Marriage appears to speed up the advancement of male historians but slow down that of female historians, according to new data from the American Historical Association.Clearly, universities need to do a better job of ensuring that all of their faculty and staff have the opportunity to succeed and advance.
Female full professors in the survey who either were married at the time of the survey or who had been married took an average of 7.8 years to move from associate to full professor. Women who had never married were promoted to full professor in an average of 6.7 years. For men, the impact of marriage was the opposite. Men who were or had been married earned their promotions to full professor 5.9 years after becoming associate professors. For men who had never married, it took an average of 6.4 years. (source)
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There is much introspection I could give, it is no secret that I've struggled with science as a career choice and am quite bitter about many things that have happened to me. But I am too worn out to go into this sort of detail and most people lack the interest and patience to follow along in my story. (emphasis added)Kevin is intelligent, creative, and passionate about science. He was the force behind #iamscience. I wish him all the best in his new venture, but it saddens me that science is losing him. We need people like him, and there's something wrong with us if we can't find a way to keep them.
It saddens me even more that he's bitter. I don't know for sure why Kevin is bitter, but I suspect it's related to why Ryan Raver (@GradStudentWay) left academia a few months ago. I wrote then:
Those of us who train graduate students and post-docs have done our jobs poorly if those we mentor think that a career devoted to research at a major research university is the only way to be a successful. In fact, we've done worse than poorly. We've failed.Now I'll say that a little differently. If we have failed to help our students see the many ways in which scholarly training - whether in the arts, sciences, or humanities - can lead to rich, rewarding careers, we have failed. If we have failed to celebrate the achievements of our students who aspire to positions different from our own, we have failed. If we have failed to prepare our students for the type of career they are seeking and to speak with them honestly about the prospects for different types of employment, we have failed. If we have failed to work with government, businesses, and NGOs to help them understand how employing those with graduate degrees will improve services and enhance the bottom line, we have failed.
It is too late now to correct the circumstances that caused Kevin to be bitter. It is not too late to make sure that we don't let them happen again. And it's not too late to hope that one day, Kevin will find his way back to science and that we will once again benefit from his candor, his wit, his intelligence, and his passion.
Kevin, if you're reading this, I'd wish you good luck, but you don't need it. Skål!
Click on the image to get a full-size pop-up. What you see there is a post on Facebook asking, among other things, "Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience?"
This image and the accompanying blog post on Jezebel.com were the first time I'd ever heard of Dario Maetripieri. I hope that these words were came from a temporary short-circuit in his neurons, not from a circuit that is often used. But even if this post uncharacteristic and unrepresentative of his character, it reminds us of two things:
- The world is made poorer and meaner for all of us is when any of us treats other human beings as objects rather than as people.
- Think twice before you post anything on Facebook. I don't know how Erin Gloria Ryan came across this post, but it's a safe bet that Dario never imagined it would be spread across the web.
I'll level with you: while, in an ideal world, one would want the perpetrator of sexist behavior to Learn and Grow and Repent and make Sincere Apologies, I don't especially care if someone is still sexist in his heart as long as his behavior changes. It's the interactions with other people that make the climate that other people have to deal with. Once that part is fixed, we can talk strategy for saving souls.Inside Higher Ed picked up on the story.
Maestripieri did not respond to e-mail messages or phone calls over the past two days. A spokesman for the University of Chicago said that he had decided not to comment.Hat tip: Katie MacKinnon (@ktcapuchin)
The third president of the United States saw education as the bedrock of democracy. He offered to sell his library to Congress after the British burned the Library of Congress in 1814."If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed." - Thomas Jefferson
English: Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In 1819 he founded the University of Virginia. Upon its opening in 1825, it was the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. One of the largest construction projects to that time in North America, the university was notable for being centered about a library.... (source)Jefferson was a scientist and scholar, and I fear he would be appalled by some of today's politicians. Shawn Otto describes how he sees it in Scientific American.
[I]n this election cycle, some 236 years after Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, several major party contenders for political office took positions that can only be described as "antiscience": against evolution, human-induced climate change, vaccines, stem cell research, and more. A former Republican governor even warned that his own political party was in danger of becoming "the antiscience party."Read the article. If you're a U.S. citizen, please also take a look at how Scientific American evaluates the candidates for president, and use that information as you decide how to vote on November 6.
Such positions could typically be dismissed as nothing more than election-year posturing except that they reflect an anti-intellectual conformity that is gaining strength in the U.S. at precisely the moment that most of the important opportunities for economic growth, and serious threats to the well-being of the nation, require a better grasp of scientific issues. By turning public opinion away from the antiauthoritarian principles of the nation's founders, the new science denialism is creating an existential crisis like few the country has faced before.
One of my first memories is myself, 5 years old, going to my mother and declare to her, as serious as only children can be: "I will be a scientist."The author describes the challenges facing those who choose a life in research, especially the challenges in attracting funding to support that research. It's also clear that the decision to leave research was very difficult and painful - and a long time in coming. This isn't something that happened on a whim. The author has thought deeply about his future and his options and concluded that the life he wanted was a "noble addiction." It saddens me to think that science is apparently losing someone so thoughtful and passionate about science.
Yesterday night I was in my office in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge packing my stuff, resolved to not go back to research again -at least not in the shortcoming future.
I'm not going to argue that the author made a mistake, that if (s)he had simply tried a bit harder and stayed in the trenches a bit longer it all would have worked out. (S)he's right. There are a lot more young people receiving Ph.D.'s than there are tenure track positions at major research universities. This author might have been one of the ones who got such a position after a few more years of work, but there's no guarantee, and (s)he needs to decide for her/himself how to balance that chance against other things that are important in life.
That's too bad, but it's not what saddens me.
What saddens me is the world of science he describes. Some of it I don't recognize, like "people that have given a purportedly crippled software to a collegue to sabotage his project". Maybe I've just been lucky, maybe since I'm one of those who happened to find a position at a major research university, I don't know what it's like.
But there's something even more fundamental that saddens me.
The author seems to equate a successful life in science with being a research professor in a first-rate university, with the implicit understanding that only the research that professor does matter. Again, maybe it's because I've been lucky, but to me that defines success far too narrowly. Discovering new facts about the world is immensely rewarding, but so is sharing those discoveries through teaching or public outreach, so is helping organizations make better decisions about how to improve life for all by using the knowledge and skills a scientist has.
Students at Podunk U. deserve just as much attention and effort as those at Cambridge. In fact, they may need it even more, because their background and circumstances may not have given them the advantages students at Cambridge have.
Those of us who train graduate students and post-docs have done our jobs poorly if those we mentor think that a career devoted to research at a major research university is the only way to be a successful. In fact, we've done worse than poorly. We've failed.
It's our fault if our students and post-docs think that success comes only with a tenure-track positon at a major research university. We have to do better.
I worry sometimes that discussion of women's issues focus heavily on parenthood, which can be narrow, presumptive, and alienating for women who cannot or choose not to have children. I'd also love to hear comments from readers outside the U.S. on the pros and cons of their policies affecting women in science in their countries, since my perspective is very U.S.-centric.I'm certainly no expert, but I do have a few thoughts, some of them inspired by my recent post on sexism in science. Since so many others know so much more about issues of parenthood than I,1 I'm going to focus on other ideas. I'm also going to make suggestions that have to do primarily with what we can do as individuals rather than those that have to do with how our institutions are structured, not because these suggestions are necessarily the most important, but because they're the ones that are under our most immediate control.
- As the study I wrote about last week illustrates, all of us have unconscious biases that influence our evaluation of others, whether it's teachers evaluating students, graduate advisors evaluating current or potential advisees, PIs evaluating post-docs or potential post-docs, or faculty evaluating potential colleagues in hiring or current colleagues in promotion and tenure. Our first task: Admit to ourselves that we have unconscious biases. Only if we admit that can we begin to overcome them.
- Having admitted to ourselves that we have unconscious biases, we must then work to minimize their influence on our evaluations of others. Some years ago I spent some time reading about strategies of decision making. In the context of evaluating candidates for a job, one idea that's stuck with me is the idea of formulating for yourself explicit criteria before you've seen any of the candidates for a position. Of course, that alone won't do any good if the criteria you adopt are biased. Our second task: Identify explicit criteria and performance standards before any evaluation, and scrutinize them as closely as you can to make sure they don't introduce an unintentional bias into the evaluation.
- Just identifying those criteria will help a lot, but we can do even better. Once you have a list of criteria in front of you, it's natural to use a spreadsheet - maybe even one that you put in Excel &ndsah; to record how well each candidate performs on each of the criteria. And once you have all of the candidates scored for every criterion, it's easy to construct a composite index that expresses the overall performance of each candidate. The index could be something as simple as the sum or the average of each of the individual scores, or the criteria might be weighted with respect to how important they are. Our third task: Evaluate everyone on each criterion and base a final judgment on the same combination of all criteria for everyone.
Those ideas have to do with how we evaluate groups of people. What can we do for individuals? Ed Yong describes a fascinating study from a physics class in Colorado. Head over there for a description of the study, but it suggests to me a fourth task that we can engage in every day: Affirm the dignity and worth of everyone you interact with, and encourage everyone to take time to affirm the positive values they hold for themselves.
All but seven states cut their per-student support for major public research universities over the past decade, the National Science Board said Tuesday in a report depicting the cutbacks as a threat to the country's long-term economic health.
In 10 states, per-student support fell at least 30 percent from 2002 to 2010, according to data compiled by the board, which is the governing body of the National Science Foundation.
The NSF regularly tracks and publishes broad statistics on government spending on university research. It produced Tuesday's report, however, as the start of a regular series intended to focus attention on the growing threat to leading public research universities. (source)
In contrast, in the preceding decade only six states decreased support for higher education at public research universities. Of course, the economy of the 1990s was much better than the economy of the 2000s, but if you're wondering why tuition has recently increased faster than inflation at public research universities, a large part of the reason is that state support has declined.
The full report is available on the NSF website.
It's time to wake up. It's time to realize that it's not enough for colleges and universities to change, we have to change ourselves.
At this point, you're probably thinking "Change myself? What has Kent been smoking. I'm very supportive of women scientists, and I'd be delighted if there were more of them. Surely, he can't mean me." Well, I can't be sure that you need to change, but the PNAS study presents compelling evidence that we need to change, and we means all of us, so there's a pretty good chance that you need to change, too.1 Why do I say that?
Corinne Moss-Racusin and her colleagues surveyed faculty in biology, chemistry, and physics departments at three public and three large private universities in the United States. They sent materials to each of the participating faculty member, telling them that the materials were from a science student who had recently applied for a laboratory technician position and who hoped to continue on in graduate school. They were asked to provide feedback on the application rating the students competence, suggesting a salary that they would have offered the student for a technician position in their lab, and indicating their willingness to serve as a mentor. Importantly, all of the participating faculty believed they were giving feedback on a genuine student application. In fact, all of the applications were identical.2 They differed only in that 63 sets of the material had the name "John" attached to them and 64 had the name "Jennifer" attached to them.
I'm not a social scientist, but the survey and analysis methods they used seem pretty sophisticated. Here's a brief summary of what they found:
- Even though the applications were identical, "John" was rated as more competent than "Jennifer", was more likely to receive mentoring, and would have been offered a higher starting salary.
- It didn't make any difference whether the faculty member evaluating the materials was a man or a woman. Both men and women evaluated the resumes in ways that favord "John" over "Jennifer".
- Participating faculty also completed a questionnaire designed to detect unconscious bias against women. The greater the unconscious bias the less likely faculty were to judge "Jennifer" as competent and the less likely they were to offer her mentoring.
Unconscious bias is an extremely difficult barrier to tear down. Since it's unconscious we're unaware of it. Ironically, it could be that a large part of the problem is those who are most proud of how open and welcoming they are. Their very openness makes them unlikely to question their judgments and unwilling to admit the possibility that their judgments are influenced by bias. Only by being aware that our judgments are influence by unconscious bias do we have a chance of making it conscious. And only by making it conscious do we have a chance of fighting it.
That's why all of us need to change. All of us need to admit to ourselves that we're biased, and all of us need to become aware of our biases (conscious and unconscious).
For more information, refer to Proven strategies for addressing unconscious bias in the workplace from DiversityBestPractices.com.3 See also Sean Carrol's post at Cosmic Variance.
Corinne A. Moss-Racusina,, John F. Dovidio,, Victoria L. Brescoll,, Mark J. Grahama, and Jo Handelsmana (2012). Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1211286109
1I know that I need to change.
2I didn't see an explicit mention in the publication that the investigators received approval from the relevant Institutional Review Board that they received approval for this protocol, but it's a pretty safe bet that they did. It may be mentioned in the online supplements, which I haven't looked at.
3A PDF of the full report is available at www.cookross.com/docs/UnconsciousBias.pdf
Measure of Human Scale (Photo credit: Richard Sennett)
As this article show (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/24/opinion/micro-manager-trust-murnighan/index.html?iid=article_sidebar), really you are the ultimate leader. You assemble an awesome team and give them what they want, without having to do it all yourself.I'm not sure what prompted the e-mail, and I'm not sure why the student who wrote this e-mail was reading Route to the top coverage on CNN, but it was still very nice to receive. I do know that this student doesn't like it when I point out that other folks in the lab are the ones who do the real work and that I just sit around, kibbitz a little, and occasionally offer some statistical advice.
And on that point, I have more to say.
This student won't admit it, but she1 and my other students all could have done everything they did without me. Sure, some of the statistics wouldn't have been as fancy, but none of the fancy statistics really led to fundamentally different insights than they could have obtained using more standard methods. The main thing my fancy statistics contributed was a way to overcome the objections of reviewers who often get too hung up on picky statistical details. Simple analyses would have shown very similar patterns. They just would have violated a lot of assumptions, and there would have been battles with reviewers to convince them that statistics were just fine.2
To the extent I've been a good advisor it really comes down to this: I've been smart enough to stay out of the way of the folks I've worked with. I've trusted them to make good choices. I've been available to help them think through the options they face. If I can take credit for anything, it's for staying out of their way and for providing them a place where they could pick up the skills they need - mostly from other people.
The “ultimate leader” phrase is way over the top – for one thing I was her advisor, not her boss. But I am very pleased by the sentiment expressed. It's nice to know that at least one person appreciates the trust I put in her and her fellow graduate students.