Study Finds Scientists With African Names are Less Likely to Be Featured in News Stories

A new study conducted by a team of researchers with affiliations at the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and Harvard University, has found that scientists whose names are African in origin are less likely to be featured in news stories than their peers. The research team uncovered similar disparities for scientists with East-Asian names.

For their study, the authors examined 223,587 news stories regarding a wide variety of scientific research topics from 288 United States media outlets. They found that scientists with East Asian or African names were 15 percent less likely to be quoted in news media compared to scientists with Anglo-sounding names. The disparity was present even when accounting for a number of different factors such as affiliation, location, and research topic. The authors also found that when studies led by researchers with East Asian or African names were featured by a news outlet, the scientists were often referred to by their institution, rather then their own name.

The authors hope their findings bring attention to the ethnic disparities prevalent in scientific news coverage and identify an unconscious bias that journalism outlets may not be aware exists. They also suggest more research is needed in this area. Since their study only analyzed the stories that were featured by news outlets, they theorize these disparities may affect the first stage of news coverage where media outlets choose which papers to report on.

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