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Racial violence and scientific meetings

The American Physical Society (APS) has adopted new venue selection criteria for its 12 annual scientific events, vetoing cities with records of racist violence by police. From now on, venues will be chosen based on factors such as the availability of data on the use of force by police officers, the demographic profile of victims, and the existence of independent bodies to investigate deaths in police custody. The list of criteria was drawn up with the help of criminologist Greg Ridgeway, from the University of Pennsylvania.

The APS made the change in response to a letter sent to various scientific societies in the USA by physicists Philip Phillips and Michael Weissman, both from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Unhappy with the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis, USA, they asked that research societies stop holding events in cities with a history of racist violence by police. The only one to agree to the initiative so far is the APS, which has 55,000 members. Hunter Clemens, the association’s events director, told the journal Nature that the criteria will only be applied to events not already scheduled. An APS conference that was already scheduled for 2024 in Minneapolis itself, the point of origin for the protests that spread across the nation in 2020, will therefore go ahead.