Checking in. Some Milestones…

A personal message by Fidelia Ibekwe, PhD., Editor-in-Chief of Education for Information

Dear readers and subscribers,

Compliments of the season!

In the five years since I took over the editorship of Education for Information (EFI), a lot has happened both in our academic and social worlds.

The most significant event for me has been the critical racial awakening that followed the murder of a black man in broad daylight by a racist US law enforcement officer. While George Floyd’s murder in 2020 was not the first, nor sadly the last racially-motivated murder, the way in which it was captured on camera for the whole world to see sent chills and shockwaves down my spine. It drove home the fact that racism, prejudice, discrimination, and hate continue to threaten the lives of our fellow humans, leading to their dehumanisation, to daily micro-and not so micro-aggressions that poison their lives and endanger their physical and mental wellbeing. What happened to George Floyd in May 2020 has continued to happen multiple times since. 

By end of March 2021, the police in England and Wales recorded 124,091 hate crimes which represented a 9% increase compared to 2020 (GOV.UK, 2021). Many European countries do not collect data on ethnic issues in their statistics. Hence, it is very difficult to establish the extent of racism, prejudice and discriminations in European institutions. However, its existence is undisputable as the news and independent studies often reveal. 

How can this be allowed to continue?

On this side of the Atlantic, the United Kingdom (UK) is one of the few countries that has begun a systematic assessment of the racist ideologies and legacies in all of its key sectors. Reports commissioned by independent watchdogs or by the UK government itself all found evidence of the culture of systemic racism in every sector (education1,2, higher education and science3, cultural heritage, health4, law enforcement (police and military)5, judiciary6, sports, etc.). The heads of these institutions have all made pledges to improve diversity and inclusivity in their workforce and combat all forms of racism by ending impunity for perpetrators. While these public acknowledgements of institutional and systemic racism in the UK society and the pledges to do better are a sign that times are changing for racists, these institutions will be judged ultimately on the basis of the concrete corrective initiatives and actions they take, not on their promises. 

By contrast, continental Europe which likes to think of itself as the bastion of democracy despite its historic responsibility in legitimising slavery and colonialism, is avoiding carrying out such a systematic self-examination and taking corrective actions. It is as though, after the emotional outpouring following George Floyd’s murder and the protests that swept across European capitals, many Europeans have folded their protest banners, put away their marching boots and gone back to business as usual, with many even denying the existence of systemic racism and white privilege within their institutions. 

Science does not happen in a vacuum nor in an ivory tower 

For those who argue that they are doing “science” not politics, it may be good for them to remember that science does not take place in a vacuum and cannot be detached from culture, history, ideology, politics and from society. 

We will also do well to remember that some of the most horrific evils that humanity has experienced originated from so-called scientific advancements and experiments. 

Was it not the 17th century French physician, François Bernier (1684) whose essentialisation of physical and biological differences led to a classification of human “races?” Was it not the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus’s classification of races in the 1700s that placed black people at the very bottom. Many consider these “works” as “the foundations of scientific racism” (Ball, 2022).

Genocides, slavery and colonisation of Africans, the holocaust, eugenics, the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII are linked with scientific theories and experiments.

The effects of slavery and colonisation are cumulative, structural, systemic and intergenerational. People from the Global South are still bearing the scars today.

In the face of the overwhelming evidence of systemic and structural racism in the cultures of many western institutions, denial is no longer tenable. 

Some scientific institutions and fields have begun carrying out a critical self-examination of their own legacy that has allowed racism and other types of hateful ideology to thrive in their midst. One of the most highly regarded scientific journals7, Nature, has begun its mea culpa about its own past roles in legitimising the voice of influential and racist white privileged scientists (all male incidentally) and has initiated a series of special issues, the first of which, entitled “RACISM: Overcoming science’s toxic legacy” was published in October 2022. It gave voice to a diverse cast of researchers worldwide who shone a torchlight on the various subtle and not so subtle processes through which systemic racism negatively affects the experiences of academics of “colour.”

Hot on the heels of Nature, the leading medical journal, The Lancet, has just launched its own series, “The Lancet series on racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and health” in December 2022. In the first paper of this series, Devakumar et al (2022) rightly observed that “The murder of George Floyd, for example, cannot be explained by the actions of one ‘bad’ police officer, but was instead due to the structural racism and discrimination that produce and enable the actions of policing institutions and individuals.

To truly tackle racism, it is imperative to take into account its multi-generational, structural, intersectional and systemic nature.

Whither Library and Information Science in self-examining its legacy on racism?

As a social science and humanities field whose self-acclaimed contribution to humanity is the development of methods, tools, language artefacts and processes that enable people to describe, store, retrieve and disseminate information, library and information science (LIS) played a fundamental role in developing language and systems to “classify, index and retrieve” information that is used to make decisions that impact people’s lives daily.

That LIS’s pioneers’ writings, in particular, those of Melvil Dewey and Paul Otlet, were tainted by the racist ideology that permeated western science in the 18th and 19th centuries is well documented. However, these long dead pioneers are not the ones perpetuating racism today. Attention now needs to be turned to our 21st century institutional cultures, professional practices in staff and faculty recruitment, career progression and educational training curricula.

Following George Floyd’s murder in 2020, there was the usual reactive statements from the major LIS institutions (ALA , ALISE , ASIST , CILIP , etc.) on how they “stood with the black community” and are committed to more diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DE&I). Papers and panels on DE&I and racism have now become an expected feature in the scientific events organised in the Anglophone world (mainly US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia). 

Currently, the majority of the research and teaching on DE&I in the LIS field is produced in the US (Colon-Aguirre & Bright, 2022). Again, continental European institutions in LIS are largely silent on the current discussions on racism in our field.

As Ball, (2022) observed: “lack of diversity in science and racism are linked”. European LIS institutions are almost entirely 100% white. More ethnically diverse worldviews are needed in scientific institutions in senior management positions to ensure that the results of academic and scientific pursuits do not serve to legitimise or aggravate inequalities and discriminations against any groups of people. 

So what have we learnt? 

I can truly say that there is a before and after George Floyd for me. The decision to dedicate what is left of my research energy to combating racism and discrimination took hold and led to the idea of launching a series on “Race relations in LIS” in EFI. Contacts were made mostly with US-based African American scholars who took up the mantle as guest editors. Intended as an ongoing series rather than a reactive one-off issue, the first of that series was published in 2021. Entitled “Race Relations and Racial Inequity in LIS,” it was executed with professionalism and scientific integrity by three guest editors (Renate Chancellor, Shari Lee and Anthony Dunbar).

The second issue of the series, entitled “Critical Race Theory Special Issue,” has just been published one year later, as the last issue of 2022. It was prepared by an international group of scholars and practitioners from several countries and continents gathered under the umbrella and inclusive term of The Critical Race Theory collective. Again, the publication was professional and very insightful.

Since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, white supremacists and the Republican party in the US have launched a nationwide attack on anti-racism initiatives by demonising Critical race theory, by sacking teachers who dare to teach their students the true history of racism and by banning books on the history of racism. These attacks are a “testament to the role of political and educational systems in reinforcing epistemic injustice and upholding existing power hierarchies.” (Devakumar et al., 2022)

But, despite these attacks, a critical race-theoretic trend is currently sweeping across multiple sectors, scientific fields and institutions worldwide. 

Speaking about the current soul-searching in the UK, Ball (2022) wrote that the “Current discussions across UK institutions about their colonialist pasts mirror similar debates about Germany’s Nazi heritage in the decades after the Second World War and into the twenty-first century”. 

Only if one confronts one’s past unflinchingly can one learn from past mistakes and not repeat them. The consequences of racism, hatred and exploitation are very real and deadly.

As researchers, educators and practitioners in the information Fields (iFields), our responsibility as to what type of world we are taking part in building and leaving is entailed. It is my hope that European scholars and practitioners in the iFields will step up to this task.

On a note of small “egotistical” satisfaction: EFI’s series on Race relations in LIS was launched well before the prestigious scientific journals Nature and The Lancet did the same. 

Some (cynics?) might say that all this is simply cashing in on “race” or simply a fad that will pass. For my part, I welcome this long overdue and much needed soul searching and mea culpa from the most influential scientific institutions in the world. Words do matter and, perchance, the pen may prove to be mightier than the sword. The exponential increase in publications  and public discourse on systemic and institutional racism cannot be easily erased or dismissed.

A second “egotistical” source of satisfaction is the continued progression of EFI’s metrics since I took over its editorship. EFI is now ranked in the first quartile (Q1) in two Scopus CiteScore categories calculated by the Scimago Journal report (SJR) for 2021. It is currently among the top 25% of journals indexed by Scopus in the “Education, and Library and Information Science category which covers Library and Information Science; Education and Information Systems.

Need I reaffirm that it was a team effort and that all of this would not have been possible without the unflagging support of my diverse and dedicated editorial board members. More importantly, none of this would have been possible if EFI’s publisher, IOS Press, had not entrusted a black woman with the editorship of one of its journals. IOS Press has always allowed me free reign to steer the journal as I see fit and for that, they have my profound thanks. Onwards!

Fidelia Ibekwe
Editor in Chief
The views and opinions expressed in this editorial are my own.


  1.   Vikram Dodd. Race crisis damages our legitimacy and effectiveness, says top police chief. The Guardian, Mar 28 2021. Accessible at…
  2.   We must all tackle the systemic racism that led to the abuse of Child Q. The Guardian, Mar 29, 2022. Accessible at….
  3.   Sophie Inge. ‘Structural inequalities’ found at leading research institution. Research Professional News. 13 Dec. 2021. Accessible at…
  4.   Andrew Gregory. Radical action needed to tackle racial health inequality in NHS, says damning report. The Guardian, Feb 13, 2022. Accessible at…
  5.   College of Policing. Police Race Action Plan published, 24 May 2022. Accessible at
  6.  Catherine Baksi. Judiciary is ‘as racist as the police force’. The Sunday Times. Oct. 20, 2022. Accessible at….
  7.   According to this website:….  
  8.   American Library Association (
  9.   The Association for Library and Information Science Education (
  10.   Association for Information Science & Technology (
  12.   In the wake of George Floyd’s racist murder, sales of books on racism increased by more than 6800%. They still remain very high at +2800% in 2022 according to various sources. See for instance, Jemima McEvoy, Sales Of ‘White Fragility’—And Other Anti-Racism Books—Jumped Over 2000% After Protests Began. Forbes, July 22, 2020.…. Accessed 16/09/2022.
    Academic publications on race and racism also surged by more than 300% over the last five years.


  1. Philip Ball. Imperialism’s long shadow: the UK universities grappling with a colonial past. In special issue Racism in science, Nature, vol. 610, 20 October 2022: 593-6. Accessible at:
  2. Colon-Aguirre M. & Bright K., (2022). Incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) into Research, Journal of Education for Library & Information Science (JELIS), 63(3), July 2022: 237-244.
  3. Newsome, Melba Confronting Racism in Computer Science. In special issue Racism in science, Nature, vol. 610, 20 October 2022: 440-4. Accessible at
  4. Delan Devakumar, Sujitha Selvarajah, Ibrahim Abubakar, Seung-Sup Kim, Martin McKee, Nidhi S Sabharwal, Angela Saini, Geordan Shannon, Alexandre I R White, E Tendayi Achiume, (2022). Racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and the determination of health. The Lancet, vol. 400, December 10, 2022: 2097-2108. Accessible at….