana de hospitalização.”

    O motivo de internação, contudo, foi trivial: pacientes portadores de depressão resistente a medicamentos convencionais, eles já estavam hospitalizados devido à gravidade de seu transtorno mental e permaneceram internados após a intervenção. Ou seja, a internação não teve a ver com terem tomado ayahuasca.

    Este blog também questionou Schenberg sobre o possível exagero em pinçar um erro que poderia ser de digitação (0,8 mg/ml ou 0,08 mg/ml), no artigo de 2015 da USP de Ribeirão, como flagrante de imprecisão que poria em dúvida a superioridade epistêmica da biomedicina psicodélica.

    “Se dessem mais atenção aos relatos dos voluntários/pacientes, talvez tivessem se percebido do fato”, retorquiu o pesquisador do Instituto Phaneros. “Além da injustiça epistêmica com os indígenas, existe a injustiça epistêmica com os voluntários/pacientes, que também discutimos brevemente no artigo.”

    Schenberg tem vários trabalhos publicados que se encaixariam no paradigma biomédico agora em sua mira. Seria seu artigo com Gerber uma autocrítica sobre a atividade pregressa?

    “Sempre fui crítico de certas limitações biomédicas e foi somente com muito esforço que consegui fazer meu pós-doc sem, por exemplo, usar um grupo placebo, apesar de a maioria dos colegas insistirem que assim eu deveria fazer, caso contrário ‘não seria científico’…”.

    “No fundo, o argumento é circular, usando a biomedicina como critério último para dar respostas à crítica à biomedicina”, contesta Bia Labate. “O texto não resolve o que se propõe a resolver, mas aprofunda o gap [desvão] entre epistemologias originárias e biomédicas ao advogar por novas maneiras de produzir biomedicina a partir de critérios de validação… biomédicos.”

    Weaving Indigenous knowledge into the scientific method (Nature)

    Saima May Sidik

    11 January 2022; Correction 24 January 2022

    Dominique David-Chavez working with Randal Alicea, a Caribbean Indigenous farmer, in his tobacco drying shed in Cidra, Borikén.
    Dominique David-Chavez works with Randal Alicea, an Indigenous farmer, in his tobacco-drying shed in Cidra, Borikén (Puerto Rico).Credit: Norma Ortiz

    Many scientists rely on Indigenous people to guide their work — by helping them to find wildlife, navigate rugged terrain or understand changing weather trends, for example. But these relationships have often felt colonial, extractive and unequal. Researchers drop into communities, gather data and leave — never contacting the locals again, and excluding them from the publication process.

    Today, many scientists acknowledge the troubling attitudes that have long plagued research projects in Indigenous communities. But finding a path to better relationships has proved challenging. Tensions surfaced last year, for example, when seven University of Auckland academics argued that planned changes to New Zealand’s secondary school curriculum, to “ensure parity between mātauranga Māori”, or Maori knowledge, and “other bodies of knowledge”, could undermine trust in science.

    Last month, the University of Auckland’s vice-chancellor, Dawn Freshwater, announced a symposium to be held early this year, at which different viewpoints can be discussed. In 2016, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) launched Navigating the New Arctic — a programme that encouraged scientists to explore the wide-reaching consequences of climate change in the north. A key sentence in the programme description reflected a shift in perspective: “Given the deep knowledge held by local and Indigenous residents in the Arctic, NSF encourages scientists and Arctic residents to collaborate on Arctic research projects.” The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have made similar statements. So, too, have the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

    But some Indigenous groups feel that despite such well-intentioned initiatives, their inclusion in research is only a token gesture to satisfy a funding agency.

    There’s no road map out of science’s painful past. Nature asked three researchers who belong to Indigenous communities in the Americas and New Zealand, plus two funders who work closely with Northern Indigenous communities, how far we’ve come toward decolonizing science — and how researchers can work more respectfully with Indigenous groups.

    DANIEL HIKUROA: Weave folklore into modern science

    Daniel Hikuroa is an Earth systems and environmental humanities researcher at Te Wānanga o Waipapa, University of Auckland, New Zealand, and a member of the Māori community.

    We all have a world view. Pūrākau, or traditional stories, are a part of Māori culture with great potential for informing science. But what you need to understand is that they’re codified according to an Indigenous world view.

    For example, in Māori tradition, we have these things called taniwha that are like water serpents. When you think of taniwha, you think, danger, risk, be on your guard! Taniwha as physical entities do not exist. Taniwha are a mechanism for describing how rivers behave and change through time. For example, pūrākau say that taniwha live in a certain part of the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest, running for 425 kilometres through the North Island. That’s the part of the river that tends to flood. Fortunately, officials took knowledge of taniwha into account when they were designing a road near the Waikato river in 2002. Because of this, we’ve averted disasters.

    Sometimes, it takes a bit of explanation to convince non-Indigenous scientists that pūrākau are a variation on the scientific method. They’re built on observations and interpretations of the natural world, and they allow us to predict how the world will function in the future. They’re repeatable, reliable, they have rigour, and they’re accurate. Once scientists see this, they have that ‘Aha!’ moment where they realize how well Western science and pūrākau complement each other.

    We’re very lucky in New Zealand because our funding agencies help us to disseminate this idea. In 2005, the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (which has since been incorporated into the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) developed a framework called Vision Mātauranga. Mātauranga is the Māori word for knowledge, but it also includes the culture, values and world view of Māori people. Whenever a scientist applies for funding, they’re asked whether their proposal addresses a Māori need or can draw on Māori knowledge. The intent of Vision Mātauranga is to broaden the science sector by unlocking the potential of Māori mātauranga.

    In the early days of Vision Mātauranga, some Indigenous groups found themselves inundated with last-minute requests from researchers who just wanted Indigenous people to sign off on their proposals to make their grant applications more competitive. It was enormously frustrating. These days, most researchers are using the policy with a higher degree of sophistication.

    Vision Mātauranga is at its best when researchers develop long-term relationships with Indigenous groups so that they know about those groups’ dreams and aspirations and challenges, and also about their skill sets. Then the conversation can coalesce around where those things overlap with the researchers’ own goals. The University of Waikato in Hamilton has done a great job with this, establishing a chief-to-chief relationship in which the university’s senior management meets maybe twice a year with the chiefs of the Indigenous groups in the surrounding area. This ongoing relationship lets the university and the Indigenous groups have high-level discussions that build trust and can inform projects led by individual labs.

    We’ve made great progress towards bridging Māori culture and scientific culture, but attitudes are still evolving — including my own. In 2011, I published my first foray into using Māori knowledge in science, and I used the word ‘integrate’ to describe the process of combining the two. I no longer use that word, because I think weaving is a more apt description. When you weave two strands together, the integrity of the individual components can remain, but you end up with something that’s ultimately stronger than what you started with.

    DOMINIQUE DAVID-CHAVEZ: Listen and learn with humility

    Dominique David-Chavez is an Indigenous land and data stewardship researcher at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and a member of the Arawak Taíno community.

    People often ask how can we integrate Indigenous knowledge into Western science. But framing the question in this way upholds the unhealthy power dynamic between Western and Indigenous scientists. It makes it sound as though there are two singular bodies of knowledge, when in fact Indigenous knowledge — unlike Western science — is drawn from thousands of different communities, each with its own knowledge systems.

    At school, I was taught this myth that it was European and American white men who discovered all these different physical systems on Earth — on land, in the skies and in the water. But Indigenous people have been observing those same systems for hundreds or thousands of years. When Western scientists claim credit for discoveries that Indigenous people made first, they’re stealing Indigenous people’s contributions to science. This theft made me angry, but it also drove me. I decided to undertake graduate studies so that I could look critically at how we validate who creates knowledge, who creates science and who are the scientists.

    To avoid perpetuating harmful power dynamics, researchers who want to work in an Indigenous people’s homeland should first introduce themselves to the community, explain their skills and convey how their research could serve the community. And they should begin the work only if the community invites them to. That invitation might take time to come! The researchers should also build in time to spend in the community to listen, be humbled and learn.

    If you don’t have that built-in relational accountability, then maybe you’re better off in a supporting role.

    Overall, my advice to Western researchers is this: always be questioning your assumptions about where science came from, where it’s going and what part you should be playing in its development.

    MARY TURNIPSEED: Fund relationship building and follow-ups

    Mary Turnipseed is an ecologist and grantmaker at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Palo Alto, California.

    I’ve been awarding grants in the Arctic since 2015, when I became a marine-conservation programme officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. A lesson I learnt early on about knowledge co-production — the term used for collaborations between academics and non-academics — is to listen. In the non-Indigenous parts of North America, we’re used to talking, but flipping that on its end helps us to work better with Indigenous communities.

    Listening to our Indigenous Alaskan Native partners is often how I know whether a collaboration is working well or not. If the community is supportive of a particular effort, that means they’ve been able to develop a healthy relationship with the researchers. We have quarterly check-ins with our partners about how projects are going; and, in non-pandemic times, I frequently travelled to Alaska to talk directly with our partners.

    One way in which we help to spur productive relationships is by giving research teams a year of preliminary funding — before they even start their research — so that they can work with Indigenous groups to identify the questions their research will address and decide how they’re going to tackle them. We really need more funding agencies to set aside money for this type of early relationship-building, so that everyone goes into a project with the same expectations, and with a level of trust for one another.

    People working on the Ikaaġvik Sikukun collaboration in the snow cutting on ice core samples.
    Members of the Ikaaġvik Sikukun collaboration at the Native Village of Kotzebue, Alaska.Credit: Sarah Betcher/Farthest North Films

    Developing relationships takes time, so it’s easiest when Indigenous communities have a research coordinator, such as Alex Whiting (environmental programme director for the Native Village of Kotzebue), to handle all their collaborations. I think the number of such positions could easily be increased tenfold, and I’d love to see the US federal government offer more funding for these types of position.

    Funding agencies should provide incentives for researchers to go back to the communities that they’ve worked with and share what they’ve found. There’s always talk among Indigenous groups about researchers who come in, collect data, get their PhDs and never show up again. Every time that happens, it hurts the community, and it hurts the next researchers to come. I think it’s essential for funding agencies to prevent this from happening.

    ALEX WHITING: Develop a toolkit to decolonize relationships

    Alex Whiting is an environmental specialist in Kotzebue, Alaska, and a formally adopted member of the Qikiktagrukmiut community.

    A lot of the time, researchers who operate in a colonial way aren’t aware of the harm they’re doing. But many people are realizing that taking knowledge without involving local people is not only unethical, but inefficient. In 1997, the Native Village of Kotzebue — a federally recognized seat of tribal government representing the Qikiktagrukmiut, northwest Alaska’s original inhabitants — hired me as its environmental programme director. I helped the community to develop a research protocol that lays out our expectations of scientists who work in our community, and an accompanying questionnaire.

    By filling in the one-page questionnaire, researchers give us a quick overview of what they plan to do; its relevance and potential benefit to our community; the need for local involvement; and how we’ll be compensated financially. This provides us with a tool through which to develop relationships with researchers, make sure that our priorities and rights are addressed, and hold researchers accountable. Making scientists think about how they’ll engage with us has helped to make research a more equitable, less extractive activity.

    We cannot force scientists to deal with us. It’s a free country. But the Qikiktagrukmiut are skilled at activities such as boating, travelling on snow and capturing animals — and those skills are extremely useful for fieldwork, as is our deep historical knowledge of the local environment. It’s a lot harder for scientists to accomplish their work without our involvement. Many scientists realize this, so these days we get 6–12 research proposals per year. We say yes to most of them.

    The NSF’s Navigating the New Arctic programme has definitely increased the number of last-minute proposals that communities such as ours get swamped with a couple of weeks before the application deadline. Throwing an Indigenous component into a research proposal at the last minute is definitely not an ideal way to go about things, because it doesn’t give us time to fully consider the research before deciding whether we want to participate. But at least the NSF has recognized that working with Indigenous people is a thing! They’re just in the growing-pains phase.

    Not all Indigenous groups have had as much success as we have, and some are still experiencing the extractive side of science. But incorporating Indigenous knowledge into science can create rapid growths in understanding, and we’re happy we’ve helped some researchers do this in a respectful way.

    NATAN OBED: Fund research on Indigenous priorities

    Natan Obed is president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and a member of the Inuit community.

    Every year, funding agencies devote hundreds of millions of dollars to work that occurs in the Inuit homeland in northern Canada. Until very recently, almost none of those agencies considered Inuit peoples’ priorities.

    These Indigenous communities face massive social and economic challenges. More than 60% of Inuit households are food insecure, meaning they don’t always have enough food to maintain an active, healthy life. On average, one-quarter as many doctors serve Inuit communities as serve urban Canadian communities. Our life expectancy is ten years less than the average non-Indigenous Canadian’s. The list goes on. And yet, very little research is devoted to addressing these inequities.

    Last year, the Inuit advocacy organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (the name means ‘Inuit are united in Canada’) collaborated with the research network ArcticNet to start its own funding programme, which is called the Inuit Nunangat Research Program (INRP). Funding decisions are led entirely by Inuit people to ensure that all grants support research on Inuit priorities. Even in the programme’s first year, we got more requests than we could fund. We selected 11 proposals that all relate directly to the day-to-day lives of Inuit people. For example, one study that we’re funding aims to characterize a type of goose that has newly arrived in northern Labrador; another focuses on how social interactions spread disease in Inuit communities.

    Our goal with the INRP is twofold: first, we want to generate knowledge that addresses Inuit concerns, and second, we want to create an example of how other granting agencies can change so that they respect the priorities of all groups. We’ve been moderately successful in getting some of the main Canadian granting agencies, such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to allocate more resources to things that matter to Inuit people. I’d like to think that the INRP gives them a model for how to become even more inclusive.

    We hope that, over the next ten years, it will become normal for granting agencies to consider the needs of Indigenous communities. But we also know that institutions change slowly. Looking back at where we’ve been, we have a lot to be proud of, but we still have a huge task ahead of us.

    These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

    For better science, increase Indigenous participation in publishing (Nature)

    10 January 2022

    Amending long-established processes to include fresh perspectives is challenging, but journal editor Lisa Loseto is trying to find a path forward.

    Saima May Sidik

    Lisa Loseto at a campfire, where she is shutting down a research site at a traditional whaling camp.
    Lisa Loseto stands by a campfire.Credit: Oksana Schimnowski

    Lisa Loseto is a research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a federal government department whose regional offices include one in Winnipeg, where she is based. Some of Northern Canada’s Indigenous people have shaped her research into how beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) interact with their environments, and have taught her to rethink her own part in the scientific method. As co-editor-in-chief of the journal Arctic Science since 2017, she is looking at ways to increase Indigenous representation in scientific publishing, including the editorial and peer-review processes.

    What got you thinking about the role of Indigenous people in scientific publishing?

    In 2020, Arctic Science published a special issue centred on knowledge co-produced by Western scientists and Indigenous people. As production of that issue progressed, the peer-review and editorial processes stuck out as aspects lacking Indigenous representation. We were soliciting papers to highlight the contributions of Indigenous knowledge — but the peer-review process was led by non-Indigenous editors like myself, and academics to review the articles. A few members of the editorial board thought, ‘Let’s talk about this and think about ways to provide more balance.’ We discussed the issue in a workshop that included representatives from several groups that are indigenous to Canada’s Arctic.

    What did the workshop reveal about the Indigenous participants’ perceptions of scientific publishing?

    For a lot of people, publishing seemed like a distant concept, so we explained how the editorial and peer-review processes work. We described peer review as a method for validating knowledge before it’s published, and many Indigenous participants recognized similarities between that process and one in their own lives: in the Arctic, each generation passes down knowledge of how to live in a harsh environment, and over time this knowledge is tested and refined. The Indigenous workshop participants said, “We would die if we didn’t have the peer-review process.”

    The scientific method used by Westerners is colonial: it emphasizes objectivity and performing experiments in the absence of outside influences. This mindset can feel alienating for many Indigenous people, who see themselves as integral parts of nature. This makes me think scientific publishing doesn’t fit an Indigenous framework.

    The dense jargon and idiosyncratic structures of scientific publications make them difficult for people without a formal scientific education to jump into. Even people training to become scientists often don’t get involved in publishing until they’re in graduate school because there’s so much background knowledge that they need to have first.

    If a journal article draws on Indigenous knowledge, should it include an Indigenous peer reviewer?

    Perhaps, but trying to force Indigenous perspectives into a process that was created to advance Western priorities can come with its own problems. Scientific publications serve the dual purposes of disseminating information and acting as a tool of measure for scientists’ careers. Most members of Indigenous groups aren’t concerned with building up their academic CVs; in fact, some are uncomfortable with being named as authors because they see their knowledge as part of a collective body, rather than belonging solely to themselves. So do publications have the same weight for Indigenous people? Maybe not. In light of this, is participating in this system really the best use of time for Indigenous people who aren’t in academia — especially when their communities are already overtaxed with researchers’ requests for guidance through prepublication aspects of performing research in remote areas?

    In Arviat, Nunavut, Canada, a local woman demonstrates historic tools used by Inuit, with a polar tent in background.
    Indigenous communities hold a wealth of knowledge that can advance science.Credit: Galaxiid/Alamy

    As an alternative to contributing to research articles, we’re considering starting a commentary section of Arctic Science. This could give more Indigenous people a venue to publish their views on the scientific process, and their observations of natural trends, in a less technical format.

    Can Indigenous journal editors help to bridge the divide between Indigenous people and academic publications?

    Yes, but there are very few Indigenous journal editors. Historically, editor positions have been reserved for senior scientists, and many senior scientists are white men. I’m trying to bring on more early-career scientists as editors, as this group is often more diverse. By moving away from offering these positions to only the most senior scientists, I think we’ll see a shift in demographics. At the same time, I don’t want to put the burden of bridging current divides entirely on Indigenous people. That job is for all of us.

    What is Arctic Science planning to do moving forward?

    My hope is to build an Indigenous advisory group that can advise Arctic Science on the peer-review process generally and consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether articles could benefit from an Indigenous peer reviewer. Beyond that, we’re still figuring out how to engage more people without being prescriptive about how they’re engaged.

    What do you hope these actions will achieve?

    Publications are power. Policy decisions are based on things that are written down and tangible: peer-reviewed papers and reports. Not only do scientific publications guide policy decisions, they also determine who gets money. The more you publish, and the better the journals you publish in, the more power you have.

    Indigenous communities have tremendous knowledge, but much of it is passed down orally rather than published in written form. I think the fact that Indigenous representation is weak in academia, including in publishing, upholds the power imbalance that exists between Indigenous people and settlers. I want to find a better balance.


    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Climate change: Voices from global south muted by climate science (BBC)

    By Matt McGrath
    Environment correspondent

    October 6, 2021

    climate researcher

    Climate change academics from some of the regions worst hit by warming are struggling to be published, according to a new analysis.

    The study looked at 100 of the most highly cited climate research papers over the past five years.

    Less than 1% of the authors were based in Africa, while only 12 of the papers had a female lead researcher.

    The lack of diverse voices means key perspectives are being ignored, says the study’s author.

    Researchers from the Carbon Brief website examined the backgrounds of around 1,300 authors involved in the 100 most cited climate change research papers from 2016-2020.

    They found that some 90% of these scientists were affiliated with academic institutions from North America, Europe or Australia.

    Issues of concern to African climate researchers were in danger of being ignored

    The African continent, home to around 16% of the world’s population had less than 1% of the authors according to the analysis.

    There were also huge differences within regions – of the 10 authors from Africa, eight of them were from South Africa.

    When it comes to lead authors, not one of the top 100 papers was led by a scientist from Africa or South America. Of the seven papers led by Asian authors, five were from China.

    “If the vast majority of research around climate change is coming from a group of people with a very similar background, for example, male scientists from the global north, then the body of knowledge that we’re going to have around climate change is going to be skewed towards their interests, knowledge and scientific training,” said Ayesha Tandon from Carbon Brief, who carried out the analysis and says that “systemic bias” is at play here.

    “One study noted that a lot of our understanding of climate change is biased towards cooler climates, because it’s mainly carried out by scientists who live in the global north in cold climates,” she added.

    There are a number of other factors at play that limit the opportunities for researchers from the global south. These include a lack of funding for expensive computers to run the computer models, or simulations, that are the bedrock of much climate research.

    Other issues include a different academic culture where teaching is prioritised over research, as well as language barriers and a lack of access to expensive libraries and databases.

    Ice research
    Most of the leading papers on climate change were published by institutions in the global north

    Even where researchers from better-off countries seek to collaborate with colleagues in the developing world, the efforts don’t always work out well.

    One researcher originally from Tanzania but now working in Mexico explained what can happen.

    “The northern scientist often brings his or her own grad students from the north, and they tend to view their local partners as facilitators – logistic, cultural, language, admin – rather than science collaborators,” Dr Tuyeni Mwampamba from the Institute of Ecosystems and Sustainability Research in Mexico told Carbon Brief.

    Researchers from the north are often seen as wanting to extract resources and data from developing nations without making any contribution to local research, a practice sometimes known as “helicopter science”.

    For women involved in research in the global south there are added challenges in getting your name on a scientific paper

    Women in science
    A scientist at work in Cote D’Ivoire

    “Women tend to have a much higher dropout rate than men as they progress through academia,” said Ayesha Tandon.

    “But then women also have to contend with stereotypes and sexism, and even just cultural norms in their country or from the upbringing that might prevent them from spending as much time on their science or from pursuing it in the way that men do.”

    The analysis suggests that the lack of voices from women and from the global south is hampering the global understanding of climate change.

    Solving the problem is not going to be easy, according to the author.

    “This is a systemic problem and it will progress and keep getting worse, because people in positions of power will continue to have those privileges,” said Ayesha Tandon.

    “It’s a problem that will not just go away on its own unless people really work at it.”

    Estudantes produzem dicionário biográfico Excluídos da História (Agência Brasil)

    Olimpíada de história do Brasil foi criada em 2009 na Unicamp

    Publicado em 15/08/2020 – 18:49 Por Akemi Nitahara – Repórter da Agência Brasil – Rio de Janeiro

    Do cacique Tibiriçá, nascido antes de 1500 e batizado pelos jesuítas como Martim Afonso de Sousa, que teve papel importante na fundação da cidade de São Paulo a Jackson Viana de Paula dos Santos, jovem escritor nascido em Rio Branco (AC) no ano 2000, fundador da Academia Juvenil de Letras e representante da região norte na Brazil Conference, em Harvard.

    Essas são as duas pontas de uma linha do tempo que busca contar a história de importantes personagens brasileiros que estão fora dos livros oficiais, num total de 2.251 verbetes, publicados agora como dicionário biográfico Excluídos da História.

    O trabalho foi feito pelos 6.753 estudantes que participaram da quinta fase da Olimpíada Nacional em História do Brasil (ONHB) do ano passado, entre os dias 3 e 8 de junho de 2019, divididos em equipes de três participantes cada.

    A olimpíada foi criada em 2009 pela Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) e reúne atualmente mais de 70 mil estudantes dos ensinos fundamental e médio em uma maratona de busca pelo conhecimento em história do Brasil. A competição tem cinco fases online, com duração de uma semana cada, e uma prova para os finalistas das equipes mais bem pontuadas para definir os medalhistas.

    Começou com samba

    A Olimpíada Nacional em História do Brasil (ONHB) é um projeto que iniciou no ano de 2009, no âmbito do Museu Exploratório de Ciências da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) e que prossegue sendo elaborado por docentes e pós-graduandos

    O dicionário biográfico Excluídos da História foi feito pelos estudantes que participaram da quinta fase da Olimpíada Nacional em História do Brasil (ONHB), iniciativa criada em 2009 pela Unicamp  Divulgação/Unicamp/Direitos Reservados

    A coordenadora da Olimpíada Nacional em História do Brasil, Cristina Meneguello, explica que a história do dicionário começou a partir do samba enredo da Estação Primeira de Mangueira, escola campeã do carnaval carioca no ano passado, que levou para a Sapucaí o enredo História para Ninar Gente Grande.

    Os versos abriram alas para os “heróis de barracões” com “versos que o livro apagou” para contar “a história que a história não conta” e mostrar “um país que não está no retrato” e o “avesso do mesmo lugar”. Versos que caíram no gosto popular antes mesmo do desfile oficial, sendo tocado em blocos de rua e rodas de samba pela cidade.

    Segundo Cristina, a discussão sobre os excluídos da história foi intensa entre os historiadores depois do carnaval no ano passado e o tema permeou toda a competição, que começou no dia 6 de maio.

    “Logo na primeira fase da prova a gente fez uma pergunta usando o próprio samba enredo da Mangueira. A gente usa documentos variados, letra de música, propaganda, documentos históricos mais clássicos, imagens, etc. A gente já tinha definido que esse seria o tema da tarefa deles para a quinta fase e fomos colocando as perguntas para eles irem entendendo o tema desde a primeira fase”, lembra.

    De acordo com a professora, originalmente não havia a intenção de se publicar o material produzido pelos estudantes. Porém, diante da riqueza e diversidade das pesquisas apresentadas, a coordenação decidiu compartilhar o material com professores, estudantes e todos os interessados, disponibilizando o conteúdo online.

    “A gente já sabia que ia ficar uma tarefa muito boa, porque esse conhecimento que eles produzem a partir da escola é sempre muito surpreendente. Mas teve uma série de fatores. O primeiro foi que realmente ficou muito bom o trabalho realizado pelos participantes. Depois, o template que foi criado, com essas quatro páginas como se fosse de um livro didático, ficou um design muito bom e ganhou a medalha de prata no Brasil Design Award no ano passado, como design de sistema educativo”.

    Personagens desconhecidos

    A escolha do personagem era livre para os estudantes, dentro do critério de ser importante para a história do Brasil e não ser lembrado nos livros didáticos. Cristina diz que o resultado surpreendeu a organização, com verbetes sobre pessoas com importância local e regional, inclusive muitos ainda vivos, mostrando que os participantes entenderam que a história é construída continuamente por personagens diversos, inclusive os que não são apontados pelos historiadores.

    “Superou nossa expectativa. Nós observamos que esses personagens desconhecidos são personagens negros, são mulheres importantes para a história do Brasil, são mulheres negras, são líderes locais. Muitos fizeram o verbete de pessoas que estão vivas. São líderes indígenas, pessoas perseguidas na ditadura militar, professores que foram censurados na ditadura militar. Temos de personagens do Brasil colônia até pessoas que estão vivas nesses verbetes”.

    Alguns personagens foram lembrados por mais de um grupo, portanto, há verbetes repetidos no dicionário, mas que trazem abordagens diferentes sobre a mesma pessoa.

    O grupo da estudante Juliana Kreitlon Pereira foi um dos dois que escreveram sobre Mercedes Baptista, a primeira bailarina negra do Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro.

    A sugestão da personagem foi feita por Juliana, que estava no último ano da Escola Estadual de Dança Maria Olenewa e conheceu a história de Mercedes Baptista pelo professor de História da Dança Paulo Melgaço, semanas antes do desafio da olimpíada.

    “A Mercedes sempre fez questão de trazer a dança brasileira para os palcos. Foi uma das coisas que mais me chamou atenção. Ela trabalhou com a Katherine Dunham, uma pesquisadora de movimento e coreógrafa dos Estados Unidos. A Mercedes viu o quanto a gente precisava desse tipo de estudo no Brasil também. Ela recorreu a vários movimentos culturais, coisas que já ocorriam no Brasil mas não tinham holofote. E ela sempre quis trazer bastante atenção para isso”.

    Falecida em 2014, Mercedes teve sua estátua inaugurada em 2016 no Largo da Prainha, no circuito Pequena África da zona portuária do Rio de Janeiro.

    Juliana se diz muito feliz com a publicação do dicionário online. “Eu não sabia que seria publicado. A gente se esforçou tanto, eu li o livro dela inteiro, até porque era muito interessante. Pensei, poxa, não vai acontecer nada. Quando foi publicado eu fiquei muito feliz porque mais pessoas poderiam conhecer essa bailarina”.

    Já a equipe do estudante Lucas do Herval Costa Teles de Menezes decidiu escrever sobre um personagem que representasse o Rio de Janeiro e estivesse presente no cotidiano, mas que as pessoas não percebessem. Um personagem que não tivesse sido completamente apagado da história. O escolhido tem um feriado municipal em sua homenagem em Niterói e dá nome à estação das barcas que chegam do Rio de Janeiro e à praça em frente a ela, onde tem uma estátua: o indígena temiminó Araribóia.

    “Eu achei interessante a dinâmica que o personagem teve com os povos estrangeiros, no caso, os portugueses e os franceses. Porque, geralmente, quando a gente aprende sobre a relação dos povos indígenas e os povos europeus invasores, a gente não pensa muito em identificar esses povos indígenas, nunca aprende sobre a história individual de uma figura indígena. Eu achei que ele teve uma história individual muito interessante, foi uma figura de liderança, teve muito envolvimento em mais de uma narrativa política daquela época, e isso me chamou atenção.”

    O grupo de Lucas foi o único a lembrar de Araribóia, conhecido como fundador de Niterói e figura fundamental na disputa entre portugueses e franceses que levou à expulsão destes.


    A 12ª edição da Olimpíada Nacional em História do Brasil está com inscrições abertas até o dia 7 de setembro. Podem se inscrever equipes de três estudantes de 8º e 9º anos do ensino fundamental e todos os anos do ensino médio, com a orientação de um professor ou uma professora, de escolas públicas e particulares.

    Diferentemente da maioria das olimpíadas científicas, a ONHB estimula a busca pelo conhecimento em história, e não avaliar o que o estudante já sabe por meio de uma prova.

    “É um sistema de aprendizagem participar de olimpíadas. Ela é muito exigente e não quer aferir se os estudantes já sabem, ela dá tempo para eles estudarem, perguntam para o professor, perguntam uns para os outros. Tem uma pergunta de uma coisa que ele nunca ouviu falar, não viu na escola. Mas do lado tem um texto, ele lê, se informa, pesquisa na internet e volta para responder. Nesse processo ele aprendeu história. Eu não estou muito interessada se ele já sabia, mas se ele aprendeu naquele momento, o nosso objetivo pedagógico é esse”, afirma Cristina Meneguello.

    A primeira edição da ONHB, em 2009, contou com 15 mil participantes. No ano passado, o número chegou a 73 mil. Por causa da pandemia de covid-19, a competição deste ano será online, não havendo a prova presencial para os finalistas que normalmente é aplicada na Unicamp.

    As fases são compostas por questões de múltipla escolha e uma tarefa que será corrigida por outros grupos. Serão escolhidas 400 equipes finalistas, o dobro do usual, com distribuição de 20 medalhas de ouro, 30 de prata e 40 de bronze, que serão enviadas para as escolas.

    Ouça na Radioagência Nacional

    Edição: Lílian Beraldo