Author Blindness

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Photo Credit: US Army. Source. CC BY 2.0.

Female and PoC authors get cited less.

When journalists seek scientists to comment on stories, they often turn to the same list of usually white men.

A related topic is who gets invited to give talks at conferences.

There are several people on Twitter regularly calling out mostly male meetings and Jonathan Eisen once gave a talk where he intentionally cited female scientists’ work throughout his talk as a quite way to combat gender bias at the (mostly male) conference he was attending.

But it can be hard to find people to cite and elevate. I [Ian] was working on a project recently and I had a noble goal: get a contribution from a scientist on every continent. I know scientists in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, but few to none in Africa. These are of course, massive geographic regions full of diverse nations, cultures, etcetera and yet I didn’t quite succeed in my goal despite putting in some effort (not enough, it turns out). Africa and Australia went without a contributor in my small project, largely due to time.

Doing that project, as well as this twitter conversation

got me thinking about how many scientists may often look right past the author section (or at least barely note it) and move right onto the content of an article to see if it’s relevant to their research and whether to cite it or not. We likely read more than we ever end up citing in a final grant or paper. However, that part of skipping over the authors may bias citations towards men, given they remain the majority in STEM fields, especially senior authors.

We must be intentional in who we cite and elevate. We’re all busy and rushing through things to get our papers and grants done – and that haste can easily lead to ignoring diversity of citation and acknowledgement. Passive citing because scientists are in a hurry, combined with men’s greater tendency to self-promote, may still result in a solid reference list – but may lack full representation of who does science.

How can we bring more intention in citing women and people of color, and better access the diverse perspectives they bring to the published literature? How do we find them as experts to contact and seek comment from as science writers?

This isn’t a new discussion. There are lists and databases out there (see links above) and more than just Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) and Summer Ash (@Summer_Ash) speaking up about it.

For a place to start finding the diversity that does exist in STEM, There’s (tactfully) asking on social media – where a panoply of diverse scholars are quite active (e.g. #WomenInSTEM, #BlackAndSTEM, #disabledandSTEM or just start listening to conversations about science on Twitter and other social media, diverse scholars are there too talking about their expertise and areas of interest). Or listen to The Story Collider who feature diverse scientific voices (as well as non-scientists who have stories about science has impacted their lives/experiences).

It’s still worth having this discussion to signal boost the resources that do exist and hearing how scientists ensure diverse citation, speaker lists, and expertise is heard.

Deadlines for conferences may need to be well off in the future so active recruiting of a diverse speaker/attendee list can be obtained. Similarly with faculty searches and encouraging women and PoC to apply to your university may be a necessary step. Last, Jonathan Eisen’s technique of citing women in STEM in his talk may be most effective of all. It subtly plants the seeds of under-represented scientists who might be invited to give future talks to those watching in the audience. Eisen had to be intentional in doing that. And so another layer of creating any kind of scientific work should be designing in diversity of citation as well as good writing, craft, and visual design.

Join us to discuss Citation Blindness on our next #DiversityJC September 28, Thursday night at 9pm ET/8C. ***Special day/time this month***

Hope to see you all there.

@IHStreet
@Doctor_PMS
@DrEmilySKlein

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Casual Friday #DiversityJC discussion about OCD and academia by @tibbsy07

After our last month’s discussion about #mentalhealth and academia, @tibbsy07 offered to share some thoughts about OCD and academia. In this thread, he explains his struggle and how important is to openly discuss OCD (and any other mental health issue)!

A thread by tibbsy07

Ok so let’s chat a bit about my experience with OCD and academia #DiversityJC

In full disclosure, I am no longer in academia but that has a bit to do with OCD and we’ll discuss as we go, ok?#DiversityJC

When I was young I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and that continued from middle school and into my first postdoc #diversityJC

During that time I went to numerous therapists and docs, did a lot of work. Meds and all #DiversityJC

I bring this up because of a very important thing that I learned about OCD when I was diagnosed. #DiversityJC

Full disclosure here too I am NOT an MD and I am only giving my speciic experience and symptoms and story w/ info from my drs #DiversityJC

People’s symptoms can and will vary and they may experience worse than me. #DiversityJC

Anyways, OCD is like a puppet master using anxiety and depression as marionettes. Often misdiagnosed #DiversityJC

The misconception about OCD is that people count things or whatever just because but it isn’t the case exactly #DiversityJC

The reality is that we do these things (the compulsion) bc we think that someone will come to harm if we don’t #DiversityJC

Or something bad will happen. I think about this constantly. I dont have physica compulsions just mental #DiversityJC

The constant thoughts or harm or bad things and trying to stop them is what separates OCD per my psychiatrist #DiversityJC

I just wanted to get that across before I continue. Even with meds I lose sleep bc I fear my son will fall down stairs etc #DiversityJC

And when a spell hits, it’s a snowball. I can’t turn it off like others might be able to. #diversityJC

But OCD has a lot of other smaller impacts that I am just now starting to learn after my diagnosis in late 2014 #DiversityJC

I don’t have many hobbies. I don’t stick with things and we’re working on it (dr incl) bc I obssess over a hobby #DiversityJC

And I set completely unrealistic goals that are unattainable and it crushes me when I fail so I obssess over something else #DiversityJC

This is the connection to academia – all through grad school and my first PD I had trouble on “the future” #DiversityJC

I locked in on an experiment or something and couldn’t get out of it. I would repeat ad nauseam and think about it constantly #DiversityJC

I didnt think I had any problems but I did. I ended up having trouble reading papers, do anything productive #DiversityJC

All I could think was if I didn’t do this/get this result I would be fired or it would turn out my pub was wrong then retrxn #DiversityJC

It ended up in a breakdown which was good in that it got me diagnosed and into CBT for OCD #DiversityJC

But I lost my first PD even with my own funding and crushed my esteem. I got another PD and it was good and left academia #DiversityJC

There are a Number of reasons I lost the PD, not all OCD, and I dont fault the PI. But untreated OCD was a large part #DiversityJC while I was never sure I wanted to be in academia, it does feel like I failed in a way. Diagnosis and therapy had helped a lot #DiversityJC

But had I paid attention and gotten diagnosed earier my career trajectory might have been very different #DiversityJC

I still struggle and some days are much worse than others. Sometimes it feels like OCD is always worse #DiversityJC

But family, therapy, and meds help. Take care of yourself. Ask questions. Talk with people! #DiversityJC

And dont be afraid to communicate! Had I spoken to my PI about it and not kept in dark it might have been diff #DiversityJC

To them I just basically wasnt a good PD/fit, and I don’t blame them for that. We split amicably and still chat a bit #DiversityJC

Their lab is super great now and my second PD was awesome and they are great too – but 2nd PD knew of my OCD #DiversityJC

So now I work on my OCD to minimize impact of my wife/son, myself and work #DiversityJC

That’s my story basically. I’m always happy to discuss my OCD experience and how it shaped my life – good and bad. #DiversityJC

I can talk about specifics with people and what it was like having panic attacks most days for hours on end for 4 months #DiversityJC

I do not blame anyone but me for my issues, and take full responsibility but know that I might have been able to be different #DiversityJC

Let’s discuss #mentalhealth in academia – #DiversityJC recap

This month our DiversityJC discussed an important topic: what we can do to improve mental health in academia. We are going to share the main insights here, but you can read the full discussion on our storify. We had special (and courageous) guests that recently shared their own personal experiences:

Although there seem to be a bit more dialogue about #mentalhealth in academia, this is still a difficult topic to discuss, and we still rarely engage it fully. For our August discussion, we first asked our guests what prompted them to share their experiences in their blogs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some academics may be inclined to share our experiences, but don’t do it for fear of retaliation. Or as @abigailleigh put it “I worried that my colleagues will look at me strangely, assuming I couldn’t do my research b/c of my mental illness.” But our guests also had positive responses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indeed. While positive our guests had support, it is not always the case – we do need to feel safe discussing those issues openly, with supervisors and colleagues!

 

 

 

 

 

Accepting and understanding mental health is a crucial part of the process. For that to happen, it is important we talk openly about mental health to alleviate its toll, making it more manageable. Speaking about mental health also lets other academics know they can talk about health issues. Academia applies constant pressure, which likely plays a role in the prevalence of anxiety and depression (e.g. in grad students), so it’s also likely many of us are hiding related struggles. Further support can come from our institutions, which need to actively promote mental health by developing and making resources available, accessible, and visible.

Many successful academics and other professionals deal with mental illnesses. They are effective despite it. Being able to put down the weight of depression or cut away the thicket of anxiety would make them even better scientists. Living with mental illness takes strength and treating them means making people more themselves.

Thanks to all that joined/listened to our #DiversityJC. We hope that this discussion encourage others to share their experiences and talk about their mental health issues. We are a community, and we must stand for each other!

@Doctor_PMS
@DrEmilySKlein
@IHStreet

Links:

The human cost of the pressures of postdoctoral research

Mental Health and Conferences: A Practical Guide

Mental health programs in schools – growing body of evidence supports effectiveness

Mental Health resources:

@TWLOHA, @TheMightySite, @healthyminds, @amhc2016, @chron_ac,

Apps:

Moodlog@headspace, @worrywatchapp,

August #DiversityJC: let’s talk about #mentalhealth in academia

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There’s a big elephant in the halls of academia. Nearly everyone in academia has experienced some mental health problem. Anxiety, stress, perfectionism, burnout, depression. There is so much pressure! Deadlines, grants, publications, failed experiments. You name it. However, although everybody admits to these pressures, it is still tough to openly talk about it with your peers and immediate colleagues about struggling to stay on top of them. Even worse, part of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture creates a sense of shame around mental health.

Lately there has been more discussion and more studies about the subject, especially among Ph.D. students. But mental health problems in academia go beyond that – postdocs and faculty are also deeply affected by it. A recent study with graduate students and postdoc showed that they show moderate to severe anxiety, depression and stress rates of 41%, 39%, and 82%, respectively.

There are great blogposts telling personal experiences of mental health issues, and we are happy to welcome a few of those courageous authors as guests to our next #DiversityJC discussion!

We’re excited that these awesome scientists will be joining us, and hope you will too. We need to change this culture of accepting but don’t discussing mental health issues. What can be done? How can we help? Join our #DiversityJC discussion next Friday, August 18th, 2p.m. EST.

@Doctor_PMS
@DrEmilySKlein
@IHStreet

 

The Second Job: An Introduction on Why STEM Is Losing Its Disabled Scientists.

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Image description: White disabled person icon on blue background, with person leaning forward. Gold science beaker as wheelchair wheel.

For our June Diversity JC discussion, we focused on #DisabledandSTEM, looking at research from Dr. Kate Sang on the experience of disabled scientists in the UK, and Working Life piece on her experience in the US by Jesse Shanahan. We were also thrilled to have both Kate (@katesang) and Jesse (@Enceladosaurus) join us for the discussion.

First, we discussed some semantics, which are important:

 

It is also important to remember that “disabled” pertains to a very large and diverse group:

 

And yet it is clear STEM fields are losing disabled scientists:

 

Our conversation quickly noted why this is, and the range of challenges disabled scientists in STEM face (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and their impact:

 

Barriers included physical access to not only areas for research…

… but also for support:

 

There is also the real financial cost that comes with having a disability – and let’s consider that on a graduate student budget.

 

The barriers and challenges go far beyond physical access and financial cost, as well.

 

…and this does not even get into the way in which disabled people are treated by health care professionals when they seek support and care:

 

One of the most important and poignant points in our discussion was how these challenges and barriers, in ways unlike any other experience, can force disabled scientists to make heartbreaking decisions between their science – and their health and lives.

For many, if not most, of us, science is where our heart and soul is – it is what we love to do. The idea of being forced to abandon our science is a hard one to even fathom – but it is a reality for many of our disabled peers, especially if they are without resources and support, at the institution, state, and federal level.

The importance of that support was also touched on in a recent New York Times op-ed on by Alice Wong (@SFdirewolf) , where the loss of support forced a major change in her career path. How may bright, creative, and curious minds are we losing before they even get started in STEM?

To avoid losing talented disabled scientists, there are tangible steps institutions can take to be more supportive and welcoming for disabled scientists, ensuring they can flourish in their fields.

 

Certainly, some institutions already have policies in place to support disabled scientists, but it is important to note that simply having policies on the books is not enough.

In addition, what resources, protections, and support are available may not be visible:

They may also require scientists to disclose their disabilities, which inofitself is a major challenge…

The stigma around disability means many people do choose to hide their disability if and when they can. This can limit visibility and access to support – but given how we treat disability in STEM, it’s up to institutions and the able-bodied community to ensure spaces are safe and resources are accessible. It’s on us to make change.

To these ends, there are many things able-bodied scientists can do:

Part of this is taking the time for serious self-reflection

… and it’s critical to remember we have a lot to learn, and we will need training…

 

But – what also stood out from our discussion was how much making science more accessible can help scientists and science:

 

This was our first conversation that focused on disability, and we hope to focus on additional and more specific aspects of disability and STEM in the future. Please let us know topics and research of particular interest to you!

Also make sure to check out conversations happening under #DisabledandSTEM, and follow scientists tweeting there…

[These convos happen Fridays at 8pm EST, tagged under #EnceladosaurusQA!]

… and mare sure your twitter is accessible!

 

Thank you to everyone who joined and followed our #DisabledandSTEM discussion, and special thank you to Kate Sang and Jesse Shanahan! We look forward to more in the future!

Emily (@dremilysklein)
Dr. PMS (@doctor_PMS)
Ian Street (@IHStreet)

June Discussion: Disability and STEM.

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Image description: Atom icon with disable person icon at center. Icons are white on blue background.

A theme which all participants referred to was fatigue. For many academics, our work is tiring anyway. But in addition, disabled academics have to negotiate not only the effects of their “impairment,” but also institutional structures for securing the adjustments they need to be able to do their work. Many respondents said that being disabled was like having a second job.

~ Kate Sang in her Science interview

If you’re on this blog, you likely care about (or are curious about) diversity and inclusion in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. Here and on our twitter chats, we’ve talked about a range of topics related to diversity and inclusion within the STEM disciplines. There is one we haven’t touched on much, aside from our discussions on the mental toll of science careers:

Disability.

We don’t talk about it enough in STEM, even in discussions of diversity and inclusion, despite the clear implications for people’s lives. For our June Diversity Journal Club, we want to focus on disability and STEM, discussing Kate Sang (@katesang)’s survey of researchers in the UK (also check out her interview with Science on the survey), as well as a Science Working Life piece by Jesse Shanahan (@Enceladosaurus). Collectively, these two pieces provide both research into the experience of scientists with disabilities, as well as a first-hand account. We also encourage you to check out Jesse’s #DisabledandSTEM on twitter, and especially follow other scientists sharing there.

We are also very excited that both Dr. Sang and Jesse will be joining us for the discussion! In addition to questions on the research and their experiences, etc, we will also focus on a few key points:

  1. Do we consider disability to a large enough degree when we talk about diversity and inclusion in science?
  2. What is your experience as a scientist with a disability/how does your able-bodied privilege mean your experience is different from other scientists?
  3. What does your institution or organization do to ensure they are inclusive to disabled scientists, students, and staff? What could they do better?
  4. What can able-bodied individuals do?

We do know that the stigma around disability can mean people are uncomfortable being open about their status. If you would like to ask a question or to comment anonymously, please feel free to direct message any of us (Emily @DrEmilySKlein, Ian @IHStreet, Dr. PMS @Doctor_PMS) or the DiversityJC twitter and we will post it for you.

A final note that we are trying to ensure the Diversity Journal Club website is accessible. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to improve!

Hope you can join us at 2pm Eastern time on Friday, 23 June!

Emily, Ian, and the Good Dr.

#DiversityJC recap: “The dangers of misinterpreted science results”

Last Friday our #DiversityJC got together to discuss the dangers of misinterpreted results. Fivethirtyeight’s piece we brought to your attention explained how Trump uses the peer-reviewed article Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections? as an argument to restrict immigration. You can see the full Storify of the discussion here.

We wanted to discuss two main points: first, what happens when science goes out in the wider world, especially with newer findings on particularly polarized topics? And second, what harms the misinterpretation of a study like this, on a polarized topic, can bring to scientists and the scientific community?

Research that moves beyond the lab can fall on deaf ears – or be twisted to fit an existing narrative or world view. Scientists need to be careful when describing and interpreting any data, but particularly those researching polarized topics. Several studies by Dr. Dan Kahan demonstrate that people acquire their knowledge mainly by consulting others that share their values, who they trust. Moreover, Dr. Kahan says that “People will selectively credit and discredit information in patterns that reflect their commitment to certain values.”

 

Yes. Scientists and their science need to be more accessible to the general public. Us, scientists have a tendency to trust more statements coming from scientists than from non-scientists. And that’s mainly because we are familiar with the scientific process, and we trust it. However, most of the general public does not know exactly how the scientific process works, and tend not to relate to the scientists.

Is it just training or also a product of the ‘publish or perish’ culture? Well, if you’re an academic that might be the case, but if you’re a policymaker reading a study, how do you avoid confirmation bias? One common suggestion over all participants was the importance of Science Communication. Translating research results to general audiences, but also the necessity of Science Outreach to prove science is accessible to kids. But also, how science itself view #SciComm. Even though there are a lot of scientists doing it, it still not widely valued or recognized!

In the US, we’ve been in a privileged position; great minds have come to us, a case of success building on itself. Science is global and though has work to do to be more inclusive, scientists do travel & move globally. Science is enriched and diversified by immigration. Due to the hostile USA environment towards immigrants prevalent now, there are already many cases of researchers not willing or able to come to our conferences, due to immigration problems… It is our duty to prevent this from happening!

Thanks to all that joined/listened to our #DiversityJC, and hope to see you next month!

@Doctor_pms

@IHstreet

@DrEmilySKlein

Links shared: