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Of men, women and chimpanzees June 14, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science, women.
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Holy bananas I got a Hubble fellowship!

Dr. Smith was ectstatic he'd been shortlisted for a fellowship

Last week I listened to an excellent podcast at Slate.com on how to get more women into science. I can’t find the podcast anymore but the transcript is here, with lots of interesting links. In it, Ray Fisman reports results of a study into academic achievement in maths and science at the US Air Force Academy. The study found that replacing male instructors with a female one has a dramatic impact on the performance of the female students in the class, bringing it level with that of the men. Specifically,

women on average obtain scores that are 0.15 grade points lower (half the difference between an A and an A-) than their male classmates, even after accounting for students’ SAT scores. The gap in performance was widest for women taught by men. When a female instructor was put at the front of the classroom, nearly two-thirds of the grade point gender gap evaporated.

Bottom line: hire more women. (more…)


Decision time for UK ground-based astronomy June 3, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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By the end of this year, UK astronomers are likely to know what ground-based observational facilities they will have access to in the next decade. Today, the Science and Technology Facilities Council or STFC, the body that administrates funds for UK astronomy and particle physics, has published a (long-rumoured) consultation document inviting the community to discuss priorities in ground-based astronomy in the next 10 years. The document was prepared by STFC’s recently formed Ground-based Facilities Review Panel, made up of 6 UK-based senior astronomers (incidentally all men). An electronic questionnaire will be available in the near future for astronomers to express their views, and “facility directors and interested groups” are invited to submit paper contributions. (more…)

Gender bias in peer-review: the final word? June 1, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science, women.
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It’s a much-quoted argument by advocates of “equal opportunities” in science that scientific papers written by female authors are consistently ranked lower in peer review than those of their male colleagues. Indeed, several studies (Bornmann et al, 2007; Budden et al., 2008; not exclusively in physics & astronomy) have appeared to indicate that women authors don’t fare as well in peer review, be it for papers, grant applications or fellowship proposals. It’s a popular topic of discussion in the “Women in Science” circles as a clear-cut, proven area where discrimination on the basis of gender takes place. (more…)

Misconduct in Physics: Further reading May 12, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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I found the May copy of Physics World in my inbox today, featuring a long cover story on Jan Hendrik Schön, the perpetrator of one of the biggest physics fraud scandals of the last decades. For years, Schön was considered to be one of the brightest minds of his time and something of a publishing monster. In 2002 his fame came tumbling down when much of his breakthrough work was found to be, well, fake. Read the full story here.

How nice of Physics World to publish this story to accompany my recent posts!

(I kid, I kid)

Misconduct in astronomy: What you said May 10, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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Check out the original poll here. But your votes won't be counted anymore. The numbers are percentages.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a poll asking readers “Which of the following constitutes “misconduct” in science?”, followed by a number of scenarios. I finally got round to putting the results into a pretty little graph to show the distribution of your picks. For the statistics aficionados, the numbers reflect the percentage of total votes that was given to that particular option; it isn’t possible to see who-clicked-what with the WordPress-offered polls. (more…)