Cause Effect: American Physical Society won’t hold events in cities with bad records on racially biased policing

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March 2, 2021 3:45 AM

Such a decision could mean cities with a poor record would lose out on the large doses of spending injected by thousands of visiting scientists and physics enthusiasts who gather for its annual meetings.

With its latest move, the APS has set a template for peers to champion progressive social causes. (Representative image)

It is refreshing to see scientists and tech-researchers concern themselves with social issues. While the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in the US last year set up an ethics board to screen papers and assess whether the technology proposed potentially incorporates some bias or lends itself to misuse by state and non-state actors, the American Physical Society (APS), a premier body of physicists in the US, has decided to not hold its events and conferences in American cities that have a bad record in terms of racial abuse by police, reports Nature.

Such a decision could mean cities with a poor record would lose out on the large doses of spending injected by thousands of visiting scientists and physics enthusiasts who gather for its annual meetings.

The APS will look at whether the city police have received training in ‘de-escalation measures’ (bringing down chances of use of violence in the engagement with the suspect), existence of independent evaluation of shootings and death in police custody and open data on the use of force by the police as well as demographic data on targets of such force, reports Nature.

There are some examples from the past of similar activist-like stands—as early as 1993, the American Association for the Advancement of Science ditched Denver, Colorado, as the venue for its 1999 annual meeting after Colorado voters adopted an amendment to the law that denied protection to residents against sexual-orientation-based discrimination. However, with its latest move, the APS has set a template for peers to champion progressive social causes.

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