“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)

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.

 

Addressing Entrenched Beliefs.

 

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Lisa attempts to Teach Homer about misinformation and logical fallacies and inadvertently spreads misinformation about tiger-prevention rocks. Via Frinkiac. From The Simpsons S7E23 “Much Apu About Nothing”, Fox Studios.

Diversity JC has a Twitter handle: @Diversity_JC. The three of us will tweet relevant things and one of us will moderate discussions from the account. We also have out newsletter that you can subscribe to

**NOTE:** Our first discussion of 2017 has been moved to Thursday January 19 at 2pm Eastern Time due to the inauguration and the potential for people to be traveling to protests on the 21st. We’ll discuss this paper, The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions (pdf).

There’s been a lot written and said this past few months about reconciling the “post-truth” world with the one many of us in science believe we live in: the one of data, facts, and science.

  • Where confirmation bias is minimized and not everything is evidence of conspiracy.
  • Where our own beliefs are self-interrogated and, at the same time, aren’t held so tightly that any contradictory evidence, real or imagined, continues rationalizing of  misconceptions, instead of new dialogue.
  • Where vetted sources are trusted by many – instead of groups that decide to listen or not based on vague principles instead of facts, and anything perceived as a challenge to one’s identity or even requires change is met with resistance or outright denial.

Inclusiveness in academia is not immune to this trend: There are those that simply deny there’s a problem or see it as a challenge to their identity in some way.

Our Diversity Journal Club aims to not only discuss issues of diversity and inclusion in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, but to make a difference. We also hope to provide a way to engage for those that haven’t discussed these topics in the past, and want to learn and listen. There is evidence that an open conversation telling people directly about lived experiences works to combat misperceptions. Yet we need people to come to the table first – to admit the need for discussion and change.

As Brianna Wu points out in this Twitter thread (& many others have as well), facts do not really matter when trying to convince people:

Even Galileo in letters to The Duchess of Tuscany was aware of entrenched beliefs that are hard to get through, even if the facts are on your side:

These men have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible. These they apply with little judgement to the refutation of arguments that they do not understand and have not even listened to.

Galileo used a telescope to observe “new worlds” (moons) around Jupiter. 500 years later, NASA/JPL scientists have further confirmed that observation in unprecedented detail with the Juno mission’s time lapse as it approached and entered orbit around Jupiter. Some scientists argue that exploring nature in greater and greater detail reveals the magnificence of creation, putting a religious narrative structure on why they love science and exploration. The religious story as a way to relate science may not be given by scientists, however, as Dudo and Besley found that scientists in their survey put the lowest priority (& thought their colleagues did too) on tailoring narratives (Dudo and Besley, 2016, open access).

This month in #DiversityJC we’ll discuss this publication by DJ Flynn, Brendan Nyhan, and Jason Reifler “The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions: Understanding False and Unsupported Beliefs about Politics” (pdf).

The paper concludes:

If the conclusions reached so far are correct, however, the threat of misperceptions to democracy cannot be avoided, especially in the highly polarized world of contemporary American politics. Facts are always at least potentially vulnerable to directional motivated reasoning, especially when they are politicized by elites. The polarization that our politics must confront is thus not just over issues and public policy, but over reality itself.

The paper delves into political misperceptions, however, similar principles apply to issues of inclusion and diversity issues in STEM (and beyond). There are entrenched beliefs that increasing inclusion means losing something for those currently in positions of power and influence. To name one misperception.

It is long article, but  the most relevant sections in order of appearance are The introduction, The definition of misperceptions, The effects of misperceptions and corrective information, and Why misperceptions matter for democracy, and the conclusion.

Deficit models don’t work. People come to new information with prior knowledge that can be persistent, and messages not tailored to specific audiences can easily fall flat, as Southern Fried Science recently addressed regarding climate change. The communicator and the message can both matter when correcting misinformation. Some evidence suggests starting with the misperception and filling it with the correct information can be effective (though it takes effort on the part of the person absorbing new information). However, delivering it in a narrative/story form is likely to be most effective. It shouldn’t be shocking that learning is a social process and what matters is what goes on inside the head of the learner.

There also has to be a way for a story to resonate with an intended audience. Identifying that may be especially challenging, as Flynn et al. point out.

The questions we’ll be having in mind and stories we’d like to hear are:

  1. Have you had experienced actually changing someone’s mind on an issue of Diversity/inclusion? Or changed someone’s mind on another STEM topic (like climate change)?
  2. How do we best connect with those expressing strong disagreement? (& are there people that genuinely seem more open to hearing the other side of an argument than others?
  3. How important is it to continue ‘preaching to the choir’ and is there a value in doing so?
  4. What narratives work best with social/inclusion/diversity issues that can appear invisible? With a social issue like inclusion/diversity that may not be seen as solidly researched as say, established physics, are there narratives that work better or worse than others? What has been your experience?
  5. How do you stay open to new ideas/hearing another perspective?

Join us for DiversityJC on Friday, January 20 at 2pm ET! 

@Diversity_JC is:

Ian – @IHStreet

Emily – @DrEmilySKlein

Doctor_PMS – @Doctor_PMS
PS- One thing we should all start to be mindful of is not sharing fake news ourselves, especially be careful if it confirms what you already believe. Here is one list of ways to spot – and then not share- fake news stories (and find what the actual story might be and share that instead).

Toxic Masculinity.

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Masculinity can be more than one shade of gray. Credit: Josh Hallet, Flickr, CC2.0

This month in Diversity Journal Club (#DiversityJC on Friday, 16 September, 2pm ET), we’ll be discussion this New York Times Column about teaching men to be emotionally honest.

And take it from me (Ian). It is hard to be emotionally open with other men– with everyone, really. Even those we know well.

One example of toxic masculinity is that article about the “advice” on a website about approaching women wearing headphones (the actual answer: don’t).

Andrew Reiner poses this question and assignment to his class on masculinity:

But wouldn’t encouraging men to embrace the full range of their humanity benefit women? Why do we continue to limit the emotional lives of males when it serves no one? This question is the rhetorical blueprint I pose to students before they begin what I call the “Real Man” experiment.

In this assignment, students engage strangers to explore, firsthand, the socialized norms of masculinity and to determine whether these norms encourage a healthy, sustainable identity.

The models men have in the United States are stoic, strong, favor action over contemplation, and most importantly, show no vulnerability. They may or may not also be angry, a facade of strength.

The radio show Backstory aired an episode about The American Work Ethic over labor day weekend. This episode brings up something key to (US) masculinity: Hard work. Providing. And an idea that seems increasingly less true: that hard work will pay off and be rewarded. The recession in 2008 and the slow recovery, and economic insecurity that still exists for many has left men with few outlets to express their vulnerability– and anger and abuse can come out instead.

Brene Brown, a researcher on shame and vulnerability talks about how our culture- even women- often have a hard time hearing men being vulnerable and expressing emotion to their partners or loved ones. As she says, if a woman can sit with a man in true vulnerability, she’ll be showing you a woman that has done some real work (& yes, she has a reverse as well, where men really have to work at just listening to women and not trying to instantly fix everything).

Andrew Reiner notes that men commit suicide at 4 times the rate women do, are not as academically accomplished as women now, and as teenagers socially more unable to connect with others. That can also persist into adulthood.

Too many men are still walled off, isolated, and learn a form of masculinity where the only emotion acceptable is anger.

The Note to Self podcast had an episode with Lead parent, and Dad, Andrew Moravcsik, husband of Anna Marie Slaughter (who wrote the ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have it All’), about how we think about parenting, and integrating our work and home lives, having men being caretakers, a role still not traditional in the US. He points out how being lead ‘dad’, and how it has to be legitimized. He points out how some of the language and treatment of men as caretakers is akin to bias against women in the workplace (basically that there’s a perception that men can’t handle the school schedules, PTA meetings, etc- though they just haven’t been given opportunity to do so).

Similarly, men’s feelings, besides outrage, need to be able to come into the light and be legitimate (especially to other men).

If you want an example of what opening up, vulnerability, men talking about very real things with each other might look like, listen to this short Story Corps story: Guardians of The Gate where two Golden Gate Bridge workers talk about their job & pivot to talking about a really hard aspect of their job, encountering people intending to jump– it goes to my core and makes me cry every time I listen to it. These two have been colleagues and friends for 25 years.

So that’s what we’ll talk about this month in #DiversityJC on September 16 at 2pm ET.

How can we detoxify this form of masculinity Reiner writes about?

Who are men we might hold up as role models for men to emulate?

How do we legitimize and allow men to express themselves more often & to whom?

And what do you wish men knew about how their emotional distance and isolation translates to biases and abuse of women (& anyone else for that matter).

See you on the 16th.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

Emily S Klein (@DrEmilySKlein)

It’s the imposter syndrome… or is it?

I learned one of the most important things from graduate school in my first semester. A senior, tenured, well-respected and highly published faculty member told us something along the following lines:

“You will go through periods where you feel like you know everything, and then you will go through periods where you feel like you know absolutely nothing, and you’re just hoping no one notices. The important thing to remember is that everyone, from graduate student to tenured academic at the top of their field, everyone goes through both of these periods regularly. Prepare for this pattern to happen throughout your career.”

I actually remember what it was like to not really know what she was talking about. As a fresh-faced first year, I had yet to even experience the Imposter Syndrome.  Of course, since then I’ve come back to this message many, many times. It’s been a helpful reminder that the Imposter Syndrome is real, and more importantly, it’s normal.

 

But… what if it’s not just the Imposter Syndrome?

 

I know women who started out their academic careers believing sexism was dead, feminism had won. While, sure, some fields are lagging behind a bit, overall woman are earning well over 50% of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in STEM fields, and are closing the gap on PhDs. The evidence speaks for itself…. right?

In this assumed post-patriarchy, there is no sexism to explain what we experience – we look inward when our confidence is undermined. We tell ourselves it’s the Imposter Syndrome rearing it’s ugly head, that we need to just believe in ourselves and know these feelings are normal…. right?

 

What if they aren’t?

 

For June, the Diversity Journal Club will delve into the Imposter Syndrome and how it intersects with diversity and inclusion. We will be discussing Alexis Hancock’s

How The Rhetoric of Imposter Syndrome Is Used to Gaslight Women in Tech

While this was written for an audience in tech fields, it applies pretty similarly to those in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) more broadly. Do we use the Imposter Syndrome to explain away how microaggressions make us feel, how stereotype threat undermines our confidence? To help us ignore real reasons for our struggles that may not actually be fixed by believing in ourselves, or working harder?

We hope to expand this conversation to explore the difference between individual and systemic problems – or if that assessment is even important. Is it something I personally need to do differently or work at – or is it systemic bias?

 

Please  join us on Twitter under #DiversityJC on Friday 19 August at 2pm Eastern Time for the discussion!

Emily Klein, Ian Street, and Doctor PMS

Orlando.

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In the aftermath of the tragedy in Orlando, the Diversity Journal Club is updating our discussion topic for this Friday.

 

When the United States continues to experiences mass shootings*, and this time a mass shooting targeting the LGBTQ+ community, how does this intersect with our lives as scientists?

 

Many of us can disconnect from these events, can say they happen “out there” and our science happens “in here” – in our labs, and offices, and classrooms, and field stations. In beakers and computers and mesocosms. That these things belong in one sphere, while our science exists in another. But what if we cannot disconnect? What if, to be our whole, true, selves, we must admit that they are not so easily divorced?

 

What does it mean to be an LGBTQ+ scientist in the US, after Orlando? Before Orlando?

If we feel we can disconnect, how are we better allies and friends and colleagues in learning from and listening to and understanding those that cannot?

 

Have we forced this disconnect too long? How does science itself, and its role in the world, suffer or is changed when we insist on this divorce?

How do we mentor our students in light of these events? Should we avoid discussing them in lab meetings and in classrooms – or do we learn how to have that conversation? What is lost or gained in this decision?

 

For our DiveristyJC discussion this coming Friday, 17 June, we offer up a safe space (albeit on social media) for us as scientists to discuss Orlando, to address these questions and more as we respond to this national tragedy, and come together with the LGBTQ+ community. Let us not spend a few months on thoughts and prayers alone, let us talk about how this impacts us as scientists, and can, and already does, impact the science we do.

Please join us this Friday, 17 June, at 2pm Eastern time on Twitter under the #DiversityJC hashtag.

 

Much love and light to you and yours.

Emily
Ian
Dr. PMS

 *Note important comment below on language around mass shootings.

 

We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers 
remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love 
is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside”  ~ Lin-Manuel Miranda

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old