Editor's Note

Science will suffer

Comfort Dorn
June 1, 2023

“We are constantly told that we are bringing politics into science or creating identity politics. Our identity is not political; our identity is politicized. Who we are is a matter of debate because people want to debate our rights.” —Alfredo Carpineti, Pride in STEM

When the ASBMB Today staff started thinking about a feature article to anchor our first Pride Issue, we zeroed in on the recent crop of laws targeting LGBTQIA+ rights. We wondered if these laws were having an impact on the career decisions of our members. How were universities and other institutions responding to this flurry of legislation? If a scientist or a member of their family was in the targeted community, would they avoid working in states that had passed or were considering these laws?

It seemed straightforward. We have members all over the country — some in leadership positions at universities in affected states. I figured we could just have a writer call them up and get the scoop.

But people did not want to talk. Or if they did, they didn’t want to be named. I was told by a number of members — including straight, cis-gender scientists living and working in states unaffected by the new laws — that the subject was toxic or radioactive. These folks are afraid of losing their jobs.

The politicians who put those laws on the books have done more than restrict drag shows and penalize trans kids and their families. They have created a climate of fear, and even the most powerful faculty members in the bluest of states do not feel safe.

I’m so grateful to the people who went on the record. Standing up in this climate is risky. And we are less likely to speak up on issues we think don’t directly affect us or the people around us. Many in the LGBTQIA+ community choose to stay quiet about their identities, so it might be hard to tell if state politics are influencing the next move of someone in your lab.

Importantly, as talented researchers choose to settle in states where they feel safer, the divide between have and have-not universities will only widen. And science will suffer.

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Comfort Dorn

Comfort Dorn is the managing editor of ASBMB Today.

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