Shanice Bailey outlines the key messages from Angela Saini’s lecture on why it is important to avoid bias in scientific research.
In November, award-winning author Angela Saini delivered the University College London, addressing the impact of social attitudes towards gender and race in scientific research. Using her best-selling books, ‘Inferior’ and ‘Superior’ as a framework, Saini powerfully argued against biological essentialism with a number of real-life case studies. For example, a recent study reported that black women in the UK are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. This is likely attributable to the false belief that black patients have a higher pain threshold and consequently receive substandard antenatal care. In another example, Saini showed that using metrics such as weight rather than sex would be much more appropriate for drug prescription. Essentially, some scientific research inappropriately hallmarks race- and sex-based distinctions, and biological similarities between members of the human species far outweigh the differences. Saini agreed that some biological differences do exist, but she urged the scientific community to challenge their own biases when conducting research. By establishing solid hypotheses and rigorous controls, we can debunk the divisive myths of gender and race science. This would, undoubtedly, benefit the population as a whole.