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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…)

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 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…)

Ethics in Research: Share your views April 15, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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In the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about ethics in physics and astronomy. While in astronomy we don’t have to navigate the perilous minefield of research on people or animals, proper scientific conduct is still considered to be an essential requirement for a career in astronomy. But what defines “proper scientific conduct”, or its counterpart, the dreaded “misconduct”, and who writes those definitions? Plagiarism is the one form of misconduct students are taught from undergraduate level to avoid at all cost. How far does the definition of plagiarism actually stretch, and why? And does that make sense? Moreover, what is the punishment, and who should it be administered by?While these issues are often presented in very black and white terms, once you dig below the surface they are really pretty murky. (more…)

Sci-fi pictures from Mars April 13, 2009

Posted by Sarah in geology, science, space.
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Via the Bad Astronomer, some eery pictures from the surface of Mars that look straight out of a sci-fi flick. The images were taken by the HiRise camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Another brilliant recent addition to the HiRise image archive is this one: (more…)