Eagerly discriminated against by the
American Geophysical Union
“Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” An awards committee of the American Geophysical Union, assigned to give fellowships to scientists of note, decided to reject all the candidates this year because they happened to be white.
Five of the nation’s top ice scientists found themselves in a conundrum. They’d been tasked with a formidable job: reviewing candidates for the American Geophysical Union’s fellows program, the most prestigious award given by the world’s largest earth and space science society. But when the group looked at its list of candidates, all nominated by peers, it spotted a problem.
Every nominee on the list was a white man.
….“That was kind of a bit of a showstopper for me,” said Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the five committee members. Fricker and her colleagues — Jeff Dozier, Sinead Farrell, Bob Hawley, Don Perovich and Michele Koppes — represented the AGU’s cryosphere section, comprising scientists focused on the Earth’s snow and ice. The group was just one of about two dozen different committees, all reviewing their own lists of candidates.
The homogeneous pool of nominees didn’t sit right. … So the committee members made an uncomfortable decision. They declined to recommend any nominees at all.
Let me make this very clear: They bluntly rejected the nominees for only one reason: their race. If this isn’t outright bigotry and racism I do not know what is. And if you don’t believe me, you should read the public letter these committee members wrote explaining their decision. In it they say:
Looking closely at the number of nominations received a concerning trend emerges (figure 1). In 2016, fully 45% of nominees were female. In 2021, this number was 6%. The intervening years showed a dramatic and disturbing decrease. Of course it should be acknowledged that all of the numbers involved here are small but the trend is troubling and one that we feel must be urgently reversed.
We realize that our decision means that excellent scientists who have done nothing wrong and who were strong candidates for recommendation by the Cryosphere section were denied the support of the Cryosphere Fellows committee at the AGU Union Fellows level this year.
Because not enough women and minorities had been recommended, something had to be done. Rather than recommend that women and minorities up their game so that they deserve recognition, these scientific bigots instead denied an award to qualified scientists because they happened to be white. And their plan for the future?
The Cryosphere Executive Committee will convene a Canvassing Committee, with the charge of ensuring a strong and diverse pool of nominations, not just for AGU Fellowship, but for all of AGU’s honors and awards.
Note that the plan isn’t aimed at helping minorities and women do better so they might qualify for the awards. It is instead aimed at guaranteeing a quota of those minorities and women as nominees. Actual achievement can go to hell.
I think all scientists at the AGU should now identify as either black or female or gay. That will get them nominated and awarded. Who cares whether their research work is ground-breaking or brilliant. It’s only their race, sex, or minority ethnicity that counts!
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