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)

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).

2016 #DiversityJC – Ian’s Year-End Review

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

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

 

One of our topics this year was ideological diversity and the discussion focused on how to incorporate different political ideologies into academia, a generally more liberal place outside of a few disciplines (Economics, for instance). It’s not always easy – for example, we can’t incorporate creationism since it isn’t a science (and even runs anti-science, as when it ignores evolution). There are also some social attitudes that shouldn’t be tolerated – racism and sexism for instance (these things are present enough already and have prevalent myths surrounding them).

Julia Shaw, a scientist studying memory wrote a post for Scientific American “I’m a scientists and I don’t believe in facts” writing

“Scientists slowly break down the illusions created by our biased human perception, revealing what the universe actually looks like. In an incremental progress, each study adds a tiny bit of insight to our understanding.

But while the magic of science should make our eyes twinkle with excitement, we can still argue that the findings from every scientific experiment ever conducted are wrong, almost by necessity. They are just a bit more right (hopefully) than preceding studies.

That’s the beauty of science. It’s inherently self-critical and self-correcting. The status quo is never good enough. Scientists want to know more, always. And, lucky for them, there is always more to know.”

That is exactly how science works (and it does work, just look around at your entire world and realize it’s the result of curiosity-based scientific inquiry).

The science of studying inclusion and diversity is similar. In this case, research shows us that science is still not an inclusive place, the Nobel prizes being one example of that.

Inclusiveness takes understanding and compassion. All of us need to at least try and understand where the bias, fear, and even possible outright hatred come from.

Science breaks down and expands our perspective. It can challenge tradition and authority. These aspects of science are needed now more than ever, given what is shaping up to be an anti-science, anti-inclusive, anti-compassion administration. There are steps to take in moving forward, both nationally, but especially locally, as we go about our lives.

I’ve been introspective and thought a lot about how to be inclusive as a cis white male this year, especially as I’ve been writing more and more. Thinking about how to talk about these issues, because these are tough topics to talk about, and thinking about them because white people generally don’t experience them.

It’s all the more important to continue to have these discussions and figure out how to bring people along, raise everyone up (whether that is economically or in terms of ensuring everyone is truly treated as a human being deserving of compassion, empathy, and support).

It isn’t always easy. Being in a hurry, feeling under pressure and under multiple stressors in our lives (the raw chase to keep up, make money to live, etc.) can easily blind us to social issues, to issues of fairness and inclusion – or to see beyond our own experiences. Part of this past election was a sizable portion of people feeling disenfranchised. They voted for change despite the hateful language and actions of the “change” candidate. I hope more of them speak up to say that the racism, sexism, and xenophobia Trump espouses and is now appointing in his cabinet picks does not represent them, is not what they believe or support, even if they agree with him on other issues (sadly, I haven’t seen a lot of that out there, because it was a package deal). It’s important to keep in mind that Trump didn’t get the most votes as well. 90 million people did not vote, and of those that did not vote for Trump but did pick a presidential candidate, 74,000,000 votes were counted (to Trump’s 62,000,000).

Going forward, be kind, act locally to support inclusion and repudiate bias (even implicit biases as well as ones we might harbour ourselves).

Ian (@IHStreet)

Image from Flickr by Leland Francisco,  CC2.0 : Kindness is like snow “Kindness is like snow – it beautifies everything it covers” (Quote possibly by Khalil Gibran).

 

What’s next?

We had a journal article picked out for November’s discussion. We had the introduction written.

 

Then, you know, the election happened.

 

We got a bit sidetracked. Given that the good Doctor and Ian can’t make our discussion time anyway, I decided I’m changing things.

I believe that this is a wake-up call for us on so many levels, in so many ways. I believe we can use our legitimate fear and anxiety and anger for good. I believe we need time and space to process and understand what happened.

I believe we need each other for all of these things.

Our next DiversityJC discussion (under #DiversityJC) is next Friday, 18 November at 2pm Eastern Time. To focus, I welcome dialogue on

  1. What we think happened to bring about the outcome (we’re scientists, so bring your evidence please),
  2. Our fears specifically for diversity in STEM fields, and
  3. What we plan to do about both avoiding #1 in the future, and to address #2.

I know this is basically open-ended, and I do agree with Ian when he said getting back to focused discussions about diversity and inclusion are important for moving forward, but indulge me. If nothing else, I’ll be using the time to really focus in on my own thoughts. By myself. Also cool with that.

Take care, take care of each other, and be safe.

Emily
Ian
Doctor PMS

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)

Don’t take out your headphones.

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Credit: Takumi Yoshida, FlickrCC2.0

This week saw ‘The Modern Man’, a website apparently dedicated to giving (horrible) tips to men about meeting women out in the world.

The post that got a lot of attention on Twitter was one with tips to talk to a woman with earbuds or headphones firmly in place. You can read about one reaction from The Guardian here.

I don’t understand people- men in this case- that don’t take headphones as universal symbol of ‘don’t bother me’. Similar to people with nose-in-computer at the library of coffee shop. Presumably, most people aren’t like me and have times when they are more open to talking to strangers.

I get it. I’m a single guy. It’s not a ton of fun sometimes, but forcing conversation on someone that is sending a signal of ‘don’t interrupt’ with earbuds in does not endear you to that person.

If I get interrupted, it takes me a long time to refocus. And that is probably the least of it. Women get approached all the time, get catcalled, and otherwise get a lot of unwanted attention all the time. Just listen in on Twitter sometime, it gets talked about there a lot.

So what’s the alternative? Like many things in life, there aren’t shortcuts. Be someone worth getting to know. Pursue your interests. Meet people that share them. Things will grow from that. The more seeds you plant, the better.

Sleazily dehumanizing and treating women like objects is unacceptable.

Meeting people tends to happen spontaneously and organically. The Atlantic’s James Hamblin recently learned how to meet strangers in New York City, none of which involved interrupting people with earbuds. Hamblin’s a little forced, but then, he was doing a video on a deadline with a somewhat artificial set up. Meet-cutes, instant connections, etc. might happen, but the instant it’s forced, something has gone wrong (and clearly, Hamblin was not making any new best friends– and its’ impossible for me to tell whether he’s playing a character or is genuinely being himself).

If you’re not looking for long-term relationships/love to spring and just want to be part of a lots of short flings, there are communities dedicated to that. Look there, not everywhere. And not to people in earbuds or who are at work. If you want to know how ridiculous a workplace where everyone hooks up with everyone else is, there’s a podcast you should listen to.

Yes, the world is connection starved. It isn’t helped by a culture of masculinity that dictates that connecting is a bad thing. That showing vulnerability is not OK drives that disconnectedness. And so we get blog posts recommending men interrupt women that are obviously signaling they don’t want to be interrupted just then.

There are better times, places, and manners to connect. Learn those. Practice those. The world will be better for it.

In our topic post this month, DiversityJC will discuss models of masculinity and just how they don’t serve us well as the ‘headphones’ article illustrates. Look for that post next week.

Ian Street (@IHStreet).

 

 

 

 

On support.

On March 18, 2pm Eastern, #DiversityJC will discuss allies and being a person in STEM supportive of inclusion and diversity for its own sake. Look for Emily’s post introducing the discussion later this week. In this post, I’m going to offer my reflections on being a supportive of inclusivity/diversity.

I was talking to a colleague today who talked about a job search at a major research university.

Colleague: “They interviewed 12 people for 6 positions and only one was a woman”.

Me: “That’s Bullshit”.

I said this without hesitation. Because it is. No job search in 2016 has any excuse to be that skewed. The chair of the search was apparently female too (not that that fact alone precludes bias).

I don’t know if this counts as being supportive. But I guess it signals something of my frustration that it is obviously an unfair system.

My saying that doesn’t change any facts about that major research university and its faculty search. And no, I’m not going to name the institution; I don’t have permission from my colleague to say more. I’m sure it’s not the only such skewed job search happening.

The best way I’ve found to be supportive is mostly to get out of the way and point to voices from underrepresented/marginalized groups speaking up about inclusion. That means a fair bit of listening too. Listening is not just in person, but also paying attention to the Twitter conversations surrounding diversity, to blog posts on the topic, and even op-eds in the New York Times (this one by Hope Jahren on Sexual harassment in academia and it’s pervasiveness and effects on women in STEM).

The term ‘ally’ is a loaded one. Proclaiming yourself supportive of underrepresented groups in science is often not a sign that someone is. So I tend not to refer to myself that way and prefer to be as quietly supportive as I can be.

At the AAAS meeting the organizers seemed to do a good job of balancing the panels, speakers, etc, at least in terms of gender. No doubt a reflection of AAAS President Geraldine Richmond’s leadership (though they may have done OK on this in year’s past– this was my first time at the conference, so I don’t know what their track record is). So it is possible to achieve some level of equal representation.

I had a button from the AWIS booth at the AAAS meeting that I wore around the conference and a few people stopped to ask if I was really supportive of women in science. It was a rare instance of me (I’m a cis, white male, if you don’t know) apparently encountering some part of what women must face– questions about their commitment to something (there’s more to it, I know).

Again, though, it’s not clear to me that wearing a pin around is making a huge difference.

I’m a moderator/writer here at DiversityJC. But I still feel like I’m learning even though I’ve been contributing for a year.

Though my route there was different, I do think I understand the isolated feeling so many under-represented groups and women talk about feeling at times. I’ve experienced it because of depression. The feeling that there doesn’t seem to be anything that will make the situation better and the feeling of aloneness is crushing and getting out is the only option. So perhaps I understand the mental space if not the route there.

For senior academics that have some influence over the system, it’s a lot more obvious what they can do to support inclusion: challenge bias when you see it (even in themselves), ensure a diverse pool of talent for any hiring/funding/conference panel, listen to under-represented colleagues for things that will help them, and if it needs to be stated, don’t attempt to intiate romantic relationships/contact with those junior to you, period. Those things will and do make a difference.

As a postdoc, it’s less clear what I can do. I can call out bias (that I don’t see often except on the internet sometimes), I can listen, and I can work on projecting a welcome environment, but my influence is still minor in terms of changing the system– I don’t make decisions that can affect the entire population of STEM workers.

That’s not quite true. There is one thing I can do– leave STEM. At least leave the traditional academic path (My current career goal is what I like to call “science adjacent”). That might be hard for some who’ve been pursuing that academic job their entire lives, but with a limited number of faculty jobs available each year, reducing the majority population seeking them might well increase the number of women and underrepresented groups getting faculty jobs. It’s not a guarantee of course, but it’s something that might help, especially in a field like life sciences where there really is a large pool of talent there to promote.

It will also take cultural change amongst hiring committees, but that seems more and more feasible as there really have been some gains in under-represented groups in STEM in the last 40 years and that influence is being felt (of course, it’s not all solved as my initial anecdote notes).

Part of being supportive is also to note social progress. Because it is happening (you, underrepresented groups are being heard by at least some of us). Taking women in professional life as examples: Geraldine Richmond as President of AAAS, Hilary Clinton running for president with a real shot at winning the election, and Jennifer Doudna being hailed as one of the key innovators behind CRISPR. It’s just not that exceptional to see successful (even moderately successful) women anymore– and that normalization is a good thing (this is not meant to diminish lived experience, it just means being treated as a scientist when talking to another scientist independent of how they identify because, in the moment of discussing science, it does not matter). There are still a lot of people that don’t get the recognition they should, of course, but examples are coming to light more and more, both contemporary and historic.

Mostly, I try to follow the platinum rule: treat people as they want to be treated. I also strive to follow the Finkbeiner rule in my writing. And listen. Treating a person as a person, giving them what I can when I can (sadly, I’m not always unlimitedly available and I hope no one expects me to be). There are still a lot of things for me to learn. I don’t really know the reporting structure at my institution for harassment cases (my first instinct: refer them to the ombudsperson who does deal with these cases off the record). I don’t know if conferences I attend have extensive anti-harassment policies (they all have something, I’m sure– just may not be sufficient).

And last, I’ve written this entire post on being supportive of inclusivity/diversity and I don’t expect to get any praise for it. It’s almost like an etiquette column: it’s what everyone should do and it’s not that hard (except the changing career paths; that is not easy, but something I want to do and just need to make happen).

What thoughts do you have on being supportive/inclusive of others in STEM (or anywhere)?

Ian Street (@IHStreet).