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DAILY DOSE: New York City struggles to return to pre-pandemic economic normalcy; Inequities abound in Indian science.


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Science is notorious for reflecting the inequities prevalent in society, though the particulars differ depending on the country. An article in The Wire India goes through the challenges facing scientists in the country,

The size of the gap between the haves and have-nots in science is, in this way among others, on the increase within India, as much as they also exist between scientists in economically developing and developed nations. In India, this rot is spreading in the case of awards and academy fellowships inasmuch as in the appointments to faculty, vice-chancellor and director posts – based more often than not on the whims of the political parties in power in states or in the Union government.

In science, the burden of proving one’s mettle begins from being able to publish in glamorous journals because publications and citations form the building blocks of status in science. Here also there are roadblocks for ordinary scientists who don’t enjoy the support of a powerful peer group and thus find their goals frustratingly out of reach. This group also suffers a double whammy: its members seldom have as much money for their research as they should have had, and on top of this financial inadequacy, they are also often in a position where they are expected to pay to publish their findings.

The exorbitant “article publishing charges” that several scientific journals levy ultimately lock these researchers out of the fruits of their labour. Imposing fees to publish will naturally drive less-well-funded researchers to less reputable journals, turning them into the children of a lesser god.

Points well made and taken. What’s more, India is certainly not alone. There are a whole host of researchers in developing countries in Asia and Africa who barely have access to the scientific literature necessary to keep pace with modern science.

Just to prove how unequal, uneven, and unfair the scientific landscape really is, an article cites a study that established that famous researchers are significantly more likely to have their papers published simply because of their names and reputations, regardless of the paper’s quality. Per Science,

Yes, having a big name in science will help get your paper published, an unusually robust new study confirms. Just 10% of reviewers of a test paper recommended acceptance when the sole listed author was obscure—but 59% endorsed the same manuscript when it carried the name of a Nobel laureate.

The study, which involved recruiting hundreds of researchers to review an economics manuscript, is “incredible,” says Mario Malicˇki, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and editor-in-chief of Research Integrity and Peer Review, who was not involved in the research. “It is the largest randomized controlled trial we have seen on publication bias.”

This really just makes you question how well the current peer review system actually works and whether there are alternatives or at least ways of improving things.

The Covid-19 pandemic may be ebbing to a more manageable level and parts of the country may be nearing pre-pandemic levels of normalcy, but that doesn’t mean everyone is experiencing such a smooth return to business as usual. New York City, for all of the strides it has made towards recovery, is still struggling. Per the New York Times,

... the bustling surface obscures a lingering wound from the pandemic. While the country as a whole has recently regained all of the jobs it lost early in the health crisis, New York City is still missing 176,000, representing the slowest recovery of any major metropolitan area, according to the latest employment data.

New York relies more than other cities on international tourists, business travelers and commuters, whose halting return has weighed on the workers who cater to them — from bartenders and baggage handlers, to office cleaners and theater ushers. A majority of the lost private sector jobs have been concentrated in the hospitality and retail industries, traditional pipelines into the work force for younger adults, immigrants and residents without a college degree.

By contrast, overall employment in industries that allow for remote work, such as the technology sector, is back at prepandemic levels.

Making things more complicated, the new hybrid work environment is preventing office buildings from reaching full capacity, further depressing the service industry rebound.

Public health officials are worried that with the global monkeypox outbreak waning in developed countries, other countries in Africa will be left to fend for themselves once again. Let it be said that this wasn’t entirely unexpected. Per the Associated Press,

With monkeypox cases subsiding in Europe and parts of North America, many scientists say now is the time to prioritize stopping the virus in Africa.

In July, the U.N. health agency designated monkeypox as a global emergency and appealed to the world to support African countries so that the catastrophic vaccine inequity that plagued the outbreak of COVID-19 wouldn’t be repeated.

But the global spike of attention has had little impact on the continent. No rich countries have shared vaccines or treatments with Africa, and some experts fear interest may soon evaporate.

Again, not totally unexpected. Still, it’s disappointing. Hopefully, African nations receive the aid they need, especially with an African heading the World Health Organization.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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