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2021 SACNAS Conference: Promoting Inclusive and Ethical Science

By: France-Elvie Banda
Thursday, November 11, 2021
The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) kicked off its weeklong conference celebrating true diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields on October 25-29. The overarching theme this year advocated for ethical science and highlighted the benefits of Black, Indigenous, and scientists of color bringing their full identities to STEM in order to produce more inclusive science.

The conference opened with land acknowledgements, reminding participants that land is sacred and many indigenous lands remain unceded. The opening ceremony also emphasized the historic relationship between indigeneity and science, placing power in indigenous communities to share their own methods of scientific discovery. Through this introduction, SACNAS opened with an important message on the need for STEM to decolonize by valuing scientific knowledge production in nonwestern spaces.

Featured speakers Desi Small Rodriguez, PhD, and Alfredo QuiƱones-Hinojosa, PhD, exemplified the importance of the SACNAS phrase, “Bringing Your Whole Self,” as they shared the trajectory of their careers and professional motivations. Rodriguez, a social demographer, indigenous and Chicano woman, and self-proclaimed data warrior, presented The Collaboratory for Indigenous Data Governance as a solution to conducting ethical science that prioritizes indigenous voices and community concerns. The collaboratory seeks to merge science and decolonization while by promoting indigenous data sovereignty through multidisciplinary research and policy. QuiƱones-Hinojosa, neurologist and William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professor, drew on his experiences as a migrant worker from a poor family to establish Mission: Brain (Bridging Resources and Advancing International Neuroscience), which provides neurosurgical expertise and resources to patients who live in communities with limited money, resources, and training to treat difficult neurosurgical diseases.

As FASEB celebrates Native American Heritage Month, we also highlight indigenous people’s historic and continued contribution to science. As SACNAS promotes, a continued paradigm shift toward inclusivity is needed to ensure future scientific discoveries do not further exclude already marginalized communities and scientific communities of color are valued equitably.