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An “N of One”: A New Landscape Without Affirmative Action in Higher Education Neuroscience Training

Sam Staples

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In the article An “N of One”: A New Landscape Without Affirmative Action in Higher Education Neuroscience Training, Carmen S. Maldonado-Vlaar voices her concern over the abolishment of the United Sates Affirmative Action law, a law that allowed certain universities in the U.S. to grantee a portion of their available seats to under represented populations who met the required criteria.

How do you think this will impact the future of students looking to peruse neuroscience? What do you think of the concept Maldoado-Vlaar mentioned about being the "n of one?" 

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On a previous post, I mentioned about the context of Affirmative Actions here at Brazil. With our law coming up to its period of review, we're also facing doubts over the next era and the possible abolishment of all seats (50% or more of all public universities).

Surely, it's going to change the reality for so many students at all courses and in the US and I don't guess it will go for the best. Quite the contrary. In Brazil, personally, I notice how just the unknown scenario already impacts the community. There are students quitting high school and a smaller application for university entrance exams rate, even though no change on the rules have been considered yet..

In addition, depending on the study area, stereotypes might worsen the issue. Not considering the competition for the seats and the costs (living costs, because the majority of Brazilian public universities have no tuition and fees), once a subject is considered harder, it establishes a theoretical and invisible (though existent) limitation on the convincing of new students.

The future of Neuroscience, specifically, might not bring anything different than what has been described above. For Neuro or any other subject, the lost of diversity - among many other losses - must not be taken for granted. Diverse backgrounds lead to innovation, creativity and many other elements needed for breakthroughs. Once thinking about the discoveries, the people who come across them must be considered. If lost, diversity will impact on the continuation of the teams and the evolution of projects by the next generations. 

Science founds out not only innovations, but recognizes the fact that the disruption in a progress of a lifetime takes the same or a longer period to go back to where it was. Taking the "anti-vaccination movement" as an exemple, the milestones of COVID vaccines being discovered were critically disrupted with those who didn't want to help stop the spread of the virus. There were the answers for the main problem, but it could not be solved quicker than it was and many lives were lost.

We must keep enhancing the diversity, from the US to Brazil. From Maldoado-Vlaar's concept to my perspectives on the subject, including all we have in common. The samples restricted to 1 do not represent a global reality. A "n of one" leads to inaccuracies as it doesn't see the whole. After all, us - the minorities - are not a single scenario. We represent a whole group, diverse and creative, that makes the difference in Neuroscience by complementing it. We are a part of it.

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