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Black History Month: Sharing news of Achievement, Innovation & Inspiration in STEM and other fields

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Blacks In Tech 28 to Innovate Black History Month Celebration

It is easier to cultivate a pre-existing interest in STEM fields than create it where none exists, states the report…Of the STEM disciplines, male students tend to gravitate toward fields of engineering and technology, while females far prefer science fields, including chemistry, biology, environmental science, and marine biology…Ethnically, Asian Americans express the highest interest in STEM fields, both currently and historically. Before 2001, African Americans held the second-highest rank, but since then their interest has plummeted nearly 30 percent and is now lower than any other ethnicity, the report states. ~ The Science Subjects that Attract High School Students January 31, 2013 at Under the Microscope. (emphasis mine)

Addressing this decline in interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) will take a lot of hands on deck. I know I have been on one lately: orating and blogging passionately about integrating STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) into the African-American Experience. And I put a lot of onus on the media community.  That is because so many people depend on news services to hip us to what matters and what is interesting.  Science and Math are serious subjects, but they can be fun and interesting, too. I see no reason why they couldn’t be as much apart of the light news fare as entertainment or gossip.

So when I say the tweet from The Loop 21 Announcing #Top10 Things You Need To Know for Tuesday that included a hook to the list mentioning Ray Lewis & Donald Trump and did a face palm. The list was interesting, including sound bites of current events including 2 references to Technology, an obvious Super Bowl nod, some entertainment including 2 pictures of Beyonce, but only one reference to science. So I asked, What do I have to do to get The Loop 21 to include Science, Education and Environment News on its #Top10 You Need To Know Daily list. I was happy to see others jump on board.

I thought about the VERY insightful comment by Dr. Katerine Ellington, Author of World House Medicine, Twitter @katellington

Public science education is likely to be more effective with downstream strategic collaborations and partnerships reaching African American and other minority communities. Host a few talks/interviews and pose this dilemma with folks like Henry Louis Gates, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Melissa Harris Perry, Serbino Sandifer-Wal, Navarro Wright and Tristan Walker. Publish these stories and look to move Scientific American into Huffington Post Black Voices, The Root, MSNBC, The Griot and get their take on the “2012 Top 10 Stories in Science & Medicine for African Americans To Read” to demonstrate exemplar reporting.

She is so right. We have got to force these conversations some how.  But first, we have got to have fodder for people to discuss in order to get people to think of their own Top Stories in Science/Medicine/Education/etc.  So, instead of writing Science & Black History Month posts, I want to help spread the word of great posts that already exist about Science & Tech and get these news organizations to take notice and start featuring this kind of news more.

Friends on Twitter and Facebook have been share interesting, relevant, engaging news of Black Achievement/Innovation/Participation in STEM, Education, Environment and who host of other enlightening topics. But they aren’t getting any play.



This darling girl and her app are NEWS! I want to see this on the news feed! Photo credit: HARAMBEE INSTITUTE

Black Geek Week at University of Illinois – a celebration of Black Comics, Afro-futurist Artists, and Sci-fi
1st grader, Zora Ball Creates a Model App Video Game
Anyone from the Blacks in Technology 28 Days Innovate List

Wouldn’t any of these stories make great headlines on The Loop 21 Facebook news feed or The Root Twitter timeline or on the online versions of Ebony Magazine?

I’ve heard that they don’t share more of ‘this’ kind of news because there is no demand for it. Let’s show them that that isn’t true. Or that the advertisers baulk because people don’t flock to more serious news. Let’s show them that balanced media is always well-received by audiences. Or my favorite – they are not aware of these news stories because their staffs are already stretched. So, let’s hand them all of the enlightening science, education, environment and feel-good stories of African-American pioneers and tastemakers of today that they will reconsider their staffing options for the entire year?

Will you join us?  Let’s kick it off!

I already share links via Twitter with my readers. I will now cc news organizations like BET, Ebony/Jet , and PR Newswire African-American to ‘alert’ them of this new news.

Next, I will do Link Round ups of interesting science and STEM-related posts I come across the web. I am asking my partners in Better Media Literacy (+ you) to join me. Drop those links, please! Host link round ups on topics in your area of expertise that you wished got more coverage. Then let’s link to each other and re-tweet like crazy!

Perhaps we should email editors, too? What do you all think? In the meantime, please drop those links to stories and offer any other news organizations worth tweeting to.

Thank you.

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. neilrued 10:38 am 02/6/2013

    I’m wondering if anyone has asked the African American kids what would encourage them to get interested in STEM?

    Is a lack of STEM characters in film or TV who are of African American descent of significance?

    For example, the popular TV show the Big Bang Theory has no African American actors playing scientists or engineers as regulars.

    Or could it be that African American kids get put off by STEM careers because they perceive such careers to be insufficiently lucrative? May be interesting to see if African American kids have more of an interest in studying Law, Accounting, Business or Management because these careers may offer higher salaries?

    I have a degree in Electrical Engineering, and I recall on my first week at University, the lecturers advising us if we signed on thinking we’d make substantial salaries as Engineers, that we were mistaken, and should re-enrol into Law, Accounting or Business degrees. If I recall correctly, students enrolled to do a Science degree were told the same, and those wanting to study Mathematics were told to compete for the coveted places in the Mathematics of Finance, with the hope of earning a six figure salary.

    I opted to graduate as an Electrical Engineer because I enjoyed the subject, but now that I’ve been unemployed for almost four years as a result of companies outsourcing jobs to China, I wonder if I’d made the correct choice. Perhaps today’s youngsters are savvier than my generation and avoid STEM because they’re afraid of long term unemployment?

    Link to this
  2. 2. Pauli 8:03 pm 02/10/2013

    I am an engineer and I have witnessed many people drop out or switch their majors. Some cited money as the factor. Others cited an enjoyment of the other careers. But, on a personal level most admitted that the reason was that they were simply not intelligent enough to handle these careers and wanted less demanding careers like law and finance. The problem is particularly bad for African Americans and women, affirmative action allows those who lack the required level of intelligence (measured by the SAT) in.

    Author- feel free to Watson this comment if you want.

    Link to this

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