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

mentalhealth

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:

“The dangers of misinterpreted science results” – May #DiversityJC

zombie_research_illo_1_mcquadeWe are living in an era of post-truth and alternative facts. Politicians and the public cherry-pick the data they trust, and choose to follow gut instincts and emotion over even ample but contradictory evidence. Our current president has been discrediting scientific results regarding many issues, such as climate change and vaccines. These trends are naturally deeply troubling to the scientific community.

But what happens when those trends also threaten the diversity and strength of the scientific community itself?

 

On our next #DiversityJC, we are going to discuss Maggie Koerth-Baker’s article: The Tangled Story Behind Trump’s False Claims Of Voter Fraud. It is a long piece with several links to relevant related articles, but very much worth the read. In short, it discusses how Trump and his team used the results from the peer-reviewed article Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections? to backup his claims that “the election is rigged by millions of fraudulent voters — many of them illegal immigrants“.

This article brings up two themes for our next Diversity Journal Club:

First, what happens when science goes out in the wider world, especially newer findings on particularly polarized topics? The article is not open access, so in reading only to the highlights and abstract of the publication, it seems reasonable to infer that non-citizen immigrants might be voting at a higher rate than most experts thought. However, some additional reading identifies a potential pitfall with using very large databases in the study of low frequency categories, such as that in this paper: “in very large sample surveys, researchers may draw incorrect inferences concerning the behavior of relatively rare individuals in a population when there is even a very low level of misclassification.”

Scientists tend to think that larger samples sizes provide better results. But with some kinds of data, measurement errors come into play. And with large data, it is easy to find patterns that seem significant but are not – if you aren’t careful. For reasons like this, science can move slowly – it’s the process of many scholars reviewing and assessing the work to reduce uncertainty and make sure research is careful. This is clearly important for research using big data.

Yet while science can move slowly to address these issues – the rest of the world does not. Koerth–Baker’s story brings up how research that moves beyond the lab and into the wider culture can fall on deaf ears – or be twisted to fit an existing narrative or world view, especially on particularly topical topics (e.g. non-citizen voting is rampant and everywhere and must be stopped at all costs!).

 

Second, this article touches on immigration – and therefore some politicians have used it as an argument for restricting immigration. Yet science is a global human endeavor. The scientific method is the same everywhere on Earth, and scientists from everywhere contribute to science. Science works best without borders, engaging diverse collaborations and contributions, and the results enrich more of our lives the wider ideas and inventions can spread.

Collectively, then, the misinterpretation of a study like this, on a particularly critical but polarizing topic, can thrust results into the popular media in ways not supported by the facts and the data itself – to the detriment of science itself. To the detriment of scientists.

 

What are other dangers that misinterpretation of scientific results can bring – and when they speak to particularly pertinent topics, how do they then impact the scientific community? What other examples can you think of? What can be done to prevent this from happening?

Join our next #DiversityJC discussion this Friday, May 19th, 2pm EST.

Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

You can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, @Diversity_JC.

Diversity and the March for Science, and an apology.

M4S
https://www.marchforscience.com/

A previous version of this post was titled “Decisive or divisive: Diversity and the March for Science.” For full transparency, the initial post is included below.

This post was deeply problematic for several reasons. Most importantly, this should not have been framed as a debate, or that the voices quoted here be seen as divisive. It is not a debate. Those voices are educational, not divisive. Diversity and inclusion must be centered within in the March for Science – and in science more broadly.

We will not hold a formal on Twitter this month, but instead are taking time to reflect on the criticism we received and use it as an opportunity to further our personal education on diversity and inclusion. We encourage others to do the same. If you have thoughts about the March and diversity, or related questions, please feel free to post them under the hashtag.

Again, I (Emily) take full responsibility for this and deeply apologize for my ignorance and the harm caused.

 

[Update:] Also for transparency, I (Emily) have officially left the March for Science, which I had planned on doing so today (Monday 17 April) as of mid-last week (before I was rightly called out on Twitter). I was only involved with the national committee so my experience is at that level *only*, and I only speak for myself, although the experience of others within the March and the way people both within and outside the March were treated and valued, especially women of color, greatly influenced my decision.

My specific reasons for leaving are all indicative of the fact that others have made clear repeatedly: The March for Science is an example of the deep issues within science itself. The only reason I stayed as long as I did was because of the other people within the Diversity and Inclusion team. It was incredible opportunity to have the change to work with and learn from them.

 

*** Original post **

 

The March for Science is planned for about a week and a half from now, for 22 April, 2017.

Full disclosure: I (Emily) have been involved with the national committee for The March for Science as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Team. I do not personally speak for the March, not here and not on my social media. So we’re clear.

The March has not been without controversy. Understatement. From arguing the March is awkward or the March is a trap to explaining why they’d rather not march at all, scientists and the greater community have been discussing the March since its inception.

One area of particular interest to the Diversity Journal Club has been about, well, diversity. As with the Women’s March before it, diversity and inclusion has become a critical aspect in the discussion of the March for Science and its motivation. The March has been called out for trying to be apolitical, for avoiding the history of science and oppression, and for not fully appreciating why diversity matters.

Scientists on social media has been particularly critical. Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos (@OtherSociology) and others have discussed the March at length under the hashtag #marginsci (you can also see her analysis of diversity on March social media here). There have been numerous threads on this as well, such as one by Divya M. Persaud that starts here [link removed].

The response to these criticisms, often, has a similar theme as well, that they miss the point, and can be divisive for a mission that requires solidarity.

For our April DiversityJC, let’s talk about the March for Science and these conversations. Are they meaningful or divisive? Are they critical critiques, or undermining the March itself?

To give people time to get to Marches, if they choose to, we will be holding DiversityJC on Thursday April 20th at 2pm ET.  Please join us!

Emily K. (@DrEmilySKlein)
Ian Street (@IHStreet)
Doctor PMS (@DoctorPMS)

#DiversityJC recap: Achieving gender equality in Leadership

men women bossMarch was #WomanHistoryMonth, so we chose an article from the Guardian to discuss Why universities can’t see women as leaders? You can see the announcement here and catch up with all tweets from our discussion in our storify.

The article states that the percentage of women appointed to lead universities has been increasing (between 2013 and 2016, 29% of new VC recruits were female). Also, last Elsevier’s Gender in the Global Research Landscape report showed an increase in the % of women doing research. However, women account for more than 50% of the U.S. population. In academia, women are ~50% or more of PhDs & postdocs in many fields, with that percentages decreasing at the faculty stage. Still, there’s a big discrepancy – where this comes from?

Yes. As the article points out, there is a lot of bias regarding what is considered as “merit” to be a leader. The majority of the population (96%) agree than men and women are equally qualified to be a leader – but still, anything associated with female gender or femininity is devalued. In academia, women are usually pushed early in their career towards roles that require them to do mostly teaching & administration. “Because it is easier for managers to apply pressure on women, who will comply, than on male individuals, who will refuse”. Even if women are leaders, they face challenges to doing their work that men usually don’t have to face. They have to be seen as competent AND likable. Not being liked = not a good leader.

Women fight a daily battle for recognition. This implicit bias has to be fought earlier in life! Women are expected to always say “yes”. To be nice, and make others happy – what are not qualities usually attributed to a leader. Woman have to learn how to say “no“. Earlier, more often, and more effectively. But also, we need to teach people to accept no for an answer. To ask for things in ways that allow people to decline.

Are men and women different? Definitely. Are they different kind leaders? Probably. According to this article, men tend to be more task-oriented while women take on a more interpersonal style of leadership. Therefore, a “masculine” style tends toward assertive and task-based behaviors, while a “feminine” style is more relationship oriented and “democratic.” Additionally, Cummings noted, men tend to take greater intellectual risks and have higher self esteem, whereas “women are coping” and tend to be more efficient when it comes to solving problems. But acting differently doesn’t mean being a better or worse leader. Just different.

Thanks for everybody that joined and hope to see you next month!

Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

Links shared: Designing a Bias-Free Organization