Many in the scientific world celebrate the fact that two women received the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry this year. Donna Strickland and Frances Arnold are only the 20th and 21st Researchers to be recognized by the Nobel Committee.
Yet in over 100 years, we have never seen a black scientist become a Nobel laureate.
Each year, the annual Nobel Prize Announcements coincide with Black History Month, a painful reminder that out of more than 900 Nobel Laureates alone 14 (1.5%) were black. and none in science.
Almost all black winners were rewarded for their work in the fields of peace (ten) and literature (three). During this period, the closest black scientist to win is that of sociologist Arthur Lewis for his work on the economy in 1973.
In contrast, there were more than 70 Asian laureates, the majority in science, and since 2000, this number has significantly increased .
This is partly due to the growing influence and rise of Japanese, Chinese and Korean universities and to the success of the American Academy of Asian origin . To win a Nobel Prize in Science, it is useful for you to be in a prestigious institution and able to lead large, expensive sciences.
The main reason why no black scientist has won a Nobel Prize is simply a question of numbers. There are not enough brilliant blacks who choose science.
Beside the more limited possibilities for Black Africans Blacks of Western countries have less chances to study science less likely to obtain a higher diploma . less likely to progress in scientific careers .
To be considered a possible Nobel laureate, you must become a principal investigator or professor in a major institution. Yet once a black science graduate rises to the top of the university ladder, he faces the same challenges as any other black academic in access to promotion and access to resources. For example, we know that black American scientists are less likely to receive funding for health research .
To become a teacher, you need the support of your institution and to find at least four existing faculty at other institutions that will support your application and certify that you are a leader of your international renown.
This requires building large internal and external networks. For many reasons there are not enough black academics working in institutions where such reputations and networks are established, which greatly reduces the possibility of being promoted to the rank of professor.
It is also a circular problem. It seems very likely that the perception that blacks do not reach the highest level of science has, in some respects, affected the success of blacks in science.
Research suggests that female models may encourage women to pursue a scientific career, and it seems is likely to be true for blacks. Having a black Nobel laureate would encourage more black students to become black professors which would encourage more young blacks to study science.
During my own undergraduate studies, many courses began with a professor describing the inspiring work of a Nobel laureate, who was usually a white man. These people were raised to superhuman status, people we should aspire to because their work had transcended the field . This has clearly challenged me because it has strengthened my desire to become a scientist.
But at the same time, as a black student, reaching that level of success or even anything along this path seemed far farther since there had been never had a black winner on the list.
Although this did not discourage me, I am convinced that it had an impact not only on me, but also on my white classmates and especially my guardians, and later, my university employers and those who award grants for research. A black Nobel laureate would have allowed them to better see me as a potential candidate and treat me accordingly.
Why we need action
More black scientists would not only be a victory for equality but would benefit society as a whole. For example, diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many others have a higher incidence in people of black or African descent. Yet, research is often biased in favor of on Whites .
More black scientists, particularly in senior positions, could better target, better understand, and provide different insights into research into these conditions. They could also help direct the decolonization of science, again with wider benefits to society .
So, how can we increase the chances that a black scientist will become a Nobel laureate? We can not wait for Africa to have the same political and economic power as Asia. Looking at the 49 Nobel Laureates, of whom only 21 were scientists and only 3 in physics, we see a similar challenge.
But with the advent of many successful campaigns supported by political action to increase the number of women in science, especially in the main institutions and leadership positions, number of women winners will likely increase significantly. If we want more black scientists and, eventually, Nobel laureates, it is urgent to take a similar direct strategic action.
This article is republished from The Conversation of Winston Morgan Reader in Toxicology and Clinical Biochemistry, of the University of East London under a license Creative Commons. Read the article original .