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)

#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:

#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

#BlackHistoryMonth & the importance of mentors. #DiversityJC recap

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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!

Addressing Entrenched Beliefs: Recap.

In our January Diversity Journal Club, we discussed addressing entrenched beliefs.

While the article discussed talked about the how misconceptions are embraced, spread, and held onto, there have been a few other useful stories out there to look at. One is here:

Biochem Belle shared this post by Hilda Bastian that is also relevant:

Another is this interview with George Lakoff, about making sure any counter-messaging isn’t reinforcing misinformation, the “don’t think of an elephant” principle. It’s about creating a new frame, one that reinforces a narrative of inclusion, science, protections, and public goods.

Another is Will Storr’s book The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, recently discussed by the 538 science writer’s team on the Sparks podcast. One thing that gets brought up is that misconceptions can be cultural and help people, as they show with the concept of someone in Pakistan being infected with a Djinn..what we in the west would call mental illness. But Djinn framing helps people take care of those afflicted and people are taken care of. It’s worth a listen and describes just how complicated it can be to figure out when it is and isn’t worth attempting to correct misperceptions.

As Doctor PMS points out, there is a difference between uninformed and misinformed. For the former, people are much more likely to be open to new information if they are curious to learn/listen. As a general rule, adopting the curiosity mindset and being humble and honest about what we do and don’t know can help us overcome misinformation. While these require self-reflection and sparking that curiosity may be challenging, the distinction remains critical.

In terms of unwinding misconceptions, either for the mis- or uninformed, Ruthie Birger pointed out that that re-framing things so they are relevant to people’s lives can help people to understand new things, such as expanding on the use of safe spaces, although this comes with a downside:

In addressing entrenched beliefs, it’s also important to remember that even those misinformed often feel they are doing the right thing for the right reasons, something that Will Storr gets at in his book as well. The misinformed are most often good, likeable people:

Finding a way to make things personal and relevant to their lives is also crucial – or as Lakoff might say, use a frame that resonates (i.e. here’s how this affects you and your family, how it affected mine, etc). Humans work through stories. And realize, that especially online, the goal isn’t always to persuade. Allowing everyone see and understand your story also matters.

Despite the challenge, there is hope in addressing entrenched beliefs and misperceptions. Sparking curiosity may be one way (however you do that). In addition, recent research has shown that telling an opponent a story, a lived experience, can change minds. One thing to keep in mind is that once people are moved, the change is often for the longer term. After all, our brains change over time, and there is no going back. The world we live in always has new wrinkles to it as well as echoes of history that remain familiar.

We also need to be aware of our own biases, as Echo Rivera points out. Science works because it can falsify testable hypotheses through observations. We must consistently be recognizing what we don’t know, and the point in which we need to seek out other credible sources, think more, and be humble. Knowledge is power – and sometimes it is someone else who has that knowledge.

Finally, even thought people generally do have good intentions, it is also important to realize some lines can’t be crossed. If a belief is actively harming someone, or is a belief being brought into a context of science when it isn’t science – these need to be addressed, not accepted as opinion.

Thanks to all who contributed and joined our discussion, which can also be seen on storify, thanks to Doctor PMS!

See you next month for our February discussion under #DiversityJC. Share any thoughts in comments or on Twitter under the hashtag, or ping out Twitter account, @Diversity_JC.

Ian (@IHStreet)

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

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)

Your #DiversityJC Post-Election To Do list.

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This post was developed from both our discussion of what to do next under #DiversityJC, and from a great list of next steps from Erika Hamden. The point is you don’t need to do all these things. Choose what works for you:


1. Pick your cause and donate your money. This requires the smallest effort and time, but can make a big difference. In particular, sign up for automatic monthly donations of a small amount ($10 helps), as we need to keep support going beyond our current election hangover. Always search for local charities around that cause, but some national ideas below, as well as a great list here.


2. Pick your cause and donate your time. See any of the above organizations and search for ways to get involved or:


3. Get involved at work (yes I said it!): Many if not most scientific institutions, especially academic ones, have diversity initiatives, councils or commissions, and other groups. These groups almost always need volunteers to sit on the councils and be involved. We often assume minority groups will fill these roles – but they take time and effort. Shoulder some of that burden and step up.

  • Volunteer to serve on councils and commissions, attend meetings.
  • Ask your institution or organization about their policies on harassment and bullying, and how they plan on dealing with hate crimes and speech (just asking says you are paying attention to this and they should too).
  • Make social justice more visible by asking leadership what the institution is doing about inclusion there, what the initiatives and goals are.
  • Volunteer with harassment and assault networks on campus.
  • Request diversity training.
  • Go to social justice and diversity events on campus – they are for you, too. Sign up for list serves. Share events with students and colleagues (this alone can be huge for your own education, demonstrating their value to others in your lab and department, and making these more visible).

4. Bother your Congressional representatives. No matter what side of the aisle they are on, call them and tell them what you care about. Call them about bills they need to vote on and how you want them to vote – they represent you. Call them when they vote the way you wanted them to and thank them. Call them more than once. Call them every. single. week. Make it a habit. Here are some incredible resources, including call scripts and phone numbers: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/174f0WBSVNSdcQ5_S6rWPGB3pNCsruyyM_ZRQ6QUhGmo/htmlview?usp=embed_facebook&sle=true

5. Call Republicans. Whether or not you agree with them on other things, many Republicans spoke out against Trump. Tell them you support their decision to do this. Here is a list of Republicans who have spoke out against Trump in the past:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1w_EIOVLV0V7rJZhyqyDYG31P8h0cB3QJ3w6PErMJa7U/htmlview?sle=true#gid=0

6. Change your habits. If climate change and the environment matter to you, now is the time to make changes. Think about what you eat, drink, use, and waste.

7. Get politically involved: It is critical we actually vote in the 2018 mid-term elections this time around, and that we make a difference in our party platform. Encourage someone you know to run for office: http://www.sheshouldrun.org/ask_a_woman_to_run_for_office. Support and get involved with you local Democrat party chapter: http://asdc.democrats.org/state-parties/ and http://my.democrats.org/page/s/help-elect-democrats, or your local Republican one: https://www.gop.com/get-involved/

8. More ways to use your wallet. We’ve all heard about fake news. One way to combat it? Support newspapers and the journalists that spend the time investigating stories that matter (if you don’t believe me on their importance, ask John Oliver). Consider the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the LA Times, or High Country News (one of my favs for environmental news) and ProPublica. Also give in to the pledge drive and become a sustaining member of NPR and/or PBS.

9. Educate yourself. Even if you understand what privilege is and what microaggressions are, there’s always more to learn. Delve into the scientific research on discrimination or bias, read The Difference and Whistling Vivaldi, or just talk with (read: listen towilling friends, family and acquaintances that don’t look like you about their experiences.

10. Use your wallet, part 2: Support local artists speaking out, whether with words, lyrics, paint, pencil, or other forms of work (I recently purchased American Band by the Drive By Truckers, home of this song). 

11. Use your wallet, part 3: Boycott stores that support Trump and his children. Check out https://grabyourwallet.org/ for a list of retailers that do business with them or sell Trump products, along with a list of companies to buy from instead – or buy from local, small-scale business and put your money in your local economy. Feel free to call the big companies and tell them you won’t be purchasing from them and why.

12. Stay engaged: Sign up for newsletters that provide regular action items, then help where you can. These have small actions (<5-10 minutes) you can do regularly to keep engaged in the days ahead. Examples:


13. Be prepared: If you are a woman, buy Plan B and hold on to it. You can order it online or buy at a pharmacy. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.


Finally, social media and the internet can be used for good. There are incredibly helpful and informative resources out there and support systems available. More ideas about what you can do and additional charities to consider:

Slate: How to Channel Your Post-Election Anger, Sadness, and Fear Into Action
HuffPost: If You’re Overwhelmed By The Election, Here’s What You Can Do Now
Man Repeller: Post Election To-Do List
New York Mag: Citizens, United: What should Democrats in Congress — and Barack Obama, and you — do now?
Books to the rescue [of your hope]! The Chronicle: Weekend Reading: Searching For Hope Edition.

Also make sure to check out the Indivisible Guide, written by former congressional staffers on best practices for getting Congress to listen.

Some additional reading:
The Guardian: What will Trump’s presidency mean for American science policy?
Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman: Why I am committed to fighting oppression in academia
And to how the election hits us personally, too: Infactorium: Using Every Tool.


These spoke the most to me, in terms of my career and career path:

Ayana E. Johnson on National Geographic: Reframing Ocean Conservation in this Post-Election Era
World Ocean Observatory on Medium: The Election is Over. What Now? And How?
Small Pond Science: Write anyway*.


Tweetstorms have also been helpful:


Did we miss anything? Leave your ideas in the comments!


The bottom line from Erika Hamden (aka tl:dr):

“Donate money if you have it, Donate time if you have it. Don’t be complacent. Don’t think that YOU can’t make things better because you can.”


#BurnTheWhiteFlag.