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The Pedagogy of Race: The Peking Union Medical College and Its Effects on Chinese Socio-Medical Scientific Discourse, 1912-1949

May 15, 2024

In 1906, the Peking Union Medical College was established in Republican China. Together with the Rockefeller Foundation's China Medical Board and the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture, the Republican Chinese government promoted the expansion of all areas of research and education. Between the 1920s and 1940s, Chinese biologists, eugenicists, among others began to make serious contributions not just to Chinese science but also to global science. Led by imported eugenicists like Edmund Cowdry and Alex Hrdlicka, many PUMC projects were preoccupated with analyzing China's "racial problems," especially the pressing question whether miscegenation ought to be encouraged or discouraged. The most ambitious of these projects, the Collection of Chinese Embryos, was an undertaking dedicated to sustained analysis of Chinese biological data. Using cutting-edge research from racial embryology, PUMC anatomists measured the biodata of donated Chinese embryonic specimens and attempted to draw conclusions about the "Mongoloid" typology as well as whether Chinese-white mixes displayed "hybrid vigor" or "enfeeblement" – the scientific terms for the conditions of mixed-race offspring at the time. Although the project ultimately failed – in part due to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, and partly due to the poor medical infrastructure across Republican China – it reflected a successful effort at tying Chinese medical development with the wider (specifically North American) scientific project of race research. Archival materials in the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), including correspondence, annual reports, personnel biographic information, and oral history materials, reveal an overall picture of the Peking Union Medical College's efforts in disseminating racial and eugenic knowledge in China in the early twentieth century. This research report, consisting of part of my PhD research on the emergence of miscegenation discourse in twentieth-century China, underscores the process through which the Peking Union Medical College transformed the intellectual landscape of Republican China.

Unlocking a Stronger Open Access Ecosystem

December 22, 2023

Open Science has the potential to increase scientific collaborations and the sharing of information for the benefit of science and society; make multilingual scientific knowledge openly available, accessible, and reusable for everyone; and open the processes of scientific knowledge creation, evaluation, and communication to societal actors beyond the traditional scientific community. Among the multiple components of Open Science, open access, which falls under the open scientific knowledge pilar, is at the core of reform efforts. UNESCO defines open access as having "free access to information and unrestricted use of electronic resources for everyone," adding that "any kind of digital content can be open access from texts and data to software, audio, video, and multi-media." The broad nature of Open Science and open access gives room for complexity and controversy—requiring inputs and perspectives from diverse stakeholders within and outside of the scientific community.Always working at the pulse of critical issues at the intersection of science and society, the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program convened a roundtable of experts from across six countries and multiple sectors to foster what might be considered a 'provocative' conversation on open access, in that participants could not always find common ground on aspects of a future model for open access. This roundtable forms one piece of a constellation of Open Science activities within our program's Global Science pillar.Four central questions guided the discussion:What are the obstacles or barriers to open access?How can we overcome unequal country wealth, technology access, and education across countries to promote the benefits of scientific research toward solving societal issues?What are financial models for open access to which most (even for-profit) publishers could agree?How can political solutions (including legislation) help to promote the implementation of open access?

Science Philanthropy Indicators Report 2023

December 13, 2023

The Science Philanthropy Alliance has released its inaugural Science Philanthropy Indicators Report. This timely analysis dives deeply into NSF data, examining basic research funding in the U.S. through a philanthropic lens, with a focus on the higher education and nonprofit research sectors. In these sectors, philanthropy today fuels the U.S. basic research enterprise at a level approaching the federal government, providing an estimated nearly 40% or $24.7B of support in 2021. The report illustrates the value of engaging with philanthropy as a key driver of innovation.

Genetic research with Indigenous Peoples: perspectives on governance and oversight in the US

November 22, 2023

Introduction: Indigenous Peoples are increasingly exerting governance and oversight over genomic research with citizens of their nations, raising questions about how best to enforce research regulation between American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian peoples and researchers.Methods: Using a community-engaged research approach, we conducted 42 semi-structured interviews with Tribal leaders, clinicians, researchers, policy makers, and Tribal research review board members about their perspectives on ethical issues related to genetics research with Indigenous Peoples in the US.Results: We report findings related to (1) considerations for Indigenous governance, (2) institutional relationships upholding sovereignty, (3) expectations for research approvals, and (4) agreements enacting Indigenous governance. Participants described concerns about different ways of exerting oversight, relationships and agreements between Indigenous Peoples and researchers, and gaps that need to be addressed to strengthen existing governance of genomic data.Discussion: The results will ultimately guide policy-making and development of new strategies for Indigenous Peoples to enforce oversight in research to promote ethically and culturally appropriate research.

Indigenous Peoples and research: self-determination in research governance

November 15, 2023

Indigenous Peoples are reimagining their relationship with research and researchers through greater self-determination and involvement in research governance. The emerging discourse around Indigenous Data Sovereignty has provoked discussions about decolonizing data practices and highlighted the importance of Indigenous Data Governance to support Indigenous decision-making and control of data. Given that much data are generated from research, Indigenous research governance and Indigenous Data Governance overlap. In this paper, we broaden the concept of Indigenous Data Sovereignty by using the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance to discuss how research legislation and policy adopted by Indigenous Peoples in the US set expectations around recognizing sovereign relationships, acknowledging rights and interests in data, and enabling Indigenous Peoples' participation in research governance.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s International Health Board and the Attempt to Eradicate Yellow Fever

October 24, 2023

Beginning in 1914, the Rockefeller Foundation's International Health Commission (which became the International Health Board in 1916 and the International Health Division in 1927) committed itself to the project of eradicating yellow fever. Its efforts were modeled on the sanitary techniques deployed by US sanitarians in Havana in 1901 and, more importantly, during the construction of the Panama Canal between 1904 and 1914, with mosquito control preeminent among them. William C. Gorgas, who led these campaigns and then came to work for the Rockefeller Foundation, argued for a key center approach to yellow fever eradication that targeted the remaining urban endemic foci of infection, with the assumption that once these seed beds of the disease were eliminated, yellow fever would fade from the planet. But as the IHB conducted campaigns in South America, Central America, and West Africa during the late 1910s and 1920s, they discovered that yellow fever's ecology and epidemiology were more complicated than they had assumed, and that a "key center" approach would not work to eradicate the disease. By the 1930s, and particularly with Fred Soper's discovery of sylvan or jungle yellow fever, the Rockefeller Foundation gave up on their eradicationist dream.

America’s Crisis of Confidence: Rising Mistrust, Conspiracies, and Vaccine Hesitancy After COVID-19

October 16, 2023

Key PointsPublic confidence in science has declined sharply in recent years, with only 69 percent of Americans in May 2023 expressing confidence in scientists to act in the public's best interest, compared to 86 percent in January 2019.Public confidence in science is starkly divided along partisan lines, but education, race, ethnicity, and religion also play significant roles.Climate change remains a divisive issue among Americans, but evolution appears less divisive today than it did a decade and a half ago.Party affiliation, age, education, media-consumption habits, and religious identity all influence Americans' views of vaccines, but institutional trust also plays an important role.

Environmental Dataset Re-Mix Recommendations for the California State Water Resources Control Board

September 13, 2023

On March 23, 2023, the Open Environmental Data Project and the California State Water Resources Control Board co-hosted a Dataset Re-Mix Workshop. We explored and discussed potential improvements to the state's water quality datasets, and their uses in understanding and achieving Human Right to Water and Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program goals. This report contains recommendations synthesized from these conversations.

Assessing Research for Philanthropic Funding : Innovative Approaches

September 1, 2023

This publication on responsible research assessment aims to explore diverse approaches taken by foundations to enhance the fairness, transparency and effectiveness of evaluating research proposals for funding. The publication delves into three distinct methodologies that challenge traditional assessment methods and offer innovative alternatives: 1. Using artificial intelligence (AI); 2. Adopting narrative curriculum vitae (CVs); and 3. Implementing randomised selection. It provides an overview of general principles of responsible research assessment, key framing documents and recommendations for implementing these principles; and offers examples of the real-world application of these methods by various foundations and organisations.While these approaches demonstrate the innovative potential within research assessment, they are by no means an exhaustive representation of all available tools and methods. Nevertheless, they serve as compelling illustrations of the ongoing efforts to revolutionise evaluation practices and foster a more inclusive and equitable research ecosystem.

Building Community Resilience: Lessons from Frontline Leaders

June 27, 2023

Over the last four years, as part of its commitment to working toward racial, environmental, and climate justice, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has partnered with a cohort of representatives from frontline community organizations facing events made more extreme by climate change. The representatives are Lanor Curole, tribal administrator of United Houma Nation, Louisiana; Hilton Kelley, founder and director of Community In-Power and Development Association Inc., Texas; Eva Olivas, executive director of Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, Arizona; Tania Rosario Méndez, executive director of Taller Salud, Puerto Rico; and Reverend Leo Woodberry, executive director of New Alpha Community Development Corporation, South Carolina. The communities these organizations serve are a sample—not an exhaustive list—of people and places across the United States and its territories facing the compounding impacts of historical and ongoing racial, economic, and climatic injustices in a warming world.In October 2022, UCS and our partners convened in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Fifth National Adaptation Forum (NAF). The NAF is a conference for people working in climate adaptation in the United States that brings together scientists, nonprofit organizations, frontline community groups, businesses, and representatives from federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments. In this paper, we synthesize the climate impacts, adaptation measures, and resilience experiences the partners raised as panelists for the session titled "Creating Broader Understanding of Challenges and Opportunities for Increasing Adaptation in ClimateImpacted Communities: A Conversation with Local Leaders on the Frontlines of Climate Impacts." We link partners' experiences of climate impacts to well-established scientific data and literature, then make several science- and evidence-based recommendations for policymakers and adaptation practitioners, highlighting the challenges, opportunities, and needs of frontline communities for achieving climate resilience. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that communities are capable of building resilience, benefit from meaningful scientist-community partnerships, and need adaptation professionals and policymakers to remove barriers that hinder community sovereignty and success.In our synthesis process, four common themes emerged as challenges and opportunities for increasing resilience in frontline communities: displacement, government negligence, funding, and community-driven solutions. 

K–12 Science Education in the United States: A Landscape Study for Improving the Field

May 16, 2023

This report assesses progress toward the vision of science instruction provided a decade ago by the National Research Council with support from the Corporation. In order to elevate the status of science education in the U.S. and to broaden the involvement of underrepresented groups in ongoing reform efforts, a field-level agenda for change is necessary. To that end, the report includes recommendations to inform improvements over the next 10 years in service of making science education a priority for all.

Planned or by Accident? The Inception of the Chinese Materia Medica Research Program at the Peking Union Medical College

April 17, 2023

This report chronicles the events that led to the inception of the Chinese materia medica (CMM) research program at the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC). Dozens of herbal drugs were investigated during the decade after the program was conceived in 1921, including ma-huang, from which ephedrine, an anti-asthmatic drug of global impact, was isolated in 1924.  The program was primarily born out of a serendipitous intersection of two independent pursuits by Dr. Ralph G. Mills and Mr. Bernard E. Read, two PUMC faculty members, of their interests in CMM, instead of a preconceived grander aim or strategy by the institution or by any visionary. The establishment of the program, however, was the result of pragmatic handling of personnel and administrative issues by the China Medical Board (CMB)'s key decisionmakers, who accepted the seemingly plausible scientific value and various utilitarian promise of CMM and were open to its research at the PUMC.The discovery of ephedrine is the most celebrated scientific achievement from the CMM research program, and one of the few highlights of Chinese science during the entire Republican Era. Reconstructing the origin of the program will hopefully place this highly acclaimed scientific event in an accurate historical context and enable the construction of a non-whiggish historiographical narrative.