Things could be worse. When The Scientist dedicates an issue to "minorities in science," we don't scratch our heads in wonder at the oxymoron, though we might have 30 years ago. There are many minority men and women in the sciences today, but not nearly enough. African, Hispanic, and Native Americans are clearly underrepresented in our laboratories, medical schools, and research centers. Their small numbers in these places of science are a deficit today that threatens to become an unrecoverable loss in a few years.

I realize that restating a problem regrettably familiar to us in the sciences raises two questions: How many minorities in the sciences would be "enough," and what is the "loss"? The answers to these questions, as I will explain, are related. We may agree that enough representation of minorities in the sciences is proportional representation. This, in fact, has been the stated goal of public...

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