#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.

#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

Achieving gender equality in Leadership #DiversityJC #IWD2017

We can do it

March 8th was International Women’s Day, and March is Women’s History Month.

For this month’s #DiversityJC we are going to discuss why gender equality is important and how can we  achieve it in academia, specifically regarding positions of leadership.

*Save the date – our discussion will be held next Friday, March 17th, 2pm ET*

 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women account for more than 50% of the U.S. population in 2014. Still, women are less represented in the labor force (47.4%) and have lower salaries (The median annual earnings of women was $39,621 compared to $50,383 for men in 2014).

Women have to fight a daily battle of general sexism and bias. In case you missed it, this thread shared on Twitter this month gives a good idea of how tough is for women to get professional recognition:

 

Earlier this month, Elsevier released the results of their annual Gender in the Global Research Landscape report. Although there has been some progress over the past 20 years, this progress is different across fields and regions. There is an overall increase in  the percentage of women doing research, but this proportion is much higher in health and life sciences, while physical sciences is still masculine dominated territory. The percentage of female researchers increased 11% in Brazil, but only 5% in Japan.

According to a report from the Rockefeller foundation, although Americans agree that men and women are equally qualified to lead businesses (96%), 1 in 4 said there are no women in leadership positions in their current job. This extends to academia, where women struggle to gain recognition and to climb their way to the top positions. For this month’s #DiversityJC, we are going to discuss an article from The Guardian that explores Why universities can’t see women as leaders. Although this number has also been slowly increasing, women hold just one fifth of senior leadership roles in higher education!

Why this happens? Why gender equality on leadership is important?, What can we do to improve it? Join us to discuss this and other questions this next Friday, March 17th, 2pm Eastern time!

Hope to see you there,
Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

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

 

#BlackHistoryMonth & the importance of mentors. #DiversityJC recap

BHM_recap

February was #BlackHistoryMonth, and we decided to celebrate it in our monthly #DiversityJC, along the discussion about the importance of mentors and role models. You can read the complete Storify of our discussion here.

For our discussion, we addressed an article that indicated black science students are more likely to stay in science if they have at least one black professor (a discussion about the results of this study was also published by Inside Higher Ed).

Given that article and that February is Black History Month, we asked:

The point was connecting the research article about how black students stay in school with the point that we all need role models that look like us. This may not be recognized by those of us who see people like us in positions of power and in the people we look up to and go to for assistance.

And, as the research from Dr. Price demonstrates, it’s not just mentors and role models. It’s the people we see working in science every day that also matter.


This impacts all of us
, not just minority scientists. We are all trained that the people we look to for mentors and role models should be white, male, cis-gendered, straight, and able bodied. Whether we realize it or not, not only does leaving scientists out that don’t fit that bill marginalize them and their work, it also tells the the rest of us what a scientist should look like.
So – what can we do about this?

We can do better at both highlighting minority scientists of the past, and amplifying those currently working. We can assess our own internal biases and address our own internal ideas about what a scientist looks like. We can let go of the notion that groundbreaking science was done by a lone white man, and acknowledge instead is usually done by teams of scientists working together. We can encourage our institutions to hire diverse faculty and staff, and demand conference planners to ensure diverse speakers and panelists. Essentially, the importance of role models and seeing ourselves in the jobs we aspire to is another critical reason diversity and inclusion matter.

From Dr. Price’s work, critical piece of this is addressing those communities most marginalized. While Dr. Price found black students stay in STEM with at least one black professor, the same was not found for female students, suggesting they already felt more “normal” in the scientific community. While this does not negate the importance of more women in STEM and leadership positions, it does speak to the fact that communities of color may be more marginalized.
Another point made by the discussion looked the other direction at our topic:

That is, systemic bias and resulting conscious or unconscious stereotypes alone may overtly discourage underrepresented minority scientists from attaining leadership or mentoring positions. This stress can potentially cut both ways…

These points come back again to the importance of inclusion, and ensuring our institutions not only want to become more diverse, but also be more welcoming. In so doing, that they actively work to address internal the internal culture.

 

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Diversity Journal Club this month! Please check out the entire conversation on Dr. PMS’s Storify, and the Role Models we shared over the month. In addition, some important links shared during the discussion to check out:

George Washington Carver, Planter of Productive Farmers

Percy Julian, Natural Products Chemist

Til next month!

Doctor PMS
Emily Klein
Ian Street

Don’t forget to give our twitter account a follow at Diversity_JC!

#RoleModel #BlackHistoryMonth #DiversityJC

February was #BlackHistoryMonth, and along this month we posted some #RoleModels in our Twitter account. ICYMI, we’ve put them all together in this blogpost!

2016 #DiversityJC – Doctor_PMS’s Year End Review


It’s the end of 2016 and it’s been a year of change in all sorts of ways (for hopefully good, but also almost certainly for the worse in many ways too, especially on the diversity/inclusion front as at least the US became demonstrably less friendly following our 2017 election). 

In these first 2017 posts, Ian, Emily, and the good Doctor give our thoughts about this past year of DiversityJC and some ideas for the future. Ian’s post is here, and Emily’s is here.

Remember you can subscribe to the DiversityJC Newsletter to keep up with all our discussions and posts.

 

Although 2016 was not a great year globally, it was a good year for me personally. I started to get more comfortable in my new job, with my age, with myself – as a whole! That included accepting that I was not in academia anymore, and I had to find my new niche on Twitter. Oh yes, not before a period of Twitter crisis and not knowing exactly what to tweet. That crisis also included our #DiversityJC. According to our about page, “The premise of this journal club is to discuss articles and blog posts about Diversity in academia”. So how could I keep moderating our #DiversityJC if I was not in academia anymore? It seemed a little hypocritical at the time, but I thought about when and why we started doing this to begin with, back in 2014.

And now, at the end of 2016, I am SO GLAD I kept doing it. Why? Because diversity matters, and not only in academia!

Looking at the list of topics discussed in 2016, we covered so many important issues, including being an ally, ideological diversity, imposter syndrome, and elections. Now after the election, it is more important than ever that we raise our voices and fight for Diversity and Science! Our soon-to-be POTUS is a known white nationalist and skeptical about Science, to say the least. Currently our nation is deeply divided. It is extremely important for us to unify to fight against current threats on Diversity and Science. That can be achieved in many ways, but we want our #DiversityJC to be a safe place where we can discuss issues, listen, and RESIST!

I feel like 2016 was a slower year for our #DiversityJC. We tried to recruit moderators to run the journal club at different times, to give opportunity to people living in other times zones to attend. We are planning to keep it up, stronger and more actively in 2017, but we need YOU! Find an interesting article that you want us to discuss? Use our hashtag! Is Friday 2pm EST a good time for you? Let us know! Also, we are always opened to publish guest posts. Contact us if you want to contribute. And lastly, subscribe to our #DiversityJC Newsletter to follow our discussion announcements and recaps.

And here’s for a happy new AND DIVERSE 2017!

Cleyde (@Doctor_PMS)