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Recognition for Black scientists

A cancer conference held at the London Science Museum in October aimed to highlight the work of Black researchers in the field of oncology and broaden their career opportunities. The Black in Cancer Conference was promoted by Cancer Research UK (CRUK), a charity dedicated to funding and carrying out studies on the disease. One of the topics discussed at the conference was the importance of making the oncology research environment more diverse and inclusive and recruiting patients that represent a range of ethnic groups for cancer studies and clinical trials of new drugs and treatments.

“It’s definitely challenging the norm—I am usually the only Black person in the room at the scientific conferences I attend,” Nigerian oncologist Tanimola Martins, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Exeter Medical School, England, told the magazine Times Higher Education (THE). Black in Cancer, which organized the conference together with CRUK, was founded in 2020 by Martins and Sigourney Bonner, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge who specializes in a rare type of pediatric tumor.

At the conference, Cancer Research UK—which invests GBP£500 million in research every year—launched its first doctoral fellowship exclusively for Black students. Only 1% of people who submit grant applications and research proposals to the charity are Black. Funding applications are evaluated anonymously to prevent bias, but just 13% of Black applicants are successful, compared to 24% of their white peers. Iain Foulkes, director of CRUK, told THE that of all the senior scientists leading major research projects funded by the organization, only one is Black. “The shortfall is enormous,” he said.