Sigma Xi Steps Up to Support the Research Community

by Jamie Vernon | Jul 21, 2020

2016 Annual Meeting Plenary Session

Researchers, students, teachers, and the public come together at a Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference. 


Jamie Vernon

Students who have visas to study at higher education institutions in the United States should not face deportation if their schools choose online-only classes this fall. Public health guidance should be rooted in scientific evidence, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Scientists and artists can help the public learn about COVID-19. And, the social media giant Facebook should do more to stop the dissemination of racial discrimination and disinformation. 

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society made announcements, statements, and joined in court actions this month to address these issues on behalf of its members and the scientific community. 

Speaking Up for International Students, Colleges, and Universities

What Happened?

On July 13, Sigma Xi and others filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, its Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and their leadership. The lawsuit challenged the advancement of a policy to revoke visas from international students who are attending higher education institutions within the United States where courses will be offered exclusively online this fall. The policy has been rescinded. 

Why Did Sigma Xi Sign the Amicus Brief?

The brief demonstrates Sigma Xi’s support for its international members and students from all nations who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math at U.S. higher education institutions. It also supports Sigma Xi’s mission to enhance the health of the research enterprise and our priority to advance STEM education, as described in the 2020–2025 Strategic Plan

Read the full statement

Helping the Public Understand COVID-19

What Happened?

Sigma Xi joined forces with Science Talk to host a competition, #SciCommMake: COVID-19 Communications Collaboration, to award funding for projects presented by 10 teams of scientists, artists, and science communicators that will improve the public’s understanding of COVID-19. 

Why Did Sigma Xi Fund the Teams?

Sigma Xi is focused on exploring the benefits of interdisciplinary collaborations, particularly those between science and art, as we approach the Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, where the theme will be Hacking the Brain: The Intersection of Art and Neuroscience. The Society also believes this effort will reach audiences in need of information to make decisions about COVID-19. 

See the announcement

Supporting Evidence-Based Public Health Guidance

What Happened?

On July 15, Sigma Xi joined other organizations in signing a letter to United States Vice President Mike Pence that voiced support for "leading with science and with the best data available" during the coronavirus pandemic. It names Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as one expert leading with science. 

Why Did Sigma Xi Sign the Letter?

Part of Sigma Xi’s mission is to promote the public’s understanding of science. We also have a responsibility to advocate for evidence-based government policies, as stated in the 2020–2025 Strategic Plan

Read the letter in full, with signees as of July 15.

Restricting Facebook Advertising

What Happened?

Sigma Xi announced on July 21 that it stopped spending money for advertisements on Facebook. Sigma Xi’s restriction is parallel to a larger Facebook ad boycott campaign, called Stop Hate for Profit which is led by multiple groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 

Why Is Sigma Xi Restricting Facebook Ads?

The Society is urging the social media platform to demonstrate a commitment to ending its dissemination of violent rhetoric, racial discrimination, and disinformation. Sigma Xi calls for the social media giant to articulate a clear strategy for quelling the spread of misinformation and restricting the use of the platform for inciting violence and promoting discrimination before it will resume its advertising efforts. Sigma Xi has pledged to elevate the conversation about racism and discrimination within the research community, and that includes advocating for equity and inclusivity in all segments of society. Facebook has also been linked to disinformation in the U.S. elections and researchers have spoken out about how private groups on the platform have promoted harmful conspiracy theories.  

Read the announcement

Jamie Vernon is the executive director and CEO at Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society, and publisher of American Scientist.


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