Colonialism still influences the earth sciences today — and that’s a big problem for research

Colonialism still influences the earth sciences today — and that’s a big problem for research


“Amber hunters” on a quest for a Jurassic Park-style discovery of dinosaur remains sift through mounds of the precious resin in Myanmar — a lucrative trade that captivates palaeontologists but also fuels a decades-long conflict in the far north.  | Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images

Colonialism is so entangled in earth sciences that its ugly legacy still influences research today. Scientists are struggling to undo the damage that colonization has had on their fields, which have been dominated mostly by white men from wealthy nations over the years.

The latest evidence is a study published last week that finds that 97 percent of fossil data in a major, global database comes from authors based in North America and Western Europe— indicating that scientists from western nations hold a global “monopoly over palaeontological knowledge production.” The authors say it’s a symptom of researchers from those nations “parachuting” into other countries and taking what they find away with them.

Once researchers return to their…

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