Doing work for the National Academy of Sciences

Apr 30 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

There was a brief discussion on twitter about the demographics of members of the National Academy of Sciences. The NAS itself (or at least some intern) chimed in to note that the academy does not keep track of race/ethnic identification. As such they have no idea what those numbers are. This struck me as odd, since it's pretty easy to throw a basic demographic survey at new members. At least then you'd have some data. We are scientists after all. That's what we do.

So I did it for them (Method details below)

Out of 759 members in the last 10 years there appears to be 6 African Americans. That clocks in at 0.7% which is less than 1 per year. Here's what that looks like:


This data point actually fits in well with the trend of increasing homogeneity in science/academia as you go "up".


Method: I searched for members elected 2014-2004 with USA affiliations. 99% had pictures posted. Visual inspection isn't perfect but it's better than ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

5 responses so far

  • eeke says:

    Interesting, but I need to see baseline values. How does this proportion compare to the proportion of african americans who are post-docs or even within any tenure track position? I agree that there is a need to keep track of demographics, but at all levels.

  • DJMH says:

    Wow, good sleuthing. It would be interesting to know if there are others who self-identify as African Americans, but you're probably not wrong by much.

  • girlparts says:

    I would guess the NAS is perfectly aware of the problem (I know individual members who are aware of it), but claiming not to have the information sounds better than "we aren't doing anything about it."

  • Arlenna says:

    Wow. This should be embarrassing to them.

  • Zuska says:

    I would bet cash money your results speak at least in part to why the NAS does not (officially) keep track of race/ethnic identification.

    Of course, since there is more than one African American member of the NAS, there are no doubt plenty of old white dudes who think the racial diversity quotient is just fine, or even complain about "standards eroding" and "political correctness" sabatoging the academy. Or are convinced "all the really good ones" are already members, so no need to worry.

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